Eric Roberts does not hold the Guinness World Record for the most screen credits for a living actor. That honor goes to the Indian star Brahmanandam, currently with more than 1,170 titles to his name. But Roberts is quickly catching up. According to his (endlessly updating) IMDb page, he’s appeared in some 700 films and TV shows, making him the actor with the most screen credits in Hollywood working today. Last year alone, he starred in 33 films and there are currently 66 in various stages of production. Not that Roberts is counting (or even has the time to).
Almost four and a half decades after he broke out in 1978 with his Golden Globe-nominated performance in King of the Gypsieswhich was followed up with another Globes nod for Bob Fosse’s Star 80 in 1983 and an Oscar nomination for Runaway Train in 1984, the 66-year-old is now spending his third act as the busiest actor in town, leaping from one project to the next, sometimes in the same day.
It only takes a quick glance at Roberts’ recent filmography to notice that the vast majority of the work is in the super-low-budget independent arena, and his name has long been a mainstay at AFM (there are several dozen movies of his up for sale this year). But then, amid the likes of Megaboa, A Soldiers Story: Return to the Dead 2, Asteroid-a-Geddonand, yes, Top Gunner (he’s become a regular in The Asylum’s “mockbusters”), he’ll suddenly pop up in a major feature like The Dark Knight (as a mob boss) or Inherent Vice (playing a wealthy real estate developer). This year, in addition to titles like Jurassic Domination, From Dusk Till Bong and Michael Flatley’s recently released Blackbirdhe’s also appearing in Damien Chazelle’s $110 million epic Babylon alongside an all-star cast including Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie (he plays her father).
For Roberts, brother to Julia Roberts and father of Emma Roberts, this insanely prolific stage of his career is a dream and something that has enabled him to have “seen the planet for free three times.” It’s also something he credits to his wife, Eliza, who as his manager oversees his “wild” scheduling and handles up to 30 offers that come in each day.
Speaking to The News84Media alongside Eliza, Roberts explains how he can get an offer on Friday and start shooting on Saturday, what happened to his star status in Russia, how he was kicked off Oprah Winfrey’s beach and why Robbie is going to get the best actress Oscar for Babylon.
You’ve got such an incredible library of films and seem to be constantly working. Do you ever stop?
Thank you. The way I look at it is that I’m one of the luckiest guys in Hollywood. We get anywhere from eight to 30 offers every single day from all over the world. It’s just so much fun to have all these offers and get to play such an extreme range of characters.
Is there every point where you’re not acting? What’s your work/life balance like?
I probably work around 200 days a year. And I have never been happier.
Do you keep count of how many films you’re in?
I lost count at 74, but somebody told me it’s in the hundreds. I don’t check.
Do you still get the same thrill of getting into roles and reading plots and getting scripts sent to you?
That’s why I do it. It gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s so much fun. I’m an older guy now, so all my bosses are much younger than I am. They’re just kids, but this generation is so technically adept. And they like me enough to call me, so I appreciate them enough to show up.
I read that you often work with up-and-coming directors because you know that having your name attached to a film will help with funding.
Yeah, it sometimes helps to get loans in the bank. But I don’t want to sound like I’m being a hero. I’m doing it for myself, to be honest. But my wife pointed out that a lot of these directors are children, and some of them are going to be fantastic and we’re going to discover them. So that’s the attitude I go in with, and it’s been so rewarding. I’ve met such great people. And I have seen the planet three times for free.
So you work internationally, not just in the US?
I actually used to be one of the biggest stars in Russia, bigger than Arnie [Schwarzenegger]bigger than Sly [Stallone]. But then Putin invaded Ukraine and in an interview I said I stood with Ukraine, so I was canceled right away and couldn’t work there. But we’re so disappointed in Putin, I wouldn’t want to go there anyway. But that was half my income, from working in Russia. So I go to other places now.
ELIZA ROBERTS He’s literally about to go to Vegas, then Norway, then Germany, then he’s going to Texas and then Toronto, to Edmonton. [Canada] and back to Norway.
Your scheduling must be insane.
ELIZA And then there are always changes. Sometimes because of COVID, productions will breakdown and need to be postponed. We’re always moving things around. It’s pretty wild. But considering they give you all these mind exercises as you get older to keep your mind sharp… I don’t think we need those!
Do you have bags permanently packed ready to go should an offer come in?
We do! There’s science to it. You have to have good luggage.
This year you’re in Damien Chazelle’s Babylonand we’ve obviously seen you over the past decade or so in The Dark Knight and Inherent Vice, all with major directors. Do you treat these projects exactly the same as the much smaller films you work on?
I treat every project as seriously as I can with whatever time I have available. Because nowadays an offer can come in real fast. I can get an offer on Friday to come on Saturday. Often I get something on Friday, do all the homework over the weekend so I’m happy and read to impress on Monday morning. You have to be prepared to learn your lines very quickly. And you know what, every time it’s fun.
I imagine the catering is better on the bigger films?
Ha! Yeah. Craft services was like a delicacy on Babylon. It’s popcorn and Mars bars when you’re on a low budget shoot.
Do you actually get a chance to sit down and watch your own films?
I’ll be honest with you, unless it’s something that I take to heart, I don’t watch myself anymore, because I’ve seen everything I do. But Damien Chazelle’s movie, I have watched that. I will also tell you that Margot Robbie is going to win an Academy Award for that. She gives the most incredible performance in Babylon that I have ever seen. The two incredible actresses in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? gave perfect performances, and it’s on that level. She blew me away. I couldn’t believe how brilliant every minute of every day she was.
I very recently watched you in Blackbird by Michael Flatley. How was it filming with the Lord of the Dance himself?
Well, I actually have a story that’s nothing to do with the film, but I had an afternoon off and ran down to the beach, which was beautiful. I’m all by myself and wondering why there wasn’t anybody there. So I did some swimming and sunbathing and then this gentleman in a SWAT uniform and armed to the teeth suddenly comes over to me and says I have to leave and that it’s a private beach. I asked, “Whose private beach?” And he said Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan. And I said, “I’ll be gone in a minute.”
How proud are you to see your own daughter become a major star in her own right?
It’s so much fun! It’s so much fun for me. And she’s never had any training, so she’s been on the job training her whole career, and it’s been lovely for me to watch her become an actor, and he has. I love her work.
Would you like to star together and play her father on screen?
Are you kidding, I would love that. I’d also love my sister to play my sister.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in The News84Media’s Nov. 3 daily issues at the American Film Market.
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