August 18, 2008
RARELY a day goes by where the star of a new romantic comedy is not referred to as 'the next Julia Roberts' but in the case of the actress's niece Emma Roberts, the comparison might actually be true.Currently starring in traditional coming-of-age movie Wild Child, 17-year-old Emma seems to be proving she has the same acting potential - as well as the same famously wide smile - as her Erin Brokovich star aunty.
Since starring as an uncredited extra in 2001 movie America's Sweethearts which, co-incidentally, starred her aunty Julia, Emma knew she wanted to be an actress.
Following in the footsteps of her famous family, which also includes her father, Oscar-nominated actor Eric Roberts, Emma branched into movies that showcased her talent - including the touching 2006 film Aquamarine, a film about a mermaid who falls in love with a human.
Since then, Emma has appeared as the lead character in the highly-anticipated film version of the popular Nancy Drew book series and, with Wild Child, is starring as a spoilt brat from Los Angeles who gets shipped off to a boarding school in England.
Emma - who has appeared in drugs movie Blow and can also soon be seen in Lymelife alongside Alec Baldwin - says she was keen not to be typecast into the teenage movie roles and wants to prove she has what it takes to be considered a serious and talented star.
'I like that I can do family movies and then more edgy stuff,' she said. 'I'd hate to be in a position where you play a cheerleader and so keep getting offered cheerleader parts. I mean, no thanks. I can do a lot more.'
And, like Julia, Emma has set her sights extraordinarily high and already admits: 'I'd like an Oscar, I think, and I'd also like to have been the face of a big cosmetics company, like Chanel or one of the others. You know what, I am actually going to say I'd like an Oscar nomination rather than an Oscar. I don't want to jinx it.'
Emma also has an idea of the actresses she would like to work with in the future although, strangely, Julia does not appear on the list.
'I love Drew Barrymore,' she said. 'I would love to work with her. I really like Angelina Jolie and Reese Witherspoon. I would love to work with a bunch of those people. I love to just work with new people in general. It's always really fun.'
It would be easy for Emma to follow in the footsteps of child stars such as Drew and Lindsay Lohan, who have both battled drug addictions and had troubled lives, but the young starlet insists she isn't interested in that side of life in the glamorous city.
'If you don't put yourself in that kind of position, it's easy to avoid,' she said. 'If you start hanging out with those kinds of people and going to those kinds of things, you know that's how you get sucked into it.
'That sort of life doesn't just come and find you, you have to kind of put yourself around those kinds of people, which I don't. I have a really cool group of friends and an amazing family, so it's not something I pursue.'
In this respect, Emma is ensuring she is known for her professional ability rather than her personal conquests.
Is this something she has asked Julia - who has had high profile relationships with Benjamin Bratt and Liam Neeson, but now has three children with husband Danny Moder - for advice about?
'No,' she grins. 'I don't see her that much, so the last thing we want to talk about is work. We cook and play with her babies. They are so cute!
'But it is my friends and my family who keep me grounded, because none of them have ever treated me any differently since I have been acting.'
Understandably though, Emma is starting to get fed up with the comparison between her and her aunt, and doesn't even think they look that alike.
'I don't really think I look like her very much,' she said. 'But I was on a talk show recently and they held up a picture of me and my aunt together and in those particular pictures we did look a lot alike. But I think it's mainly the smile that is similar. I think it is really cool to be compared to her because she's an amazing actress, but I do kind of want to make a name for myself and accomplish something on my own.'
Wild Child is the kind of film which appeals to people of all ages. In the style of movies such as mean girls and Clueless, with colourful outfits and a series of stereotypical characters, Emma was attracted to the movie because her character Poppy is so similar to people she knows in Los Angeles.
'I laughed out loud reading the script because I recognised her character in some people I know in LA,' Emma said.
However, the movie was also an opportunity for Emma to test her ability to play a morally-confused character, as opposed to the straight-laced girls she has played before.
'I'd never really played a character like that before,' she said. 'I always played like The Girl Next Door, so it was cool to get to play someone completely different.'
It also gives Emma - whose first male co-star was none other than Hollywood heartthrob Johnny Depp - the chance to star alongside Alex Pettyfer, the shaggy-haired blonde actor who attracted legions of female fans after appearing in 2006 film Stormbreaker.
The pair have been romantically linked in real life, but Alex insists he wanted to do the film to prove he has what it takes to make it as a romantic comedy lead, not to be on set with his 'girlfriend' Emma.
'Freddie, the character I play, was very much a laidback version of me. And it was a kind of Hugh Grant walk on walk off role, and a little more Bridget Jones's Diary and that kind of thing. And I just really enjoyed making it."
But while teenage girls may flock to the cinemas to see Alex, most of the focus will undoubtedly be on Emma, who is attempting once more to step out of her auntie Julia's shadow and make it as an actress in her own right. Will she succeed? Only time, and a few more movies, will tell.