Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland were the hot Young Hollywood couple back in February of 1991, when they attended the Sleeping With The Enemy premiere with some real “Mummy, I know he owns a motorcycle, but he’s extremely deep and I love him” energy. How apt that she was, in fact, sleeping with the enemy, in a way. At the time, she was 23 and change, he was 24 and change; she’d been in Satisfaction, Steel Magnolias, Mystic Pizza and Pretty Woman, and he’d done Stand By Me, The Lost Boys, Young Guns, Renegades, and yes, Young Guns II. They met on the set of 1990’s Flatliners and got engaged in August of 1990, and this line from his Wikipedia page is intriguing if accurate: They announced their betrothal “with an elaborate studio-planned wedding scheduled for 14 June 1991.” First, you need to know that her dress allegedly cost $8,000, and the event itself was referred to as “a million-dollar wedding,” both of which are adorably quaint numbers by today’s celebrity standards. Kim and Kanye, Tom and Katie… they rented castles. Kiefer and Julia had an actual soundstage dressed up to look like a garden. It’s little wonder the whole thing fell apart. It’s like ABC offering to pay for and televise a Bachelor wedding just so the franchise looks good. Kiefer said to Jess Cagle that the wedding no longer felt like it was just between the two of them; it became bigger than all of them. Too big. There were rumors of booze and fights. A delay that became a broken engagement. It all is eerie foreshadowing for what happened with Bennifer 1.o.
The most memorable part of the story is the way the world has distilled the ending: On their wedding day, Julia jilted Kiefer and ran off with best man Jason Patric to Ireland. The details are a little smudgier than that, churned by a rumor mill that was hungry for the biggest movie star of the moment. That most stolid of celebrity Bibles, People, lays out the timeline thusly — and please note that everything summarized after this is eyewitness and “source” hearsay: Around the time of this photograph, Julia allegedly found out Kiefer was “meeting up with” a go-go dancer, whom he claimed he only hung out with because they liked playing pool (at Crazy Girls? Sure). He has always denied an affair, but Julia reportedly kicked Kiefer out and he holed up in a cheap motel ($105 a night, People gleefully reported) with no phone in the room. Meaning that all the calls from Julia and Michelle Pfeiffer (!!) went through the front desk. Seriously, what was Michelle Pfeiffer doing here? I guess she explained to both Julia and Kiefer that he’s just a Cool Rider, and yeah, when they’re cool enough, they can burn you through and through, but it can’t be helped because no ordinary boy is gonna do. You need a rider that’s cool. And Julia did take him back, so there you have it. Stephanie Zinone strikes again.
Three months later, though, the dancer sold her story to the press. It included references to heavy drinking, trips to Disneyland with their same-age kids, and references to him venting about Julia being possessive, insecure, and “an ice princess.” Supposedly, Julia almost immediately checked into Cedars-Sinai with… the flu… mmm-hmm… and Kiefer visited her, charmed the whole floor, and seemed to get the whole thing back on track. Cut to, per People, Kiefer heading off to prepare his Montana ranch for their Honeymoon while Julia took a few nights at a spa. A helpful eyewitness told People that Jason Patric showed up, appeared to be comforting her, and ushered her out of the dining room (after a meal of “chicken piccata and peanut butter yogurt,” which is such a great detail; seriously, old magazine articles are the best, and also, those two things sound like a terrible dinner-dessert pairing).
Julia gave EW in 1991 a very different version of the story. She claims she realized on her trip that she didn’t want to get married, but that Kiefer had gone MIA and so she didn’t talk to him until he called her and dumped her nastily, and then called back again later and asked if it was on or off. At which point she told him she was out. The next day, which was three days before the wedding, Kielia released a statement announcing that it had been postponed. For J.Lo and Baffleck, it was four. EERIE. Here’s a piece of what she said that November to EW:
JR: [T]hat’s when the avalanche began. It just started slowly, you know, with this one small boulder which came loose, and then others came loose, and they came crashing down the mountain. People love scandal; people love drama. They love stripping away the layers to see what’s really in there, and they’ll do anything — as well as make it up — to get it. And I feel like Kiefer, for whatever reasons, tried to make it seem like he was the victim of the situation. I quite honestly believe that Kiefer knows that it’s the best thing for himself and for me that it didn’t happen. But he shouldn’t try to make himself look better by taking shots at me. Somehow or another, it turned into Kiefer being left at the altar. Well, I just don’t understand that, quite frankly. […] I think a lot of things were thrown into the pot that confused the issue, what with Kiefer and — what do I call her, this girl —
EW: — We’re talking about ”the stripper” (a woman Sutherland was reportedly seeing while engaged to Roberts)?
JR: Yeah, that’s what she was (laughter). And once that came out, I sort of swallowed my pride a little bit and said, okay, the woman is the last to know. I mean, this had been going on for a really long time. So then I had to say, well, I have made an enormous mistake in agreeing to get married to begin with. Then I made an even greater mistake by letting it all get so big. I’m not going to make the final mistake of actually getting married. At that point I just realized that this had all been turned into an enormous joke, and that it wasn’t going to be respectable, it wasn’t going to be honest, it wasn’t going to be simple. And it could have been all of those things.
So, no wedding. Whether he knew in advance, or woke up the day-of thinking it might happen, who knows. Probably the former. It certainly sounds like the jilting is technically inaccurate. But this part, from People again, does not seem to be in dispute, and it is magical:
The wedding cake, a four-tier extravaganza that was to be trimmed in violets and more seafoam-green ribbons of icing, went unbaked. But the staff at Dominick’s restaurant, where Kiefer’s bachelor party had been hastily canceled, feasted on the cake that had been ordered for dessert. It was an exact replica of a 15-pound roast turkey. A self-deprecating reference to some of Kiefer’s recent movies? No—a consolation prize for the traditional Thanksgiving dinner that he had been unable to persuade Julia to serve at their wedding banquet. “Kiefer has a thing for turkeys,” says a source close to the cake.
A SOURCE. CLOSE TO. THE CAKE. Was the cake weeping onto the shoulder of a nearby fruit bowl? Was a friendly cheese platter offering the cake a patient ear and some comfort? A cake, mind you, THAT WAS IN THE SHAPE OF A TURKEY?!? Remember when the groom’s cake in Steel Magnolias was an armadillo? Life imitating art? Presumably the turkey was not also red velvet inside, although really, it’d have to be a white cake for the same effect. Even better, the People article claims that on the day of the actual wedding, before they flew to Ireland and made out with each other the whole time on the plane, Julia and Jason Patric were spotted at an outdoor restaurant chowing down on turkey burgers, as a direct arrow to Kiefer’s heart because of how much he liked turkey. Passive-aggression through the humble turkey burger is some truly A-plus pettiness. It’s pointed, it’s juicy — probably unlike the turkey burger — and above all, when you consider the still-to-come stark nastiness of A Low Vera, it’s utterly believable. Not a Roomba in the world could clear up that mess.
Julia and Jason dated for a while but then obviously broke up some time before June 1993, because that’s when she randomly (to us; hopefully not to her) married Lyle Lovett. Apparently now Kiefer and Jason are friends again. She doesn’t still seem to be in touch with either of them. That’s probably for the best. I wonder if Michelle Pfeiffer ever looks back and wonders if she should’ve just put down the phone.