Los Angeles Magazine - May 1999

 Stiles and Substances 

Julia Stiles is one of those unusual amalgams: the smart kid in the class who is also the coolest; the 18-year-old whose aloof beauty morphs into goofiness the minute she cracks a smile; the neophyte actress who became the youngest filmmaker to develop a script at Robert Redford's exclusive Sundance Screenwriters Lab.

Now Stiles, who played the prodigal daughter in NBC's blockbuster miniseries The '60s and starred as the naughty nymphet in last year's Wicked, is making Shakespeare trendy with a trio of movies based on the Bard's work. In 10 Things I Hate About You, she's Kat, the opinionated shrew whose verbal fencing challenges the high school Petruchio (Heath Ledger). In yet another film version of Hamlet (costarring Ethan Hawke, Bill Murray and Sam Shepard), she is the ill-fated Ophelia, and in O, an update of Othello, she's Desi. "It just happened," says Stiles of her Shakespeare riff. "Each project was something I was really, really excited about -- because they were great stories." After filming Down to You, a romantic comedy costarring Freddie Prinze Jr., Stiles is the front-runner to play the lead in Madonna's production of Going Down, the story of an NYU student who puts herself through school by turning tricks.

"This sounds so cliched." says Stiles apologetically, "but when I was little, I played dress-up a lot: I loved getting immersed in another character. It's kind of a strange thing but then I figured out that it was acting, and I could make a living doing it." Clever girl.

Originally published in the May 1999 issue of Los Angeles Magazine