Julia Roberts on ‘Ben is Back,’ ‘Homecoming’ spoilers and why she can’t eat gnocchi anymore

Spoiler alert! Contains major details about the end of “Homecoming” Season 1 on Amazon Prime. 

NEW YORK – You won’t see much of Julia Roberts’ famous megawatt smile in her latest on-screen outings. 

In Peter Hedges’ drama “Ben is Back” (in theaters Friday in New York and Los Angeles, expands to additional cities through December), the Oscar-winning actress delivers one of her most moving performances yet as the solicitous Holly, whose son Ben (Lucas Hedges), a recovering opioid addict, shows up on their family’s doorstep on Christmas Eve and asks to spend the holiday together, despite her better judgment. 

It’s a 180-degree turn from her role in Amazon Primes’s twisty, 10-episode “Homecoming” (now streaming) as the reticent and at times terrifying Heidi Bergman, who is hired as the lead administrator of a mysterious operation for returning veterans. But when she learns the government-sponsored Homecoming program’s true intentions – to wipe soldiers’ traumatic memories using experimental drugs and redeploy them – she rebels by administering the medication on herself and her favorite patient Walter Cruz (Stephan James), who becomes unresponsive and returns home after she gives him an overdose. 

Roberts, 51, chats with USA TODAY about both projects. 

Question: What drew you to “Ben is Back,” reading the script for the first time? 

Julia Roberts: Peter did an incredible thing in (tackling) something that’s so big and prevalent (such as addiction) and writing about it in a way that’s so contained and fragile and complex and humanizing. 

Q: Is there an aspect of parenting or addiction that you think this film really gets right? 

Roberts: That you just cannot know what people are truly going through. As a parent, I say that to my children very often. Just as an observation, they’ll say, “Oh, this person behaves this way,” so we try to have those family conversations where you say, “You just don’t know (why). That might be the result of something really sad or a real insecurity.” So I sat in a place of constant nonjudgment of what Holly or Ben, for that matter, were doing for a lot of the film. 

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