Cosmopolitan - March 2004

 Hollywood's Girl Next Door -- Julia Stiles 

She has two touted movies out this year and an Ivy League degree in the works, but Julia Stiles couldn't be more down-to-earth. Find out about her college honey, the one thing that bugs her about other actresses and more.

Julia Stiles may be on her way to becoming a huge Hollywood star, but she fits in just as well at Columbia University (where she has one year left) as she does on the red carpet. We take that back -- she fits in better on campus. Proof: Typical celebs can't set foot out their front doors without an entourage in tow, but Julia took the bus (by herself, no less!) to her Cosmo interview at a New York City diner (yes, diner).

Perhaps that laid-back attitude is the reason why everyone loves the 22-year-old actress. And her popularity is only increasing, both with audiences and the acting community. Best-known for playing angst-filled teens in such flicks as 10 Things I Hate About You and Save the Last Dance, Julia received rave reviews for her role as a girdle-wearing 1950s college student in last December's hit movie Mona Lisa Smile. And now she's making her London stage debut as the star of David Mamet's play Oleanna. But don't worry, she's not going Gwyneth on us and abandoning Hollywood for life across the pond. She also has a movie, The Prince and Me, out this month, in which she plays a superserious student who falls for the Crown Prince of Denmark. Rumor has it there's a great you-never-would-have-guessed-it ending that brings the fairy-tale story line back to reality. Sounds a little like Julia herself.

What's it like being a famous face on campus?

People don't really treat me differently. I mean, nobody talks about it with me. When I first started school, it was a little awkward, but now I've moved off campus and I have my friends.

How do you manage to balance school and acting?

I actually don't really balance the two. Timewise, I think it would be totally impossible to do both simultaneously. I took off a semester from school to do Mona Lisa Smile, I did The Prince and Me last summer, and I'm taking off this semester to do Oleanna in London. At the rate I'm going, it's looks like I probably won't graduate from college until I'm about 30 years old, but that's okay.

Did you become friends with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Kirsten Dunst during the filming of Mona Lisa Smile?

Ididn't know them before we started filming the movie, but we ended up becoming friends, and I still talk to both of them. We had a big rehearsal period leading up to filming -- with etiquette training, dance lessons, and all that stuff -- so we had an opportunity to spend long periods of time together. When we started shooting at Wellcsley, we all lived in a dormitory, which was really fun.

What attracted you to The Prince and Me?

I think I'm very similar to my character, Paige. It's about this girl who's incredibly career-driven, so she's never really thought seriously about marriage. Then all of a sudden, she becomes totally swept up in this romance.

So have you found your Prince Charming in real life?

I've been in a relationship with a guy from school for more than two years. We met during freshman orientation. We became friends then started dating right after September 1.1. We just kind of bonded during that time.

What do you guys like to do together?

He cooks lor me -- he's a really great cook -- and we go to movies and concerts and just hang out and have good conversations. We're going on vacation to Puerto Rico during a break from school.

When you're not working or cramming for exams, what do you do for fun?

Silly things like play board games and competitive poker with my friends. Even Monopoly -- but we like to use real money. I also love horseback riding. I had to take lessons for The Prince and Me. At first, I was terrified of horses, but the director took me to a ranch in California, and we went horseback riding in the woods for three hours. It was the most amazing experience.

When you go out, do you hit all the celeb parties, or do you hang out around school?

A little bit of both, I guess. I used to go out a lot more, but I haven't been as much these days. A lot of times, I like to just sit in a lounge with my friends. But I like dancing a lot, so if there's a good dance party, I'll usually go.

How do you manage to stay in such great shape?

I have become an avid yoga person, I used to run a lot and play soccer, which are both the total opposite of yoga. The whole philosophy behind yoga is really great, and it's actually very athletic, I feel like I sound so Madonna-ish saying that. Next up, kabbalah!

Tell us something that really irritates you about the whole Hollywood scene.

When people get work based on what parties they go to or who they're dating, I mean, that stuff is irrelevant.

What do you think is sexy in a guy?

A sense of humor. And chivalry is always very sexy. Physically, the whole tall, dark, and handsome look is usually what catches my eye,

Is there anything you just don't get about guys?

So many guys I know say they want to date smart, strong girls, but then they always end up with these ditzy anorectic ones. It makes no sense.

What mistake do you think women make in relationships?

I think early on in a relationship, a lot of girls try to act the way they think the guy wants them to act. But that will wear out eventually and your true self will be revealed. So it's much easier if you're just totally yourself from the very beginning,.

What's the weirdest thing a fan has ever said to you?

I'm actually mistaken for other actors a lot, especially Kirsten [Dunst]. But the most awkward thing is when people don't really reeognize me as an actor. They think that they've met me somewhere before, and they list all the places they could possibly know me from. They're like "Do you hang out at this place?" And I say no and sort of let them figure it out for themselves.

Article by Lesley Goober
Originally published in the March 2004 issue of Cosmopolitan