Born in Epsom, England, British actress Julia Ormond always knew she was destined to act. She first enjoyed the bright lights with school plays and later studied drama at London's Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art.
After graduation, Ormond, now 44, again worked in theater until she got a starring role in a television epic about Catherine the Great called "Young Catherine." HBO took notice and cast her as Mrs. Stalin in the "Stalin" biopic opposite Robert Duvall. But it wasn't until "Legends of the Fall" in 1994, when she played opposite Brad Pitt that audiences and critics took notice of Ormond's cascading hair, delicate features and acting talent.
She followed up her "Legends" role opposite Sean Connery and Richard Gere in "First Knight" and then she was cast in the title role in the "Sabrina" remake. For a moment in the '90s, Julia Ormond was sitting on top of Hollywood's "it" list before taking time off to catch her breath, marry, divorce and raise her young daughter. Ormond gained popularity in Hollywood the second time around, starring in "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl." She then starred opposite Brad Pitt again in the Oscar-nominated film "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
Not only has she thrown herself back into the acting pool, she was appointed a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and started her own charity, Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking, or ASSET.
Bankrate caught up with Ormond as she works on a new film project, "The Wronged Man."
Bankrate: In the late '90s you walked away from Hollywood. Is it hard to face a moment when you're up and then suddenly no longer the flavor of the month?
Julia Ormond: Sure. But it strengthens you, too.
Bankrate: In what ways did this period in your life strengthen you?
Julia Ormond: I felt as if I had to step out in order to find a better path back in -- one that allowed me more range as an actor. I don't think I dealt with the attention very well. I found being flavor of the month pretty confusing and I kind of didn't buy it. But as frightening as taking a break was -- and everyone made it very clear it was lousy timing -- it felt like the only choice. All that stuff that happened with "Legends" happens without your control.
You can't stop people from saying things or projecting stardom onto you or making comparisons. I had to become an actress again, not just a star, and that meant I had to step away. I packed my time away still doing creative work. I fell in love, had a kid, helped build FilmAid and now have a new NGO (nongovernmental organization) -- the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking. You can be 1,000 percent committed to your craft without success, or lack of it, dictating who you are.
Bankrate: Your character, Janet Gregory in "The Wronged Man," is a true life person who finally befriends the man who was wrongfully accused and sentenced. What do you personally look for in a friend and how important are friendships to your overall balance?
Julia Ormond: Humor, loyalty, flexibility, kindness, integrity -- hugely important.
Bankrate: Janet Gregory worked pro bono for 22 years on this case. Have you ever been that passionate about something that you would take it on pro bono?
Julia Ormond: I do it all the time, but I have enough of a secure financial cushion. This woman put everything she had into this case. I've worked many years and have, thankfully, made a secure financial future for myself. At least I think so. I actually think that people who are in hard times, or have known hard times like Janet Gregory, have a tendency to find generosity easier. They have more of a "there but for the grace of God go I" approach. She had a profound sense of injustice. She's remarkable; I'm not remarkable. I've been lucky at work and that's enabled me to participate pro bono.