Talking to Eric Roberts is a strange experience. He's been in 270 IMDB titles (some of which he's actually seen), he can summon Sylvester Stallone and Christopher Nolan on speed-dial after appearing in their films, he's Oscar-nominated (MORE of which later), he's Julia Roberts' brother for heaven's sake... he SHOULD be sitting on a throne of Hollywood royalty.
Yet he speaks in the bemused tones of the eternal outsider, the little boy who shouted at the naked Emperor, who has refused to watch the Oscars since... well, let him explain.
Eric Roberts - a PR's nightmare, but a journalist's delight
"Here's the only way to it," he surmises in a seductive southern brawl, from his home in California. "It advertises the movie which makes money, which makes you look more valuable. It's all about status, money and luck."
But he's been Oscar-nominated himself. Surely that means a touch of fondness for this annual brush with the rest of Tinseltown?
"I stopped watching after they gave my award to Don Ameche," he adds by way of explanation. "I enjoyed 'Cocoon'. He was fine, but it was not an Oscar-worthy performance, and two other performances were.
"I realised it was not about the level of work, it was about the endurance. I told my agent, 'I've done one movie a year like you're supposed to, but I'm done.'
Eric Roberts in 'The Dark Knight'
"So now I do anything anywhere if there's one thing about the project I like. I have never stopped working since (hence the 250+ titles in IMDB, including a staggering 39 still on the slate). I've seen the world for free, and my wife and I have the best time. And people pull up at the lights, and they see me and they smile - so it's all good."
"I've been nominated for everything,. And I've lost everything, except one theatre award on Broadway. I don't even know where it is. That's the only trophy I ever got."
Has that made him the perfect loser with perfect smile, I wonder?
He chuckles. "I did it the best, when I lost the first time, I just gave my date a wry smile. But... Don Ameche...?"
Instead, Eric will be brushing himself down to help judge the 6th annual Toscars during the week before the Academy Awards, Hollywood's latest demonstration of its ability to laugh at itself, with categories like "Best Wactor, Best Wactress..." What does Eric think he brings to party?
Eric Roberts co-stars with Sharon Stone in 'The Specialist'
"A ridiculous sense of humour and an expensive tuxedo," he rattles off.
"These things are going to be a little more grown up than the Razzies, they're really a case of 'Who are you kidding?' awards. Let me award you for trying to kid me. So there's a bit more sarcasm, a little more bitterness," he explains cheerfully.
Eric hasn't always been this way. He was the precocious young talent of 'Star 80', the biopic about slain Playmate Dorothy Stratten, directed by his great mentor Bob Fosse.
"That made me proudest," he remembers fondly. "It was the farthest away from me I've ever played, with director Bob Fosse's guidance and genius, he made me look like a genius and I am not.
"I was a very sad man for 5 to 8 years after that, I only found that feeling twice in the next eight years, and I realised it was because of him, he died two years after that movie.
"The closest we have now to Bob is Soderbergh. He has the human approach. 'This is life and it sucks.' Watch, and you go 'wow.' That was Bob too."
So, finally, who already deserves a lifetime achievement Toscar for lack of contribution to the screen? This is normally the cue for an actor to talk about timing, editorial decisions, luck of the game, basically to be as diplomatic as possible without actually giving an answer... not this time.
"Who's that young man from 'Speed'?" he asks. "Because he's Toscar-worthy to the soles of his feet."
And that's Hollywood, according to Eric Roberts.
Click here for more information on The Toscars, beamed from Hollywood on Tuesday 19 February.
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