Interview with Julia Stiles
You've done a lot of Shakespearean movies.
It wasn't a calculated move. I didn't say I'm going to do three movies based on Shakespearean plays but I think... he's a great writer, obviously. And, all classic writers create really good characters and really compelling emotions so, it translates to any time period, easily. I took each project as an individual thing. They're all very different. If you compare Hamlet with 10 Things I Hate About You, they are so very different, just in terms of genre. It was kind of a coincidence.
Did you expect your career to blossom so fast?
No. I'm really happy. It's weird because I was cleaning out my room the other day and I found a note that I wrote to myself when I was twelve years old and it said do not read until you're eighteen. It was after some audition [for] a movie and I was upset because I didn't get the part. [I thought] oh, my God! You're never going to be an actress. If I'd known what was going to happen, it's exactly what I wanted my career to be, then. I'm just really happy that I get to work on projects that excite me and I think that are really intelligent and fun. I like working a lot.
What was in the note?
It was basically ranting because I was really upset. But, it was like -- when I'm eighteen, remember this moment. Actually, the advice was not to get your hopes up. I never really took that advice, though.
What was the challenge of doing this role because she is so unhappy?
(Laughs) It's weird when I went to this audition, I thought I'm never going to get this role because it's too great a role. Don't ask me why? But, then I did get it and I was really, really happy but I was also intimidated. People have this stigma attached to Shakespeare especially if it uses the original language. I would study other actors who were in original adaptations and they would sometimes have English accents. I thought that I had to be like that and it wasn't really what I was use to. So, then after a lot of rehearsals, I decided to make it my own -- just what I related to. I had to sit down and think about what Ophelia meant to me and understand the emotions I thought she was going through -- and not repeat other actresses' performances. And it was really frustrating. She doesn't really do much for the first half of the play. She just sort of absorbs all the information and doesn't really develop her own opinion and I think that's what made her explode at the end.
Did you have fun with the part?
It was fun especially filming out at the Guggenheim Museum. It was like therapy. Anything that was bothering me -- I think everyone can relate to no one listening to you -- so I got to release all of that. It was really exciting. Even the drowning scene in the pool -- it was November and it wasn't heated and it wasn't clean. But, I was doing the Ophelia drowning scene.
When did you start acting?
My mom says that I started acting when I was five. I didn't start professional acting until I was twelve. I started working at a theater company, La Mama, after school. I'd go to rehearsals and performances. I [also] did really bizarre experimental theater. Then, I found an agent and started auditioning for film and television. I didn't start working steadily in films until I was seventeen. It really didn't take away from my normal experiences.
What happen to your screenplay that was at Sundance?
I wrote with the founder of the theater company and we went to Sundance. We got so many good ideas and we wanted to take the script into a different direction. Fortunately, he went off to do more plays and I went to do more films so we haven't had a chance to rewrite it to the point where it will be the kind of story that we want it to be. We thought about getting back together while I'm in school.
Is this something you'd like to pursue in the future?
Yeah. I have other ideas for screenplays [that] I'd like to write. And, I use to think that I never wanted to direct but now, I all of a sudden have a renew interest in directing because I'd like to have more control over the kind of stuff that I do. And, we need more women directors in Hollywood.
Are you currently in a relationship?
I've talked about that way too much in the past so -- I'm not. I like dating but it's nothing serious.
Have you been burned in the press concerning your personal life? Misquoted?
Being misquoted is definitely one of the bad things. I went out with -- I think you all know... And, I remember seeing one article where I didn't even mention his name but I talked about it because it was an experience that I was having. That was the first time -- I was worried that he was going to be upset. I guess I'm in denial or more casual about it but I don't care if people know a lot about me. I always feel that I should be cautious because it can get out of control. I tend to think who cares.
What do you think about all the websites devoted to you?
Some are pretty personal and kind of weird shrines. Yeah. The only one I've ever looked at was 'Julia-Stiles.com' because someone actually bought the rights to my name.
So, you're not going to pay a million dollars to get it back?
No. No. I don't really have anything to hide like George Bush. It's flattering and I find it a little intriguing to look at them but then, I also feel bad because it seems narcotic [on my part]. But, my friend called me up and told me that someone from my high school was talking shit about me on a message board. So, just to know that people are spending time talking about me -- I guess it's a good thing because it means people will go to my movies.
Best thing and worst thing about becoming a celebrity?
Oh, good question. The best thing is the power that you have. I've had to audition less because directors that I want to work with have seen my work. You still have to work hard and it's an uphill battle. When 10 Things came out, the big thing that I had to face was "you are a good actress and we want to hire you but we need a box office draw." So, that problem has sort of been eliminated because I'm well known and I'm really grateful for it. The worst thing, I guess, [pause] I don't mind people recognizing me. It's only bad when people are mean. I guess I'm in denial because I think I can walk down the street and no will notice. But, people expect you to be on all the time because they think it's your job or something.
What advice would you give young people who strive to be actors?
Maintain a sense of self -- I think that's important -- because if you go to LA and meet all these people who are trying to be actors. A lot of them get plastic surgery and things like that [because] they're trying to be an actor -- do whatever will make them successful and they don't maintain any sense of individuality. I think individuality is the most interesting thing to see on screen.
Originally published at FilmGazette.com - Posted on May 1999