The sometimes exhilarating, sometimes exhausting pastime of watching Julia Roberts frolic in the groves of love reached a stunning high point last June when singer Lyle Lovett came bounding in out of left field—beyond that, even (think acres of wheat, flat dusty plains, broad geographical vistas)—and won her hand. Two years ago, Roberts had come thisclose to marrying actor Kiefer Sutherland. Then there was the spell when she and boyfriend Jason Patric were spotted racing through airports, darting along city streets. They often seemed more anxious than romantic. And earlier this year, she was even reportedly dating Daniel Day-Lewis, perhaps the only other star in the world as swanlike as she. But it was Lovett, 36, a lean country-pop performer, a specialist in darkly humorous ballads of heartbreak, who joined Roberts in a deliriously swift and sunny summer romance that took everyone—including himself—by surprise. After a month-long courtship, the couple wed on June 27 in a little Lutheran country church in Marion, Ind. That same soft summer night, his bride (who’s now 26) joined him on the concert stage, and together they swayed to Tammy Wynette’s Stand by Your Man.
A guy doesn’t earn two degrees from Texas A&M—in journalism and German—the way Lovett did in 1982, without being a bit of a brain. And so the singer understands why some people were shocked that she picked him rather than some standard-issue Hollywood hunk. “I suppose it is intriguing that she’d marry me,” the Texas native says in his gentle drawl. “I bet a lot of people might think that makes her one of the 25 Most Stupid People of the Year.” Certainly not. Lovett’s distinctive style—folksy yet sharply deadpan, part Will Rogers, part Christopher Walken—has compelled attention and won acclaim since his eponymous first album in 1986. Director Robert Altman recognized that Lovett’s strange charm would translate into film. He cast him as an inept, if menacing, detective in The Player and again this year as an implosively angry baker in the acclaimed Short Cuts—and yet again in his next movie, Prêt-à-Porter, about the fashion industry.
Roberts had a cameo in The Player too. But the couple didn’t really click until this past May in New Orleans, where he was performing and she was filming The Pelican Brief. Lovett was shaken to his boots. “It felt extraordinary,” he says. “It just felt right. But I didn’t want to actually think it out loud, or even to myself, because of her being who she is. I knew I really liked this person. But I thought, ‘Don’t be stupid. She’s Julia Roberts.’ ”
She still is, and now the two have set up house in the Hollywood Hills. They have not yet gotten around to taking a honeymoon. “Not an official one,” says Lovett. “But our life is like one giant honeymoon.” Julia knits for him. Julia cooks for him. (Favorite dishes? “I’ve liked everything,” he says. Lovett, for his part, makes their oatmeal in the morning.) Until they found themselves in L.A. for an extended period last fall, they had never actually lived together. “We’ve never gone more than a week without seeing each other since we got married,” says Lovett. “But before that we’d never spent more than seven days together.” They still have to savor their married moments. By spring he might well be off to Paris to shoot the Altman film, then back on tour in the States, promoting his next album, Creeps Like Me.
But give Julia time to continue working her magic. By their first anniversary, maybe he’ll do an exuberant rendition of Don’t Worry, Be Happy.