Erin Brockovich is a story based on real events, about a woman who the world sees one
way but who is not at all as she appears. She wears tight mini skirts and colourful low
cut tops, her hair is big and her overall appearance may suggest she is a bimbo - with
young kids. But Erin is a single mother and a single minded one once she bullies her way
into a job at a law firm and then stumbles on some nasty corporate truths.
"A tough scene"
There was a moment during the filming of Erin Brockovich when Julia Roberts, who plays
the title character, admits she nearly "lost it" - it was a tough scene for
Roberts in any case, because it was both emotionally challenging and her on-set baby was
tired and noisy.
"This is the scene in which I appear with the real Erin Brockovich," Roberts
explains. "It's a scene where I'm in a diner after I have lost my car accident case.
I have no money, my neck is in a brace and the kids are being really rambunctious and Beth
is supposed to be sick. The baby (Beth) was really tired and screaming at the top of her
lungs and the real Erin comes to the table as our waitress. It was really daunting and
bizarre to play a person when that person is doing a line with you. The entire time I kept
looking at Erin and thinking, 'what in the world is she thinking? She's going to think I'm
playing a terrible mother.' Then, when I looked up, I saw that her name tag said 'Julia'.
I very nearly lost it, I tell you!" she says laughing.
The story of Erin Brockovich confirms the adage that truth is stranger than fiction.
The film is based on her story. Twice divorced mother of three, Erin Brockovich (Julia
Roberts) is trying to find a job, while juggling the responsibilities of her children. A
car accident, in which she is not at fault, leads her to Ed Masry (Albert Finney), an
attorney of a small law firm, whose defence leaves her with no settlement. She bullies
Masry into employing her, and then stumbles on some medical reports, filed in real estate
files. On investigation, she discovers a cover-up involving contaminated water in a local
community which is causing devastating and fatal illnesses among its residents. Her
children, meantime, are being looked after by her lover, bikie neighbour George (Aaron
Eckhart), who is becoming increasingly resentful of the time Erin is spending on her job.
The cover-up and resulting court case brings Erin new self-respect and upgrades her life.
Erin really intrigued Roberts. "I have great admiration for what she stands for. A
lot of women in our culture are facing being a single mother, trying to make ends meet.
They are the heroes of out time, aren't they?"
"A remarkable individual"
Erin is who she is and doesn't change for anybody - "which is what makes her such
a remarkable individual. She can be in a situation where she's completely out of place and
have no awareness of that and just focus on what the issue is at hand," says Roberts.
Small town lawyer Ed Masry gave Erin a job because he felt sorry for her. But no one
thought this girl would be able to do anything but file. She offended everybody in the
office because not only is she beautiful, but she's brash and takes no prisoners. Then she
proved herself to be quite brilliant - at being her straightforward self, which in turn
made a difference to a great many lives.
In addition to the obvious attraction that Roberts felt for the character of Erin
Brockovich, she was also drawn to the relationship between Erin and Ed Masry. "Ed and
Erin bring out the best in each other in an odd-couple kind of way," says Roberts.
"He was at a point in his life where he was looking forward to retiring and playing
golf. Erin, in stirring up this pot and bringing all of this information to light,
re-ignited his passion for justice and his sense that you can work hard for the right
reasons and you can prevail to make the world a better place to live."
Erin's probing, her absolute dedication to the case and her clear sighted view of the
ultimate objective - to get at the truth and fight for fair compensation - drove her and
the legal team to a stunning victory, with PG&E paying US$333 million in compensation.
Following their victory against PG&E in 1996, Erin and Ed have seven other cases
pending, including one against PG&E regarding a plant in Kettleman Hills, California.
"What happened in Hinkley is terrifying, because you think, 'well what else is
happening? Where else are we being deceived?' And the Hinkley residents were so
trusting," says Roberts. "They felt that they owed so much to this company
because they employed most of the town. When they were told that what was in the water was
Chromium 3 and that it was good for you, they completely believed it. When they're told
the truth, it took a lot of convincing for some of them to come around. To think that this
company, which was like a parent, had been lying to them all that time. It's
"She rolls her sleeves up" Albert
As for working with the much acclaimed Albert Finney, Roberts says that "even
though he has done this for so long, he still works hard. His enthusiasm is contagious and
he's so good at his craft. Acting with Albert is an amazing and inspiring
Finney returns the compliment: "She's terrific. She rolls her sleeves up, come in
and gets to work."