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Actress Julia Roberts poses for a portrait in New York to promote one of her films Image Credit: Victoria Will/Invision/AP

Actress Julia Roberts says the late Martin Luther King Jr and his wife Coretta Scott King paid the hospital bill for her birth.

The 55-year-old star revealed the couple made the gesture as her parents couldn't afford the fee, and said her mum and dad befriended the Kings while living in Atlanta running a theatre school, reports femalefirst.co.uk.

She told Gayle King, in a clip showing her in conversation with the journalist last month that has now been shared online by a fan: "One day Coretta called my mother and asked if her kids could be part of the school because they were having a hard time finding a place that would accept her kids.

"My mom was like, 'Sure, come on over', and so they all just became friends, and they helped us out of a jam."

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Coretta Scott King, center, Dr. Ralph Abernathy, left, and actor Sidney Poitier appear at a press conference at Americana Hotel in New York for a viewing on a film on the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Oct. 22, 1969. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler) Image Credit: AP

It has been reported that a Ku Klux Klan member blew up a car outside one of Julia's parent's Betty and Walter Roberts' plays in 1965 in response to King Jr's daughter Yolanda being cast in a role in which she kissed a white actor.

Gayle hailed Julia's parents' decision "extraordinary" because people didn't see "little black children interacting with little white kids in acting school" at the time.

Julia celebrated her 55th birthday on October 28 by sharing a selfie of herself on Instagram sipping a mug of coffee surrounded by pink and gold balloons.

She captioned the photo: "Feeling the love and magic on my 55th Birthday! My cup runneth over."

Roberts has also paid tribute to her husband Danny Moder and their life with their children, 17-year-old twins Hazel and Phinnaeus and son Henry, 15, saying: "The life that I have built with my husband, (and) the life that we've built with our children, that's the best stuff. To come home at the end of the day, triumphantly, to them."