Julia Stiles on European royalty, college life
and her fear of science
Julia Stiles earned her first acting paycheck at the tender age of 12 for a play called Jungle Movie.
"It was for $100, which is a pretty big deal when you're 12," Stiles recalls. "I think I spent it on CDs."
The native New Yorker would earn a lot more in the next decade as she developed into one of Hollywood's top young stars.
After making her movie debut playing Harrison Ford's daughter in 1997's The Devil's Own, Stiles went on to star in 10 Things I Hate About You, Hamlet, State & Main and Save the Last Dance. She recently played a 1950s college student who chooses domestic life over postgraduate education in Mona Lisa Smile.
In The Prince & Me, the pretty blonde again plays a college student confronted with the choice of whether to continue her education or follow her heart. Stiles is Paige Morgan, a down-to-earth pre-med student at a Wisconsin college. Luke Mably (28 Days Later) plays Crown Prince Edvard Valdemar Dangaard, who is enrolled incognito as Eddie, a foreign exchange student, in hopes of escaping his royal responsibilities. They meet. He invites her to a state gala. She introduces him to lawnmower racing. Can true love overcome class differences?
"My intention with the movie was to be in a romance, almost like the classic love stories from the '50s," says the actress, who turned 23 on March 28. "It's a tried-and-true story of two people from different walks of life connecting on a really deep level, and there's a fantasy element to it. What's nice is that my character is really grounded, real and believable."
An admitted "royal watcher," Stiles finds the fishbowl life of European royalty fascinating. Though she's never actually met any royals, she would like to meet England's Prince William some day, mostly to satisfy her curiosity. "I'd ask him if he really gets his newspapers ironed in the morning," she says. "I also wonder if I'm allowed to shake hands or even touch him."
Though the idea of becoming a princess is many girls' fantasy, Stiles wouldn't trade her life as an actress for that of a royal. "They get the negative part of the job without the benefits of my job," she says.
When she's not making movies, Stiles, like her Prince & Me character, is a college student. "It's nice to go to a place where my professors demand that I perform intellectually," says the actress, who is a junior majoring in English literature at New York's Columbia University. "They care about my ideas and what I have to say."
The college experience has stimulated her growth intellectually as well as emotionally, she says. "So much of college is learning how to make the transition into becoming an adult in a place where you can make mistakes," she says. "It equips you with tools to be a learner all your life."
A bright student, Stiles admits she's a bit of an overachiever. Initially, she was so into school that she'd run home and study after class to avoid interacting with her peers. She's loosened up a bit, though she remains an A student. She also has a boyfriend at Columbia whom she declines to name. "He freaks out whenever he reads about himself in print," she says.
Despite her fame, she manages to get around campus practically unnoticed. "I go to school with a lot of driven kids focused on their own agendas and I don't think my professors watch TV or go to the movies much," she says with a laugh.
Stiles counts herself among those "driven" underclassmen. Getting a C, she admits, would be "painful." "I put pressure on myself, even though I'm not very disciplined," she says. "I have this pride thing; I'd be embarrassed."
Stiles also takes her celebrity seriously, knowing that young women look up to her as a role model. So it's unlikely you'll find her in Maxim. More likely, you'll see her looking wholesomely sweet on the cover of Bride's or Marie Claire. "I'm not a perfect person," she says, "but I try to be honest in my work. It's a privilege and a responsibility."
In The Prince & Me, she plays a science student who turns to Eddie to tutor her in Shakespeare. In real life, Stiles is well versed in Shakespeare (she starred in three Shakespeare-themed films) and has an aversion to beakers.
"I'm not a science person at all," she says, shaking her head. "I get scared of laboratories. It goes back to when I was in 7th grade and switched from a public to a private school and embarrassed myself in class by asking the teacher what a beaker was. Everyone laughed, so ever since then I've had a fear of science classes."
Stiles recently took a semester off to star in The Bourne Supremacy, the sequel to the hit thriller The Bourne Identity. In The Bourne Supremacy, she reprises the character of a young CIA agent who helps Matt Damon's rogue spy Jason Bourne. "I have a really great scene with him in the movie where he catches me sort of spying on him," she says with a grin.
Next up for the actress is a return to the stage. She is set to star in a London production of the David Mamet drama Oleanna opposite Aaron Eckhart. "I love Mamet because he writes specifically the rhythm that actors have to speak," she says. "You have to say to the very last word the dialogue he writes. That's what's great about his writing; the speech patterns are so interesting."
Stiles previously worked under Mamet's direction in the ensemble drama State & Main. She admits she was intimidated by the Pulitzer prize-winning writer-director when she first met him, having heard rumors that he was tough on actors. "But it's not true," she insists. "On set he was wonderful. He keeps everything simple and he's not precious about the work he does, so it makes it easier as an actor."
Inspired by him and others, she took a playwriting class last semester. "I like writing," says the actress, who once wrote a screenplay that was accepted into the prestigious Sundance Institute's Writer's Lab.
Still, Stiles is not sure she plans to pursue writing alongside acting. "It's something I enjoy doing as a way of expressing myself, but it's not my No. 1 thing," she says.
Article by Angela Dawson
Originally published at Entertainment News Wire - Posted on March 2004