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The History of Julia Roberts and Steven Spielberg's Forgotten Feud

The actor and the director reportedly clashed on the set of 1991's Hook.

It may not be a hot topic of conversation now, but, back in the early 1990s, practically everyone wanted to know what was up with Steven Spielberg and Julia Roberts. The director and the actor had a public back-and-forth after they worked together on the 1991 movie Hook, in which Roberts played Tinker Bell in the movie about a grown-up Peter Pan (Robin Williams) returning to Neverland to face off with Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) once again. At the time, the actor was making headlines thanks to some drama in her romantic life. And Spielberg subtly blamed any issues they shared on her personal distractions, which she found to be unfair and inaccurate. Read on to see what both the director and the actor had to say about their difficult relationship.

READ THIS NEXT: The Worst Julia Roberts Movie of All Time, According to Critics.

Roberts' personal life was in the public eye.

Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts at the 1991 Golden Globe Awards
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

In 1991, Roberts was engaged to Kiefer Sutherland. Their breakup was made public days before their June wedding was scheduled to take place (according to them, they'd already broken up before this), and she ran off with his friend Jason Patric to Ireland, as reported by People. Also at this time, Roberts had been hospitalized with the flu. This led to rumors that she was on drugs and that she had lost her job in Hook. All this was happening when the movie, which was released in December 1991, was in production.

"I was reading it in the paper with everybody else," Roberts told Entertainment Weekly at the time. "You know, I would be at work reading that I didn't have a job, that there was some kind of problem going on. And it just became absurd."

There were rumors that the Hook crew had given her a rude nickname.

Julia Roberts at the 1991 NATO/ShoWest Convention
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Rumors began to surface that Roberts was so dramatic on set that she was called "Tinker Hell" by crew members.

"I never heard it," she told Entertainment Weekly of the nickname. "But I'm a normal person. I mean, if I sit in my trailer for six hours doing nothing, I'm going to say, 'What the [expletive] is going on?' I don't think that's an outrageous question, I don't think that's temperamental either. So I don't know what to tell you. I'm not, like, perfect … I have normal frustrations like everybody else, but I don't consider myself temperamental."

The then-24-year-old was also asked about a rumor that she had thrown shoes at someone on set. "'A source says…' If they don't have balls enough to say who they are, I think they should shut the [expletive] up," she responded. In this interview, Roberts was asked if she got along with Spielberg, and she said, "Uh-huh."

Spielberg dodged a question about Roberts.

Steven Spielberg at the opening of "E.T. Adventure" at Universal Studios in 1991
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

During an appearance on 60 Minutes in 1992, Spielberg responded to a question about his experience with Roberts, "It was an unfortunate time for us to work together, but I think that Julia's a really, really good actress." Asked if he would hesitate to work with her again, Spielberg laughed and said, "This is a 60 Minutes question, isn't it?"

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Roberts wasn't happy about his comment.

Julia Roberts at 1993 ShoWest
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc via Getty Images

Roberts later responded to his assessment of their time together.

"He wasn't not nice. He was very coy, yes," Roberts told Vanity Fair of Spielberg's interview in 1993. "He took these hesitations as if he had to choose his words very carefully when asked about me. I watched it and thought, 'Is this the same man I had whipped-cream fights with on the set? Is this the same man who said that he couldn't wait every day to get to our stage because it was more fun than the big stage and more relaxed and easier, and even though it took nine hours to set up the shot, that I got it done so fast and I kept everything moving and was always good-humored and didn't complain?' I guess sometimes it's just too tempting to be in the majority. To have him even say that it was difficult for me to be going through a personal experience like that while making a movie—well, yeah, it is. But did I do it with as much ease as anyone could ever do it in? Yeah. Do I ever feel like I inconvenienced him with my personal life in any way, shape, or form on the set? No."

She added that Spielberg "obviously sort of missed some aspect of me as a person." She was also asked if she felt "fooled" by the director and said, "No, I don't feel fooled. And at this point it doesn't really matter. You can only find disappointment in an expectant mind, and I don't really expect anything from Steven."

Years later, she said she was still baffled by the rumors about her behavior.

Steven Spielberg at the premiere of "Aladdin" in 1992
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

In 1999, Roberts looked back on the rumors surrounding Hook, again with Vanity Fair.

"Hand to God: not a thing I read about that was truthful, and it really hurt my feelings," she said. "Because not only did it make me sound mean, but it was a situation where people who knew the truth talked about it in a way that wasn't untruthful."

Referencing Spielberg's interview, she added, "I saw that and my eyes popped out of my head. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that this person that I knew and trusted was actually hesitating to come to my defense. It was a hard lesson to learn. It was the first time that I felt I had a turncoat in my midst."

READ THIS NEXT: Julia Roberts Called This Co-Star "Completely Disgusting."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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