AOL Chat - March 1999

 Chat transcript 

Move over Gwyneth -- Shakespeare's latest muse is 17-year-old actress Julia Stiles. This year, she'll star in no fewer than three of the upcoming Shakepearean movie remakes: 10 Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew for the high school), O (Othello) and Hamlet. You know her from her roles in The Devil's Own, and the TV movies Before Women Had Wings and The '60s. She swept last year's Sundance with Wicked. AOL had the chance to catch up with Julia and put 20 questions to the star of 10 Things I Hate About You.

1. Tell me a little bit about your character in 10 Things I Hate About You.

Kat is very opinionated, assertive, and bold. She hates high school and the social scene, the way people are very superficial and catty. She makes a conscious effort to be in people's faces and they construe that as bitchy or shrewish. Her younger sister pays a rebel guy to date Kat, but they butt heads because they both have such strong personalities. They fight a lot and they're both very witty, so they're a good match.

2. Do Kat's dating rules jibe with yours?

Very much. I related to Kat so much. She sees through players and she sees through guys who are going to manipulate her. And she's really like anyone: she's looking for someone who's going to care about her and not just see her as another conquest.

3. You're in three of the six upcoming Shakespeare films. What do you think this Shakespeare resurgence in film is about?

I read The Taming of the Shrew in high school and hated it. Then I changed my mind. What's so great about Shakespeare, besides the poetry, romance and compelling characters, is that the plots are more sophisticated than scripts today. I think the remakes are great. That's why I'm doing three of them.

4. You mentioned before not always liking Shakespeare. What would you tell someone who thinks Shakespeare is boring?

I didn't hate it because I thought it was boring. I disliked it because at the end of The Taming of the Shrew, Kate says women should lick all men's boots and bow down to them. Everybody said Shakespeare wrote it at a time when that was a woman's position, but I still thought it was lame. I would say read the Folger Library Editions because they have summaries at the beginning of each scene and footnotes that are really good and easy to understand. The language is intimidating, but if you decode it, the stuff underneath it is so powerful and amazing.

5. How old are you?

17, but I'm turning 18 just before the movie comes out.

6. At what age did you start acting?

I started doing plays in New York when I was 11, but I didn't do my first movie until I was 15.

7. Do you think you're on the fast track?

I have spent a lot of years auditioning so I don't feel like I got the first thing I auditioned for. Right now, it's falling into place and I'm getting work and doing projects that I'm excited about. I am aware of how, right now, success is kicking in. I'm very thankful, but I try not to take it too seriously. I know that what goes up must come down so I try and just stay focused on the work.

8. A lot of people will say you're an overnight sensation. What do you think of that?

I really had to work up from the trenches: I didn't know anybody in Hollywood, I lived in New York, I faced a lot of rejection. But once I did 10 Things, I felt like all of a sudden I went from zero to sixty.

9. In the upcoming Hamlet, you star as Ophelia opposite Ethan Hawke's Hamlet and Bill Murray's Polonius. Do you have a funny Bill Murray story?

He's so amazing. We met the first day he was on the set. We did one scene and I was nervous, thinking "it's Bill Murray and I want to impress him." He came up to me and said sternly, "We need to rehearse. Meet me at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine tomorrow." I thought, oh my God, he thinks that I am the worst actress in the entire world. So I did meet him at the cathedral and we talked for a long time and got coffee. I learned so much from him about acting. We went through the play scene by scene. I realized he was insecure and he was not certain that he could do it. The rehearsal was just as much for him as it was for me. I was amazed.

10. What's the best acting advice you've ever gotten?

The director I'm working with now said, "Always connect with the other person." A lot of scenes are about how two people affect each other so I like to remember that, to connect to the other person.

11. What advice would you give to a teenager thinking of going down the acting road?

They should do it because they love to act and they like working, not to be famous. A lot of people ask me how I got started and I can tell that their priority is being famous. They'll say, "I want to be an actor... or a model, or a gymnast or a figure skater." They all are celebrities -- if that's all they want out of whatever job they want to do, they're going to have a miserable time.

12. You've worked in TV, theater and film. Which do you enjoy the most?

The two top contenders are film and stage. The theater that I've done is really strange and not traditional at all. So I'm very interested in doing a real, hard-core actors play. Right now I really enjoy films, assuming that the people you're working with are really great. I've been lucky because they have been.

13. How similar or dissimilar is your life from other kids your age?

I'm not really leading a normal teenage life because I'm not in school everyday. But I'm very happy about that because I think that a lot of teenagers, especially seniors, get really sick of whatever routine they've been in -- that's why they call it "senioritis."

14. Do you go online? What do you use it for?

I go online for school. When I'm working I usually have a tutor with me, but now that I'm a second semester senior I don't really need one because I'm only taking two classes. I send the work to my teachers through email and I talk to them in a chat room. It's my own little tutoring session, but it's online.

15. Tell us about the Othello remake O, that you're currently shooting. How does it get updated to the world of basketball?

It takes place in a very rich boarding school in the South atmosphere of the South. The Othello character is the only black person at the school: he's been recruited because he's a great basketball player. Hugo, the Iago character, is the son of the coach. They're competing to get into Duke University, and then maybe the NBA, so the stakes are pretty high. Hugo sets up this whole plot to see Othello's downfall. I'm Othello's girlfriend, Desdemona. From then on, the play translates perfectly. Hugo manipulates the situation so Othello thinks that I'm cheating on him. Jealousy builds up, he gets insane and kills me. Then he kills himself. It's really compelling. The story is very similar to O.J. Simpson.

16. Are the teen movies of the '90s better than the teen movies of the '80s?

I think they're very comparative. There are some great teen movies from the '80s. People dismiss The Breakfast Club as cheesy, but it's totally meaningful. [As for today's teen movies,] it's great timing for me. There are a lot of good teen actors out there who are really talented. And then there are other ones who are just riding on the coat tails of their age.

17. What was going to Sundance with Wicked like?

It was crazy. It's all about partying and schmoozing, which is a little unnerving. But it was great at the screenings because it was the first time I had seen an audience reaction to the movie. It was fun to be able to talk about this movie that I was really proud of.

18. Tell me about your Vanity Fair Young Hollywood cover shoot.

It was really fast, but it was really cool. The place was buzzing with make-up artists, hairstylists and wardrobe people. They had rows and rows of designer clothing. The minute we got there, they were like, "Don't change, wear what you wore here." And of course, I wore, like, the schlepiest clothing.

19. What actor would you most like to play opposite?

John Leguizamo. I saw Freak on Broadway; he's so talented.

20. What's next for you?

Wicked is coming out this summer, Hamlet should be coming out in the fall, O is coming out in October. After O, I have a two or three week break, and then I'm doing a Miramax film called Down To You. It's very similar to Annie Hall. It takes place in college and it's the story of a first love, so I'm moving on from the teen films.

Originally published at - Posted on March 1999