Kiefer Sutherland Is Thankful Julia Roberts Called Off Their Engagement
#TBT: Check in every Thursday as we throw it back to some of our favorite celebrity couples of all time.
Who: Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts, 51, and Golden Globe and Emmy-winning TV star Kiefer Sutherland, 52.
How They Met: The two, both young up-and-comers at the time, met on the set of 1990 sci-fi film Flatliners. Sutherland was fresh off a divorce from actress Camelia Kath (with whom he shares a daughter, now 31) and Roberts had recently broken off a short-lived engagement with former co-star Dylan McDermott.
Why We Loved Them: You could tell their love was genuine — I mean look how she not only stands by but actually wraps her arms around him despite the fact that he wore ripped jeans to a red carpet premiere.
When They Peaked: Their coordinated oversized suits and short tousled locks at the premiere of Young Guns II remain aspirational to this day.
The Breakup: The pair was set to marry in June 1991 in what was to be the wedding of the millennium — set on a 20th Century Fox soundstage and boasting of the "glitziest and ritziest" guests. Mere days ahead of the nuptials, the couple’s publicists released a joint statement reading, “It has been mutually agreed upon that the wedding has been postponed.”
The day of the wedding that never was, Roberts was instead seen snacking on a turkey burger with fellow actor (and Sutherland’s close friend) Jason Patric. And as if dining with another man on the day of her wedding wasn’t telling enough of her status with Kiefer, she chose turkey of all meats to consume (the 24 star “has a thing for turkeys”).
So, what was it that caused Hollywood’s best and brightest to go their separate ways? Well, according to Roberts herself it wasn’t as dramatic as the media made it out to be — it was a simple matter of acknowledging “this isn’t right for either of us” (Sutherland’s alleged rendezvous with a go-go dancer named Amanda Rice didn’t help matters, either). That being said, she thought Sutherland may have leaned into the media frenzy a bit. “I feel like Kiefer, for whatever reasons, tried to make it seem like he was the victim of the situation,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “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.”
A decade-and-a-half later, Sutherland praised his ex-fiancée for having the foresight to call things off. “I commend Julia for seeing how young and silly we were, even at the last minute, even as painful and as difficult as it was. Thank God she saw it,” he told Rolling Stone.
Ten years after that, he told People’s Jess Cagle that what began as a pure desire to spend their lives together evolved into a massive world-wide event. "We were young and we were both very much in love. We had decided we wanted to get married, but then this other thing kind of took over. She was arguably the most famous woman in the world, and this wedding that was supposed to be something between the two of us became something so big,” he explained.
Sutherland was the bigger star when they first met, but Roberts’s subsequent turn in Pretty Woman catapulted the actress to “America’s Sweetheart”-level fame.
“I think it took a lot of courage, even amongst all of that other stuff, to be able to say, 'I can't do this,'" the actor continued. "I think she was being realistic for herself."
And despite the relationship with Patric that Roberts pursued after her and Sutherland’s split, the men remain friends and collaborators. “They had a relationship that ended and I was with her for a little while and it ended. They’ve both been subsequently married several times and I think they’re fine. But we never had any issue, even back then,” Patric told Vulture of the media-favorite love-triangle in 2011.
Where They Are Now:
Roberts’s star only continued to rise following her split from Kiefer, and she rode into the 21st century on a wave of commercial successes like My Best Friend’s Wedding, Notting Hill, and Runaway Bride.
In 1993, she shrugged off her typical charming actor type and wed singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett (10 years her senior) only three weeks into their relationship. They split less than two years later.
Roberts met her current husband, cinematographer Danny Moder, on the set of The Mexican in 2001. They married the following year and welcomed twins Hazel and Phinnaeus in 2004. Roberts gave birth to a second son, Henry, in 2007.
Kiefer shifted his focus from film to television in the next decade and was cast as Jack Bauer in the wildly popular and long-running Fox drama series 24.
Sutherland married second wife Kelly Winn in 1996, with whom he stayed until 2004. He’s been linked to 40-year-old actress Cindy Vela since 2014.