The director of 1989’s Steel Magnolias, Herbert Ross, spent a lot of his time telling Roberts and her co-stars Sally Field and Shirley MacLaine that they couldn’t act, according to Us Magazine.
“Herb Ross was basically a choreographer,” MacLaine said during Target Presents AFI Night at the Movies in Hollywood on April 24. “That means he could be sometimes very stern and sometimes very harsh. My deepest memories of the film were how we bonded together after he told one of us or all of us we couldn’t act.”
According to Field, who played Roberts’ mother in the movie, Ross picked on Roberts the most. “He never told me I couldn’t act…He went after Julia with vengeance,” Field said. “This was pretty much her first big film.
MacLaine agreed. She said that Roberts “would come to my house every night and say, ‘I think I’m terrible. What am I doing?’ and she really was in tears.”
MacLaine added that Ross didn’t just pick on Roberts. He picked on Dolly Parton as well saying, ‘Why don’t you take some acting lessons?’”
“You don’t say that to Dolly Parton! Dolly Parton is absolutely the funniest, wittiest and filthiest, and she will cut you to ribbons,” Field said.
The older, veteran actresses would often stand up for Roberts when Ross when on his rants. Regardless, the stars still enjoy their memories of the film.
“We stayed friends after the movie.” MacLaine said. “We never went to the director’s funeral, but…”
Ross may not have enjoyed Roberts’ acting, but she earned her first Academy Award nomination for her role in Steel Magnolias with many more nominations to come.