Julia Roberts talks about how “Leave the World Behind” blends elements of family with a disaster movie

Julia Roberts, known for iconic roles in “Mystic Pizza,” “Pretty Woman,” and “Erin Brockovich,” captivates yet again as a skeptical spouse in Netflix’s “Leave the World Behind.” This apocalyptic thriller has quickly climbed to the top of the charts, becoming the No. 1 movie in the U.S. on Netflix.

Directed by Sam Esmail, “Leave the World Behind” delves into the lives of a family grappling with unexpected challenges and the sudden loss of modern conveniences like internet, GPS and cell service. They are elements that Roberts says drew her to the film, which she says can have various interpretations.

“Sam [Esmail] calls it a disaster movie. Ethan [Hawke] calls it a thriller. It’s both those things. But to me, it’s a story about this family, this husband and wife, who are kind of opposites. He’s the quieter, more laid back. And she’s this prickly workaholic,” said Roberts.

Roberts said the film tackles themes of race, class, and politics, with an ending that is open for the viewer to decipher.

“There’s so much to unpack, you know when you’re talking about this movie. There’s just so many different ideas to talk about. There’s so much fragility in the world to talk about. There’s so much that really is in our capable hands that we’re not being truly responsible with,” she said.

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Roberts’ character lets loose in a dance to the 1997 hit “Too Close” by Next with costar Mahershala Ali, symbolizing a rare break from her character’s typically rigid demeanor. This moment, according to Roberts, was a creative decision by director Esmail to add depth to her character.

Away from the silver screen, Roberts’ real-life dance partner is her husband of 21 years, Danny Moder. The couple share three children, and Roberts refers to him as “her favorite human.” When King brings up her husband Roberts lights up in a big smile, that made her feel “embarrassed.” King says it’s not embarrassing, and they agree they’re both hopeless romantics. 

When asked how she knew Moder was her person after the other loves in Roberts life, she said “He’s so smart and kind and dynamic in the way that he looks at the world and admires people. And he’s just so … strong and loving.” She goes on to say he is the “blessing of my life,” she said.

In a 1989 CBS interview with Julia Roberts during promotion for “Steel Magnolias,” she was asked if she had a chance to have a life amidst her skyrocketing success. 

Roberts responded in part, saying “I think for now I’m just working really hard, so I deserve that day when it comes, and I’ll be able to enjoy a more normal life and distance myself from the business a little more and not be forgotten about.” 

King also asked Julia to reflect on what she said years ago.  Thinking back on her career, Roberts said her early insight into the long game of life has helped her navigate her journey — both personally and professionally. 

“It’s interesting. I’m speaking in a way of such kind of the long game of life at such a young age. Well done, me. Wise beyond my years.”

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