- December 14, 2001

 Julia Stiles takes on the "business" of acting 

Having appeared in teen-oriented films like Save the Last Dance and O, Julia Stiles now stars in The Business of Strangers, the first movie debut of writer and director Patrick Stettner.

In this film Stiles goes from romantic comedy to dark thriller.

Dressed in a red sweater and pants, the 20-year-old actress appears nervous as she prepares to talk about her new film and her upcoming projects.

In Strangers, she plays the tattooed Paula Murphy, a manipulative, charming and powerful assistant to a high-powered businesswoman.

"It was very cathartic, because most of the time I think I've always wanted to back away from being as blunt as Paula is," Stiles says. "Patrick told me not to be afraid of that."

Stiles developed the character of Paula by observing people as well as thinking back on a girl she knew in High School. She didn't want to make her character to be just mean but wanted to find out more about what made Paula tick. "What could have gone wrong with her?" she says.

"She believes everything that she's saying," the actress explains. "It's not that she's consciously or maliciously lying, it's just to say anything without thinking about it first. She likes to make people uncomfortable. It's more like she wants to control, but it gets out of control."

Also appearing in this mysterious and twisted story is Stockard Channing as a powerful businesswoman. Stiles says that she was very excited about working with the star of stage and screen, both big and little.

"I was trilled. I knew I would learn a lot with her and I did," she said. "I have a lot of respect for her."

Along with having the experience of working with seasoned actors, Stiles still works on improving her own talents.

"Everything fretted me, because you so depend on what people are telling you depending on your age," she said. "One day you feel fantastic and another day you feel crappy."

With the support of her parents, Stiles began her acting career at age 11. "They have been very encouraging," she says, adding "I could have quit at anytime. Instead, I kept going because I enjoyed it so much." She took to the stage while being involved in a theatre company for several years.

"I worked with the theatre company until I was 17, but I did my first movie when I was 15," Stiles explains. Of all her family members she is the only one in the entertainment business, saying, "I'm kim kind of the black sheep of the family.

Over the next year she has three film projects coming out in which she'll play a variety of characters by teaming up with Shirley MacLaine in "Carolina," Matt Damon in "The Bourne Identity" and playing a stripper in "A Guy Thing."

Along with acting, Stiles attends Columbia University where she is in her sophomore year. She says that none of her teachers know who she is or that she is an up-and-coming actress. "I go to class like everybody else," she says, "nobody really cares."

Article by Sonia Donato
Originally published at - Posted on December 14, 2001