Over quarantine, like so many others, I have watched a ton of movies. A TON. I decided to focus myself on going through one director’s filmography so I dialed in on Steven Soderbergh, an underrated director with quite a stacked filmography of all genres. When I got to Ocean’s Twelve, I could not get over that Julia Roberts twist and what it meant for the rest of, well, the world? I have spent hours awake at night thinking about what did and did not exist in the Ocean’s universe.
Julia Roberts in the Ocean’s movies plays Danny Ocean’s (George Clooney) wife, Tess. In the second installment, Tess plays an extremely important role in their plan to pull off their big heist. Tess happens to look identical to an actress, so the gang wants to use this resemblance to help pull off their heist. The actress in question is, of course, Julia Roberts. Julia Roberts is playing Tess who is now pretending to be Julia Roberts.
Every time a movie has a celebrity playing themselves, I stop to consider who else does not exist in the movie (thinking of Halsey in A Star Is Born existing, but not Lady Gaga???). In Ocean’s Twelve, this scenario comes across heightened because the actor who plays one of the characters exists in the Ocean’s universe. Furthermore, we’re told the character has a noticeable resemblance to the actor and we’re asked to grapple with the repercussions of that.
The conclusion I come away with is that Julia Roberts exists, but actors such as George Clooney and Brad Pitt do not exist. It’s made clear that some other famous actors do exist, as Bruce Willis plays himself. I do not think there are doppelgängers for all of the actors because wouldn’t Bruce Willis have mistaken Linus for Matt Damon? Bruce and Matt have not been in a movie together, aside from this Ocean’s installment, but Bruce starred in Armageddon alongside Matt’s longtime friend and collaborator, Ben Affleck. Wouldn’t he be familiar enough with Matt’s existence to recognize him?
This brings me to believe only Julia Roberts exists out of the Ocean’s crew, so we’d need to basically erase every actor from the Ocean’s crew except for her. Movies start to look very different following this. We’d start with any movies the crew had all been together in, so if Brad Pitt doesn’t exist, then the 2001 film The Mexican probably was never a thing, which means that Julia Roberts never starred in it. Another changed film would be American Sweethearts, where Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Julia Roberts’ sister!! Matt Damon is even in Mystic Pizza, so does that movie exist with a different actor playing that small role, or was it never made? Would Twelve Monkeys not exist or just not star Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt together?
Instead of snapping away all of these movies and actors, one could come to the conclusion perhaps Julia Roberts is the only one who still looks the same as Julia Roberts playing Tess. Maybe Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and George Clooney do exist, but just don’t look like Rusty, Linus, and Danny. This feels like a cheap cop-out, but is the only conclusion I can come to get back to my normal sleeping schedule and stop worrying if in the Ocean’s universe Brad Pitt is a person, Julia Roberts has an Oscar still and if I could be spared Matt Damon in that world… (we’ll save my thoughts on Damon for another time)