Glamour - January 2003

 Julia speaks her mind 

And what a mind she has! Here, life and career musts from one of hollywood's hottest actresses, who also happens to be feminist and a Shakespeare fan. Just don't ask her to microwave popcorn.

Julia Stiles has one Jam-packed day planner. Want proof? There's her job -- playing such bigscreen roles as Hamlet's Ophelia and a hip-hop dancer. There's her volunteer work for the 9/11 charity Families of Freedom. Then there's the English degree she's pursuing at Columbia University. And Stiles is only 21. This month, to play a hula dancer / tollbooth operator / record-store clerk in A guy thing, Stiles sacrificed all her vanity for laughs. Still, she says, "making a fool of yourself is sometimes considered the opposite of being sexy. But in my book, it's really not." Here, from the set of her upcoming film Mona Lisa Smile, the unmistakably silly, sexy actress gives glamour her own Dos and Don'ts.

Do take chances. I wanted to do A guy thing to try comedy. When I read the script my character was just the token girl. The director and I met a lot about how to make her funny. We came up with the idea that she has weird odd jobs -- and that she's not very good at any of them. But she can still laugh, she's real, and her sexiness is natural.

Don't have expectations when dating. When I'm spending time with my boyfriend, who's also a junior at Columbia, sometimes there's too much of an expectation of [having fun] when we're planning to have dinner or go dancing. The better moments are when we have nothing planned. Lounging on a Sunday afternoon is nicer that going to a big event. Also, don't put on airs during initial dates. Even if he buys into you front, he'll eventually discover that you're a different person.

Do exercises that make you feel good. I used to stick to a workout regimen, thinking, I have to do this and I have to do that. Now my workouts vary according to what I think will make me feel better that day. If I have a lot of energy to expend, I'll go running or take a long walk in the park. If I need to relax and calm my mind, I'll do yoga. I find working out more rewarding now.

Do be a feminist. For a book presentation I had to do in philosophy class, I chose Toward a feminist theory of the state by Catharine MacKinnon because I knew it would be [a challenge] to get a classroom half full of men to listen to me -- I figured they'd come in prejudiced against the word feminism. I was careful not to alienate the men and to make them understand that a lot of feminists love men. Even so, at the end of the two-hour class, some guy commented about MacKinnon, "Well, I mean, of course she hates men -- she's a feminist."

Do cut your own hair. I've always wanted short hair, so when I finished filming A guy thing, I just started chopping away at myself. I really liked what I did! It was a mild rebellion, I think, just to see what movie people would say. If I weren't working right now, my agents probably wouldn't have been so understanding.

Do load up at the drugstore. I buy my own shampoo and stuff. The best beauty product is Tend Skin -- it's an aftershave, but you can put it on your zits and it clears them up. The best thing about working on a Julia Roberts movie [Mona Lisa Smile], though, is that companies send you all this free stuff. So I'm stocking up, and when I'm back at school, I can use my old freebies.

Do read Shakespeare. The thing I love about Shakespeare is that he uses a lot of words to describe one thing. Each word gives me a clue about my character. It's like excavating. In modern moviemaking, you invent a character from a script, but Shakespeare's done all the work; you just have to pick apart what he's written.

Don't take long showers if you live in a dorm. Last year, we had one shower for seven people -- I was always last to shower.

Do your dishes and Don't make microwave popcorn. I almost burned my dorm down -- it was mortifying. Smoke filled the hallways, and everyone was screaming, "What's on fire?" I imagined everybody piling downstairs, going, "Julia Stiles did it." But that didn't happen.

Do seek out inspiration. I've been renting classic movies. They remind me how good movies can be and make me want to work harder. If I seek inspiration, I listen to musicians I admire, like Ani DiFranco.

Do listen. Ironically, my favorite quality about myself -- that I listen really well -- is also my least favorite quality. It gets me into trouble. I accept input from too many different people. So a lot of times, it just lets me confused.

Don't kick and scream if you want some. It won't get you anywhere. It's challenging to imagine another person's perspective -- think about how to make an argument and win the person over. Always maintain your individuality. And in the immortal words of Madonna, Do express yourself.

Julia tells "how I made myself over"

Mona Lisa Smile: "We were trying for a Grace Kelly look. I wore a girdle, pantyhose and a slip! At first I thought it was restrictive, not sexy, but after I got used to it, I felt sexier, classier and more feminine."

A guy thing: "I did a lot of sit-ups before this scene. My trainer kicked my butt so much that I couldn't do anything for the rest of the day. That's when I learned not to kill myself working out."

The business of strangers: [Julia Stiles dyed her hair black for this film]
"It made me feel tougher. Getting the color out was another matter. My hair turned brown, orange, then blonde. It was practically falling out."

Save the last dance: "During preproduction for this movie, I took ballet, hip-hop and Pilates classes. Here, I was trying to imitate Baby from Dirty dancing -- only in an urban hip-hop kind of way."

Julia friends tell what she's really like

"Julia's not about being some flirty young thing. She's not your typical cheesecake pinup girl. She's beautiful and talented and has the mouth of a truck driver when necessary." -- Selma Blair, costar, "A guy thing"

"She's really got her brain on." -- Maggie Gyllenhaal, costar, "Mona Lisa smile"

"Julia's a brave, grounded, normal person. When we were shooting Save the last dance in a Chicago school, often she really was the only white girl in the building. She knew what she had to do, and she got the job done." -- Kerry Washington, costar, "Save the last dance"

"She was a little shy at first, but within two weeks, Julia and [costar] Jason Lee were singing SouthPark songs together." -- Chris Koch, director, "A guy thing"

Article by Gia Kourlas
Originally published in the January 2003 issue of Glamour Magazine