With a number of high-profile projects, a variety of magazine covers, and a spot on Teen People's 21 Hottest Stars Under 21 list in 1999 under her belt, actress Julia Stiles has come a remarkably long way in a very short time. Born March 28, 1981, in New York City, Stiles was interested in performing from a very young age. When she was eleven years old, she wrote a letter to a Manhattan theater director asking to be cast in a production and was soon acting on-stage in avant-garde plays at both the La Mama and Kitchen Theaters. In 1996, Stiles made her film debut with a small part in I Love You, I Love You Not and the following year had her television debut in the Oprah Winfrey Presents: Before Women Had Wings, in which she played an abused child. The same year, she made a brief appearance as Harrison Ford's daughter in The Devil's Own and followed with roles in two 1998 films, Wide Awake and the Sundance entry Wicked. The year 1999 proved to be Stiles' breakthrough year, as she played a prominent part in the television miniseries The '60s and the lead role in 10 Things I Hate About You, the latest film to mine gold and produce endorsements out of William Shakespeare. The film was a hit, and Stiles was soon being heralded as one of the hottest, young actors of her generation. With her name attached to a number of future projects, it seemed that Stiles would indeed have success in living up to this label.
Sure enough, Stiles was almost immediately cast in two modernized-for-MTV-generation Shakespeare flicks, namely director Michael Almereyda's Hamlet (2000) with Ethan Hawke and O, a teen-oriented adaptation of Othello starring Josh Hartnett and Mekhi Phifer. As classic literature once again fell in place behind predictable romantic comedies, Stiles could be found playing the romantic lead in Down to You with teen movie veteran Freddie Prinze Jr., and alongside Sean Patrick Thomas in Save the Last Dance, which featured Stiles in the role of a grieving ballet dancer who attends an inner-city school and eventually finds love within a primarily black high school. Though the film was not a critical success, Save the Last Dance (2001) and 10 Things I Hate About You nonetheless helped construct Stiles a respectable fan base, and the young actress -- now with a Saturday Night Live credit under her belt -- would continue to build her resumé throughout the early 2000s.
In the film adaptation of novelist Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity, Stiles had the chance to participate in a film starring Hollywood golden boy Matt Damon and returned to the role in 2004's The Bourne Supremacy. Stiles was praised for holding her own against Stockard Channing in The Business of Strangers (2001), which was shown at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and fared decently in A Guy Thing, a romantic comedy-of-errors co-starring Jason Lee and Stiles' fellow Down to You alumna Selma Blair. In 2003, Stiles would play opposite the Oscar-winning Julia Roberts in Mona Lisa Smile, which finds Stiles playing a conservative '50s college student whose beliefs undergo some serious scrutiny after coming in contact with an uncharacteristically progressive teacher (Roberts). The year 2004 promised more teen-styled roles; Stiles played the eccentric title character in Carolina under the direction of Dutch filmmaker Marleen Gorris and worked with director Martha Coolidge and 28 Days Later's Luke Mably in The Prince & Me.
Julia Stiles Didn't Lose 'Bell Jar' Role
Julia Stiles is denying previous reports that she's suing former production partners for allegedly conspiring to rob her of a role in a film adaptation of Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar."
Instead, she claims that she acquired the rights to the novel from StudioCanal and that casting hasn't even begun yet.
According to a statement released to Celebrity Justice, Stiles' rep says: "After being slapped with a lawsuit in an attempt to steal property that rightfully belongs to Julia, she is in turn suing her former producing partners to seek an injunction from the Court to prevent them from doing so."
Stiles therefore did not lose the part to any actress, but is merely holding onto her option.
"There is no director. There is no script. There is no other actress being considered," continues the statement. "Those are not the issues of this lawsuit and to suggest otherwise is untrue and frivolous."
"Bell Jar" is Plath's largely autobiographical novel centering on the beautiful, successful and talented Esther Greenwood and her mental breakdown.
Stiles, 23, has starred in "10 Things I Hate About You," "State and Main," "Save the Last Dance," "O," the "Bourne Identity" films, "Mona Lisa Smile" and "The Prince and Me."
Julia Stiles' Dreams
Do American girls dream of being swept off their feet by a dashing prince?
JS:: I don't know if every girl dreams that. I kind of liked it that it wasn't Paige's dream. But I also like that in the movie you get to see how the fantasy might play out and whether it would work in reality.
So do you think girls might be envious of Paige?
JS:: If she ends up being able to be a queen and a doctor...sure why not. Or at least to aspire to that.
Was dressing up in the ballgowns fun and which side of the character did you most relate to?
JS:: I felt more comfortable in the college student scenes. But it was certainly fun to wear the ballgown and the dance in the ballroom was so romantic. We shot in a beautiful palace and I felt like I was playing dress-up I didn't necessarily feel at home there. But it was still thrilling.
For the farm sequences did you really milk cows?
JS:: Yeah, it makes you look at milk differently. I'm a city girl so I had no idea about a farm. But I got to learn how to ride horses and steer cattle and we saw a cow give birth to a calf, which was pretty amazing. It was an interesting experience to milk a cow. They don't really do it by hand any more. It was tedious. My God, I don't know how milkmaids used to do it. So I did it by hand just to get the full experience and you have to be careful. They are huge animals and they shift their weight so much that you have to be careful that they don't step on you. It was quite an awkward situation. I think the farmers had a good laugh watching the city girl.
Do you agree that love stops you from thinking reasonably?
JS:: Yes that is what is so thrilling about romance.
What's the craziest thing that you have ever done for love?
JS:: I'm only 23, I haven't really done many crazy things for love. I would like to do something really crazy.
Are you still studying?
JS:: Yeah I took a semester off to do Oleanna and I have a year left. I'm majoring in English. The way it works is that I take a semester off if I'm going to make a movie and if I have time between movies then I go and I try and do a semester at school. I'm lucky because at the school that I go to you can defer as long as you want. There are other students who have jobs to pay the rent. I get a little bit frustrated sometimes that I can't get a credit for a performance of a Shakespearean play. They have strict rules at Columbia about what you can get credit for.
What do you want to do with your degree?
JS:: I might be 30 by the time I get it! What am I going to do with my degree?
I'll retire because I'm going to be 50 (joking). It's not vocational so it doesn't really apply to anything that I would do. But I'm curious about a lot of different subjects and enjoy reading novels. So if I can get a degree for reading novels there's nothing wrong with that. In the movie you are torn between love and your career. In real life what would you choose?
JS:: Oh I think that I, and a lot of modern girls are in similar situations where you have to balance your career and life goals and personal life. What I like is that Paige can have both. I like that she picks a guy who wants to compromise with her and really likes her ambition and passion and drive. Hopefully I'll be able to do that. What would I choose? I don't know. I love acting. If I could give it up I wouldn't want the guy to want me to give it up.
Is it important to choose a role that is a strong inspirational person?
JS:: I think that is the way a lot of characters are written. But my character in Oleanna is not like that at all. By the end a lot of the audience is cheering for her to get beaten up. I think it is interesting to watch despicable characters in movies or at least characters with flaws. I'm interested in roles like that. Its apples and oranges
What are the similarities between you and your screen character?
JS:: I can be stubbornly independent. Playing Paige I realised that being cynical and sarcastic and focused is a way of being guarded and I feel I do that a lot. I'm only focused on my work because it's easier to do that than risk falling in love with somebody.
Did learning how to be regal for the film teach you anything about yourself?
JS:: I had to do a lot of deportment school for Mona Lisa Smile. And taking dance classes as a kid taught me how to hold myself. I like using that in acting.
So now do you think it's hard work being royal?
JS:: Absolutely, I'm not refined enough in myself to know the first thing. It goes way beyond what fork to use. It's about knowing when to smile and not to smile, how to make conversation, how to be graceful. I'm amazed. Where do they learn all that? Do they actually go to deportment school.
Could you relate to the prince's problems in trying to have a private life?
JS:: I think it is more exaggerated for the prince in the movie. I don't get chased by the paparazzi. The way I am in my career I can control that a little bit more. I would hate to get to a place where I couldn't control that. The difference between me being a public figure as opposed to someone who is royalty is that I chose my profession. So any negative aspects of being a public figure is really my own doing. But a prince is born into it and can't have it any other way.
Do you have to think carefully about where you might go out with a boyfriend?
JS:: Sort of. I'm just not interesting enough for the paparazzi. (laughs) So I don't really have a problem. If I come out of the theatre after giving a performance then there will be people waiting for autographs and wanting pictures. But that is entirely different. But in terms of people trying to get a picture of me in a bikini - that doesn't happen. Thank God!
Why did you decide to stop being a vegan?
JS:: I stopped being a vegan and then became a vegetarian. But the first meat I ate was not a hamburger - that was just a joke I made on a TV chat show. I changed diet because it really wasn't healthy. Being vegan is a hard thing to do and I became really badly anaemic. When you are travelling there is no way you can get proper nutrition. So now I do eat some red meat but not all the time.
How are you enjoying living in London?
JS:: I love London so much. I'm enchanted by it. The novelty has not worn. There is so much great art and culture. When we were rehearsing Oleanna I worked all day long and would come home and go to sleep. But now I'm trying to see things. I have definitely been trying to soak it all up. A treat for me in London is having a fancy high tea with cucumber sandwiches and scones. My home came over and I took her to tea. It was lovely.
What must you have with you from home when you are in London?
JS:: I get the New York Post sent over. Even though you have great papers here I still miss my New York Post. I still sleep with a security blanket.I travel with it. It's old. I have had it since I was a baby and it has holes in it. When I was small I could wrap myself in it. I used to talk to it when I was a kid. That's probably why I became an actress - I don't talk to it any more.
It's said you have a bigger role in The Bourne Supremacy?
JS:: What I like about it is that it plays on the idea that you didn't really know what my character was doing in the first film. She was kind of a glorified secretary in the first one. She was in over her head. Now since she was the last person to see Jasson Bourne she is the missing link. So against her will she has to help track him down.
Julia Stiles talks about "Mona Lisa Smile"
Julia Stiles and Ginnifer Goodwyn play Julia Roberts’ young students in the dramatic movie, “Mona Lisa Smile.” After playing classmates on film, the four rising young stars got together to talk about working with Roberts and working on “Mona Lisa Smile” for director Mike Newell.
Would you ever want to go back to the era portrayed in “Mona Lisa Smile?”
JULIA STILES: No, I wouldn't because I think that what I learned from making this movie was that women didn't really have choices. They were underappreciated and didn't have a voice.
Julia, Julia Roberts said she was intimidated by you. What does that mean to you?
JULIA STILES: Oh, that's so nice. Wow. One of the things that I think is amazing about Julia is that she doesn't adopt an intimidating attitude. We've been asked a lot if we were nervous about meeting her and she's just the… I learned so much about acting with her. I learned so much about how to exist in the public eye and maintain your integrity and sense of self and keep a strong head on your shoulders. I was just really amazed that she's so dedicated to the work that she does. All the power that she's accrued in Hollywood, she's used so well. I mean, she's used it to tell stories that are meaningful to her.
What did you do to get into the '50s mindset?
JULIA STILES: We did a lot. We had etiquette training, elocution lessons, dialect coaching, dance lessons. And then on my own, I watched a ton of movies from the early 1950s and also looked at almanacs to see what was going on in the world and brush up on my history. But I thought the most helpful thing was the dance lessons. [It was] not so much learning dance steps but the actual psychology behind ballroom dancing. I really had to let go of my modern aggressiveness and let the man lead me. And I feel like that was what was going on with the psychology of my character.
Julia, can you talk about the dialect you used in “Mona Lisa Smile?”
JULIA STILES: We had a dialect coach but I felt very confined by that, so in order to not feel like it was so foreign to me, I watched a lot of movies from the early 1950s. I'm just like, "Did people really speak that way?" And I know that the movie stars of the 1950s aren't maybe the average person, but they did. I feel like I modeled a lot after Grace Kelly - the way that she spoke - only because she would've been brought up in the same way that my character was. She went and took elocution lessons and went to a finishing school.
JULIA STILES: Yeah, I really responded to Joan immediately because I was surprised by her choice. She was a nice contrast to the other journeys the characters go through. And I thought the danger with a movie like this was that we would all come away from the movie thinking that the message is all women have to have careers. I liked that Joan really makes an individual choice. I met Mike [Newell] and read for Joan because I really wanted the part.
Hot Stiles Ventures Into Adulthood
Julia Stiles/Business of Strangers Interview
It didn't take her long, but teen sensation Julia Stiles is one of Hollywood's major new stars. With a number of high-profile projects, a variety of magazine covers, and a spot on Teen People's 1999 The 21 Hottest Stars Under 21 list under her belt, actress Julia Stiles has come a remarkably long way in a very short time. Born March 28, 1981, in New York City, Stiles was interested in performing from a very young age. When she was 11 years old, she wrote a letter to a Manhattan theatre director asking to be cast in a production, and was soon acting onstage in avant-garde plays at both the La Mama and Kitchen Theatres. In 1996, Stiles made her film debut with a small part in I Love You, I Love You Not and, the following year, had her television debut in the Oprah Winfrey Presents: Before Women Had Wings, in which she played an abused child. The same year, she made a brief appearance as Harrison Ford's daughter in The Devil's Own and followed this with roles in two 1998 films, Wide Awake and the Sundance entry Wicked.
1999 proved to be Stiles' breakthrough year, as she played a prominent part in the television miniseries The '60s and the lead role in 10 Things I Hate About You, the latest film to mine gold and product endorsements out of William Shakespeare. The film was a hit and Stiles was soon being heralded as one of the Hottest Young Things of her generation, a label cemented by the box office hit, Save the Last Dance. Stiles then appeared in 2 more contemporary takes on Shakespeare: Ophelia in Hamlet, starring Ethan Hawke, and the controversial 'O', a provocative retelling of Othello. In her latest film, The Business of Strangers, Stiles delivers her finest and most mature performance to date, a chilling drama co-starring Stockard Channing. Following the film's US premiere at this year's Toronto Film Festival, Stiles talked to Paul Fischer.
Question: Julia, correct me if I'm wrong, but Business of Strangers is the first film of yours you had where you were not in your teen years?
Julia Stiles: Yes, that's true except for the one I'm shooting now.
Question: How challenging was it for you to play that older character?
Answer: It was only really challenging in terms of the physical transformation. I wanted to make sure that when we chose the tattoos, my wardrobe, and we changed my hair a little bit, that I looked older, but in terms of what you call acting, I wasn't concerned with that, because of the anonymity of the situation, she had the tendency to be anybody, as long as she's in her surroundings, and being around other people who were just out of college, or around people who she's working with, so I felt like it would be more a little more believable.
Question: You seem to do some of your best work in Indie films. Is it as difficult to find those characters in more mainstream films?
Answer: It's difficult, yeah. What was great about Business of Strangers, is that I think when I've done mainstream films, I've learned to maybe back away from being so - how do I say this? What Patrick reminded every day on the set, was not to be ashamed to be as blunt as this character is, and I think I've learned that from doing mainstream movies, so it was nice to be learning that.
Question: Is there a conscious effort on your part to balance mainstream with independent roles or do you just take good roles as they come along?
Answer: It's both. I mean I do want to do both mainstream and independent films but it's more about what is good, and I don't really care about how much money is behind the movie or what I get paid.
Question: How surprised were you that Save the Last Dance was this remarkable hit and having that success alter the industry's perceptions of you?
Answer: Well, I mean it helped me a lot certainly, and it DID exceed my expectations because I like to keep my expectations about commercial success, relatively low, because I have no way of predicting, especially that, the market place or how people would respond to the movie, so I was totally happy when it did well and it's helped me a lot. I feel that I can make more choices and I just like working.
Question: Even though you're sort of moving out of that kind of teen film, you always seem to have the admiration of little girls, and yet you seem almost too smart sometimes for the teen roles you play, and you seem to be a very knowing person, and that. How do you figure that is, they admire you but yet your kind of playing above them a little bit?
Answer: I don't think it's playing above them. I guess teens that I talk to get it. You know, I think they're generally a little more knowing than we expect to. I think that's what they find refreshing about me.
Question: What about this affinity you've had with William Shakespeare, three Shakespeare films; I mean two contemporised versions and Hamlet. Are you surprised that you have suddenly become more identified now with Shakespeare?
J.S I'm glad you asked me that. The Shakespeare trilogy, I guess, was like any choice that I make in the work that I do. It's just what interests me and it's not really a calculated plan. Each project comes to me separately and I take each project on its own merits and for different reasons. it's not like I planned to do three Shakespeare movies; it's not as calculated. Even with Business of Strangers, after Save the Last Dance, I was looking for something different from the character that I played in Last Dance, but it was more because I just wanted to feel stimulated when I went to work.
Question: Were you disappointed that 'O' took so long to get released in the US and that you had to end up promoting 'O' as well as Business of Strangers, even though 'O' was made quite some time ago?
Answer: Yeah, you know it's weird because it SEEMS like I've just been on automatic drive doing movie after movie after movie and that's really not what has happened. I've taken time off and have done other things, and it's just that all of these movies seem to have come out at the same time. Um, but I - yeah, I was surprised it.
Question: I understand you will be resuming your life back in the dorms of the University of Columbia. Are you getting more comfortable with that situation?
Answer: Yeah, it's gotten a lot better. This year I've only had a week of school, but I'm living in a different situation, where I'm with people that I know more and other Columbian students are over it and are not surprised that I'm going there anymore, so it hasn't been awkward.
Question: If I were a student at Columbia, I would be bothering you every day.
Answer: Maybe I'm just in denial. Of course it's weird. I mean I have this weird dual life., I remember I had to go to the Video and Music Awards for MTV, and they sent this huge stretch limo that says like 'MTV Styles in front of it, and they set it outside my dorm room waiting for me. And I'm like: Oh my God. Then I see these sorority girls walk into their house, and they're like 'Oh, did you see that superstar Julia Stiles get collected by that limo? So of course, it's really weird, but mean that's what I do everyday.
Question: What are you taking in college?
Answer: Right now I'm going to probably major in English and Latin American studies.
Question: why Latin American studies?
Answer: Because I am interested in Latin American history, which I'm taking now, and it was really because I just wanted to keep taking Spanish and I wanted to get credit for it, but not so much Spanish literature, but like I'm more interested in the way of Latin Americans.
Question: Would you do something beyond the degree? I mean if you get in a situation where you'd maybe give up the acting and do something academic or something related to teaching?
Answer: I don't think so. I mean I think English is actually very relevant to acting, and very relevant to writing and I like doing both. I wouldn't want to just be in school or just be acting. I like going back and forth because they complement each other very nicely.
Question: You do get paid very nicely for your work. Does that allow you to create a world of complete independence for you, such as putting yourself through college, not dealing with the normality of student loans, etc.
Answer: Well, it will definitely pay for college, and it IS security, certainly. Keep in mind, it's still a ridiculous amount of money, but after my taxes and payroll, my agents and managers and lawyers and whatever, there is less money than what you see in print.
Question: Is it surreal when you talk about managers, agents, lawyers and all that kind of stuff?
Answer: Yeah, and that is a sort of dependence.
Julia Stiles: "The Prince and Me"
Julia Stiles may be Hollywood's hot young star-on-the-rise, but trying to find real-life love and romance is as much of a problem as her latest on-screen character. The always serious 24-year old, starring in the romantic comedy The Prince and Me, happily admits that "getting to sort of play things out on screen helps me exorcise my own issues", Stiles explains in a Beverly Hills hotel room.
The Prince and Me is fairy tale romance about a pre-med student who falls in love with a Danish Prince who refused to follow the traditions of his parents and has come to the US to quench his thirst for rebellion. Paige (Stiles) who hails from rural Wisconsin and Chris (Luke Mably) the Danish man who would be king, come from two different worlds, but there's an undeniable attraction between them.
Stiles sees a connection between herself and the fictional Paige. "I think I learned a lot about myself by playing her," the actress explains. Going into it, like my character, I knew that I'm really focused, driven and career-oriented, and never really fantasized about love and marriage. But as we were rehearsing and I'm playing Paige more and more, I realized that her sarcasm is sort of a defence mechanism, a way of being antisocial and sort protecting herself from the possibility of being rejected by a guy. It occurred to me that I do that too," Stiles confesses.
Asked if she could ever give up a career for a Prince or the love of her life, Stiles is typically serious. "Maybe this is still me being guarded. I feel as if you can have your cake and eat it too, so whoever would sweep me off my feet would appreciate my ambitions. What I look for in a guy is passion and ambition and there's nothing sexier than intellect, so hopefully that would be reciprocated." In a rare display of self-deprecating humour, Stiles laughingly insists that she may be a serious interview, but romantically, she lets herself go. "You've never taken me on a date, so you've never seen that side of me," admitting that we WERE to be on a date, "I'd probably be less pragmatic."
Stiles divides her time between acting and college, which she is finally about to complete. Far removed from that more idealized world of movie stardom, Julia says that she loves to be torn about those two distinct worlds. "It's actually really great to be a student and an actor, because I get to do this job that I love, then just when I think my head might explode, I get to go to school where they don't really care about what magazine cover I'm on. They really want to hear what I have to say and what my ideas are." And no, she says with mild disdain, her lecturers don't ask her for autographs. "They're like accomplished doctors with PhD's, who don't care that I'm an actress."
20 films since her debut at age 15, Stiles is able to put adolescent roles behind her, and says that these days, the choices for her have become richer. "I'm really happy, like a dream come true for me. Life's good, so I can't complain. I think that obviously actors in general have to be proactive about the kinds of projects that they pursue, because there's a limited amount of material out there, but right now, I'm pretty happy."
A week following our interview, Stiles was London-bound, not for a new film or glamorous premiere, but a return to the stage in David Mamet's London production of Oleana, trying not to concern herself too much about the reaction of British critics to yet another American actress treading their sacred theatrical boards. "I feel like the process for me is going to be so rewarding that I have to kind of focus on that more than how I'm going to be received by critics. Of course that doesn't mean that a scathing review isn't going to hurt, but I'm choosing not to think about that."
And next on the big screen, Stiles will be seen in The Bourne Conspiracy, which she recently wrapped on location in Germany. "I had a lot of really interesting psychologically driven scenes with Joan Allen. The movie starts and I thought that I had kind of gotten away from the world of the CIA and Joan Allen has this operation to find Jason Bourne again. She drags me off the street and against my will I have to go and help them. Meanwhile, Jason Bourne wants to interrogate me because I'm a sort of link to his past, being the last person to see him alive. Therefore I'm stuck in this paranoid world between two groups of people that are dangerous."
For Stiles, life on stage and screen, not to mention college, is keeping her busy. There doesn't seem to be any room for a man to try and take her away from all this, but in the final analysis, the actress thinks that it's not really a myth that women can have it all. "I don't think it's easy, but if we keep on demanding that we need to have it all, then we'll get there, I'm sure."