By Harmeet Kaur, CNN
(CNN) — With her signature megawatt smile and timeless style, Julia Roberts might be a beauty icon, but she doesn’t take herself too seriously.
When asked in a new interview with British Vogue what keeps her looking youthful at 56, the actor responded with a wry wit.
“Pickling. I put my head in the jar every other Saturday for 18 hours. It does wonders,” she joked. “The smell is awful.”
Roberts is on the cover of British Vogue’s February issue. In a corresponding interview for the magazine with “Notting Hill” screenwriter Richard Curtis, she talks about ageless beauty, the “feminist” choices she’s made in her career and how it feels to be one of the most famous faces in Hollywood.
‘Leading a life that is fulfilling’
Jokes aside, Roberts says the key to youthfulness is in the people and experiences that make up her life. Of course, genetics helps too.
“Good genes, leading a life that is fulfilling, and I have said this — and I say it usually as kind of a joke — but I do believe in the love of a good man,” she told the publication. “I believe that my husband loves me and cares for me in a way that makes me feel deeply, deeply happy. And anytime you see someone who’s happy, it doesn’t matter how old they are.”
The world largely knows Roberts as “America’s sweetheart,” a title that followed star turns in beloved rom-coms such like “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “Pretty Woman” and, of course, the 2001 film “America’s Sweethearts.” (Outside of the genre, Roberts won a “Best Actress” Academy Award in 2001 for her portrayal of the titular “Erin Brockovich,” and a “Best Supporting Actress” Golden Globe in 1990 for her role in “Steel Magnolias,” among other trophies.)
‘They see something familiar’
That audiences find her relatable is something Roberts is acutely aware of, for better or worse. “I will say that I think there’s something in me that’s always (let) people feel they’re comfortable, or they see something familiar,” she explained. “If someone sees me in a grocery store and they say, ‘Why did you cut your hair like that?’ it’s not because they’re trying to be rude. It’s because they feel they know me, that I sit behind them in church every Sunday.”
“It’s that sense of feeling that you understand someone that you don’t know. I guess looking relatively like myself in most parts takes me out of the character-actor lane. But I never feel like I’m playing myself.”
To this point, Roberts reminded Curtis that she had almost turned down the “uncomfortable” part of movie star Anna Scott in “Notting Hill,” calling it “one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”
“It just seemed so awkward,” she said of the role “I didn’t even know how to play that person.” And in a meta twist, Roberts explained that she hated dressing as a movie star so much that she chose to wear her own clothes in the scene where she delivers the movie’s now-iconic line, “I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”
Opting out of the wardrobe provided on-set, Roberts said she sent her driver back to her apartment with instructions to raid her closet. “It was my own flip-flops and my cute little blue velvet skirt and a T-shirt and my cardigan,” she said.
Roberts also discussed how feminism shows up in her work, nodding to her decision not to do nude scenes in films.
“Not to be criticising others’ choices, but for me to not take off my clothes in a movie or be vulnerable in physical ways is a choice that I guess I make for myself,” she told the magazine. “In effect, I’m choosing not to do something as opposed to choosing to do something.”
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