Julia Stiles of The Prince and Me
At 23 years of age, Julia Stiles has already belted a wide range of movies, both studio and independent, to her repertoire. Her roles in teen favorites such as Save the Last Dance and 10 Things I Hate About You have earned her a spot in the MTV Gen-X crowd, while more serious performances in The Business of Strangers and Mona Lisa Smile are testaments to how dedicated she is to her job. Julia says that she measures her success by paying attention to the movies people credit her with, rather than focusing on which films make the most money at the box office. Depending on the location, the crowd, the state, or even the country, Julia reveals that her fans will attribute her to one of many of her films in the spectrum that is her career.
She next stars in The Prince and Me where she plays Paige Morgan, a senior at the University of Wisconsin with aspirations of going to a top-notch medical school and traveling the world as a goodwill pediatrician. Her life is turned upside down when she meets and falls in love with a cool-headed foreign exchange student from Denmark named Eddie (Luke Mably). Little does she know that Eddie is actually the Prince of Denmark, so will she choose to accept her fairy tale fate when he pops the question?
During a cool, breezy spring afternoon in her hometown of New York City, Julia sat down with us where she talked about the film, crazy college life at Columbia, and something about shaving her legs?
What was it about the character of Paige that you could identify with?
I liked how she was the anti-Cinderella. I like Cinderella stories but I never really thought that I was waiting to find my Prince Charming or to have Prince Charming sweep me off my feet and I like that my character wasn't really either. But that said, the romantic inside of me liked the idea that she had to stop trying to control her life and live according to a plan. She had to take risks and open herself up to the possibility of being with the man that she loves.
There comes a point where Paige has to choose either the prince or going to medical school. If you were in her situation, would you choose the prince or the career?
I would want to have both! I would hope that my prince would want me to have both.
Do you think it's realistic to be able to have both things?
Yeah, absolutely. I don't mean that to be naïve but I really think that one of the things that Eddie, the prince, likes about Paige is that she has something that she's passionate about and focused on. If you play the scenario where she becomes the princess, and gives up everything that she's worked for, and she just [becomes] a trophy, I don't think he'd still be in love with her, you know?
As an actress, are you used to being treated like royalty?
I don't think that actors or celebrities are like American royalty. I really think that there is a difference. Prince Charles has somebody who knows exactly what he's going to be doing up to the minute for the next two years of his life. Everything is scheduled. For me, this was a choice and a career for me to pursue and I love it. I feel incredibly fulfilled by it so if there is anything at all that is slightly annoying or makes me uncomfortable, I know it's because I made the choice to be an actor whereas royalty is born into it, and has no choice.
How was working with Luke Mably?
Great. It was really great. He's a really unpredictable actor but in a good way, meaning that every take is different so I felt like I really had to pay attention. It was really fun and we had a great time.
This is his first major film experience. Did you do anything to help facilitate that for him?
There were certain things. I didn't really give him advice unless he asked for it. I was lucky that I got to do small roles and build up and learn by trial and error. He jumped into a leading role in a studio movie but he came out better.
Does being in a movie where you're the "name" star add any extra pressure?
I think so. It's sort of daunting. There are a lot of other people who worked on the movie so I have to keep remembering that.
Did you go to prom and did you get to wear a dress that was anything like the one in the movie?
I did but I switched high schools junior year because I started working more so one of my friends took me to prom as a friend. It was a very atypical prom experience. And no, I did not start wearing fancy dresses until I started going to movie premieres. It was sort of anticlimactic, my prom.
You did three movies (10 Things I Hate About You, Hamlet, O) that were based on Shakespeare stories and in this movie, your character is struggling to understand his language. Is it a coincidence that a lot of your projects have this tie-in with Shakespeare?
I think that he seized on something. Obviously, these stories that he writes about get told over and over again. I think there's that old phrase that there are five stories that get told over and over again. He covered it. There's Romeo & Juliet romances. There's power and deceit in all of his history plays and then there are the comedies. I don't think it's me. I just think it's very easy to adapt to his plays.
So are you graduating from Columbia soon?
It's not really that soon. (Laughs) I have a year left but I deferred this semester to do a play so I don't know when I'm going to graduate.
Why did you decide to go to college as well even though you have such a strong film career?
So many reasons. My reasons for starting school are different from the reasons I decided to stay in school. Initially, I just wanted to have the college experience of being with my peers and seeing what that was like. College is sort of that place to grow up in, in a safe environment, so I thought that was really important to do, especially with this overwhelming thing of being in movies. But I'm lucky because I love acting and when I'm not working, Columbia is really accommodating about me getting in a semester. It's good to have that change.
What made you choose English as a major?
I love words and I love novels and storytelling. I figured that if I was going to be doing that much reading, that I might as well be reading good novels and not textbooks.
Did your college experiences help you relate better to your character?
My college experience is so different from Paige's because going to school in New York City is not like being in Wisconsin. I feel like Paige has a more concentrated, typical college experience. But yeah, all the roommate jokes and all the cooking hot plate jokes -- I got them.
Did you live in a dorm and experience dorm life?
I did for two years. I lived in a single but with 40 people on your floor the first year and then I lived in a suite with seven people my second year.
Was that stranger for you or stranger for everybody living around you?
It was not strange for me but there were strange things that would happen whenever I had to do something press related or movie related, while living in the dorm. That was weird. Like having to get dressed up for a premiere and walk through the campus was really awkward, or having a limo pick me up outside my dorm.
Did anybody in your dorm ever give you a hard time about those things?
Once, I had to go to the MTV Movie Awards and they sent a huge stretch limo and had me wait outside my dorm, with my name on it, and some guy thought it would be funny to dress up in a tuxedo and come and knock on my door and say, "I'm ready for my date." It was a big joke.
Is there anything you wish you knew at the age of 13 that you know now?
I wish that I had known at 13 that it's really true when you shave your legs, they grow back hairier! At 13, I thought it was such a rite of passage to be shaving your legs like a grown-up and then you keep having to do it, so it's a pain in the ass.
What would you be doing if you weren't acting?
And if you could have one superhero power, what would you choose and why?
Oooh. I'd want to be able to fly. Fly without a plane.
Article by Thomas Chau
Originally published at cinecon.com - Posted on March 30, 2004