Julia Roberts was campaigning hard for the lead role in "A Time to Kill", and with good reason...the film was buzzed as a blockbuster from the very start. The book had been written by John Grisham, who had also authored "The Pelican Brief", which, as a film, had proven to be Julia's only bona fide box office hit in four years. The once-heralded "Starlet of the 90's" was on the verge of becoming a has-been in Hollywood. She sensed that her new upcoming film, "Mary Reilly", would also do poorly in theaters. If she had any hope of reviving her career, then "A Time to Kill" might well be her last, best hope.

Adding to the stress she was under was the collapse of her marriage, plus the inconveniences of the ever-intrusive press. A long-festering sense of frustration had recently flared up repeatedly as violent tantrums, causing Julia to snap angrily over the most minor of problems. The rumor mill suggested she was heading for a breakdown.

Just a few short years earlier, the part would have been Julia's for the asking. Now however, she found herself in the somewhat insulting position of having to audition. She tested well, and the producers were giving serious thought to casting her.

According to the grapevine, her only real competition came from Sandra Bullock, who had literally burst into stardom with a quick string of hit films. Hollywood and the media found it easy to compare her to Julia: Both had a pixieish, homespun, 'Girl Next Door' sexiness that made them popular with both males and females. Some claimed that Sandra only became a star because she arrived during a period of time when Julia was on sabbatical from filmmaking, and Sandra supplied the public's demand for "Julia Roberts" roles. Whatever the reasons for her phenomenal overnight success, Sandra had impressed many with her genuine acting talents.

"A Time to Kill" was Sandra's first real chance to break out of the stereotypical parts she had been playing, an opportunity to establish herself as a true actress, and she pursued the coveted role every bit as hard as Julia did. Sandra felt a secret shiver of delight at the prospect of beating Julia out for the part, because she detested being continually compared to her rival, whom she considered to be a weak actress. Winning the part would establish once and for all just who was the bigger star.

Each took a direct hand in obtaining the role, including personally appealing to the producers. As fate would have it, both actresses happened to choose the same afternoon to visit the Executive Producer at his Bel Air mansion.

The producer hadn't returned from a business lunch, but his butler was about to leave to pick him up and bring him home. Deciding that it was far wiser to keep a close eye on the other, both actresses chose to stay and wait. They sat alone in the vast living room in stony silence for long minutes.

Finally, Sandra spoke. "You know, I went to see 'I Love Trouble' at the theatre the week after it opened, but it was already gone. Too bad I missed it, because I heard it was really, really good."

The callous slam at Julia's latest box office flop was calculated to irritate her. It did that and more, as Julia's face flushed red and her eyes narrowed into slits. "I'd be careful if I were you," replied Julia with a bitter tone. "After all, you have the honor of having been out-acted by Stallone."

Although she knew Julia was only retaliating to her own insult, and she knew that, in fact, she had acted rings around Sylvester Stallone in "Demolition Man", Sandra was overly-sensitive about any insinuation that she was a bad actress. It was exactly the right button to push to shake Sandra's composure, as Julia well knew...she had learned something in her years in Hollywood.

Sandra dropped all pretense of constraint. "Why don't you just climb back into your car and go out and date another Brat Packer or country singer? You haven't got one-tenth of what it takes to play this part!"

"I certainly don't have what you've got," retorted Julia. "A first-hand knowledge of the ceilings of the bedrooms of every casting agent in town! If I were you, Sandy, I'd try a different kind of aerobic exercise, because those saddle bag thighs are getting bigger."

Each had passed the point of no return, and they knew it. As one, they threw themselves at each other, tearing at hair and kicking with their knees. Awkwardly, they spun across the floor, viciously mauling the other.

Eventually, Julia began to take control, holding her rival in a headlock and peppering sharp punches into her face. Sandra yelped in pain with every blow, and Julia happily envisioned beating her hated competitor to a bloody pulp.

So enraptured by her thoughts was Julia that she never noticed Sandra wrapping her strong arms around her waist. Then, in a flash, Sandra hoisted her up into the air, breaking the headlock and sending Julia tumbling backwards over her shoulder like a ragdoll. The actress hit the floor hard, too stunned to ward off the kicks Sandra propelled into her midsection.

Sandra then pulled her for to her feet by her hair, intent on bodily tossing her out the front door. But as she began to drag her out of the room, the seemingly helpless Julia suddenly sprung to life, tackling Sandra and bringing them both back down to the floor, this time with Sandra taking the full brunt of the fall.

Intending to pound her rival senseless, Julia pulled one of her cowboy boots off of her foot and, donning it like a boxing glove, began punching away at Sandra, the heel of the boot gouging deep into the actress' forehead, causing her to bleed profusely.

But with an act of animal intensity, Sandra pushed her tormentor off and went on the attack, raking her nails across Julia's eyes, flailing away with her fists, pulling handfuls of auburn hair from their roots.

With murderous intent, Sandra tore off Julia's silk blouse and wrapped it tightly around her throat. Julia thrashed about wildly, desperate to pry the noose from her neck, but to no avail. With the last gasp of breath left in her body, she cried her surrender.

For a long moment, Sandra kept up the stranglehold. Then, reason prevailed, and she let her beaten opponent loose. Julia, panting, humiliated, got shakily to her feet, stumbled to the door, and got into her car and left. Sandra gathered her strength and followed suit a few minutes later, but not before leaving the producer a note: "I'll be in to sign the contract next week." When he got home, the producer was left to wonder how a cyclone could have demolished his living room.

Sandra Bullock went on to make "A Time to Kill", which was a huge hit at the box office and confirmed her status as both a major star and a talented actress.

Julia Roberts settled for "Something to Talk About", which bombed at the box office. Next time, Julia vowed to herself, it will be different. The next time, it will be Sandra that begs for mercy.