Hold onto your Playbills, because you never know which headshot will become a famous face.
A string of box-office hit rom coms in the late 1990s and an Oscar win for Erin Brockovich in 2000 firmly cemented a place for actor Julia Roberts in Hollywood history. In the early 2000s, she consistently topped the list of film’s highest-paid women, the first to earn $20 million per movie. Roberts held on to the top position even in a year in which she did not make a film (2005—when she took a break to parent her newborn twins).
When she did return to work in 2006, it was not in a film, but rather on Broadway in Richard Greenberg’s Three Days of Rain. One of Hollywood’s brightest and biggest stars proved to be just as much of a Broadway box-office draw in her Main Stem debut. The 12-week engagement grossed over $11 million and sold at 100% capacity nearly every week.
In the first act, the death of a famous architect and his mysterious will brings together a brother and sister along with their childhood best friend, to unravel a mystery left behind in the father's journal, particularly an entry about "three days of rain." In the second act, the time frame shirts back in time a few decades and the three play the parents of the first-act characters.
While ticket-buyers were clamoring to see Julia Roberts, they also got to see a future Tony and Oscar nominee in his Broadway debut. Bradley Cooper had a few screen credits by March 2006, when the play began previews, but he was not the household name he is now. He'd made his film debut in 2001 in the camp comedy Wet Hot American Summer and was a series regular in the Jennifer Garner-led spy thriller Alias, but he'd yet to really break through in Hollywood. That role would come in the blockbuster comedy The Hangover in 2009.
"Bradley Cooper is a lively surprise," reads the New York magazine review of Three Days of Rain.
He would go on to earn back-to-back-to-back Oscar nominations for his work in Silver Linings Playbook (2013), American Hustle (2014), and American Sniper (2015). In 2019, he was Oscar-nominated for his screenplay adaption for the remake of A Star is Born, which also starred in opposite Lady Gaga. Both were nominated for their roles, and the pair won a Grammy Award for the film's song "Shallow."
Cooper returned to Broadway in 2014 in a revival of The Elephant Man, reprising his role from the 2012 Williamstown Theatre Festival production. Cooper earned a Tony nomination for his work as John Merrick, a severely disfigured man who earned his living as a sideshow attraction until he is rescued and brought home by a caring doctor.
Three Days of Rain also starred stage and screen favorite Paul Rudd, the only Broadway veteran in the cast at the time, having previously appeared on Broadway in The Last Night of Ballyhoo in 1997 and Twelfth Night in 1998. It's fair to say Rudd's film and television career by 2006 would have made him somewhat recognizable to Broadway audiences—his credits included Clueless (1995), Anchorman (2004), The 40-Year Old Virgin (2005), and several episodes in the final seasons of the hit sitcom Friends, in which he played Phoebe's love interest.
Although Roberts in her highly-anticipated debut made Three Days of Rain a super-hot Broadway ticket, a Playbill article written at the time mentions that Roberts never did press without Rudd and Cooper by her side, noting that she was acting not as the star of the show, but as a member of its ensemble. Unfortunately, the show (and Roberts' performance) received lukewarm reviews. The production, directed by Joe Mantello, only received Tony nominations for its scenic design by Santo Loquasto and lighting design by Paul Gallo.
Despite a dreary reception, Three Days of Rain did nothing to cloud the careers of its stars.