Julia Stiles: Not just waiting for "Mr. Right"
Young actress Julia Stiles makes everyone's list of talented, independent "serious" younger women in Hollywood who take on characters with backbone; young women with opinions who, if necessary, could go through life very well on their own, thank you very much. Whether as a before-her-time 1950's college coed headed for Med School in Mona Lisa Smile or playing a talented, fish-out-of-water dancer in the hood in Save the Last Dance, Julia is a force to be reckoned with.
Okay, so why is this independent young woman taking on the role of a girl who gets swept away by a prince in the romantic comedy The Prince and Me? At our chat, Julia reminded us that her character Paige, isn't just some wanna-be housefrau sitting on a lily pad waiting for that frog to kiss, she's got life goals; goals that romance can always mess with. Wearing a prim blue patterned jacket, black tank and no jewelry, the actress looked all cute but business-like at our interview in L.A. as she talked about combining her film work with her Columbia college life, about her romantic goals, working with cutie newcomer "Prince" Luke Mably and acting on stage.
When you were a little girl, did you think about growing up and marrying a prince, or more like growing up and being a doctor or going to the Amazon?
I'm more about the Amazon explorer girl. If (my prince) comes, you know, that'd be great. But hopefully he can find me in the Amazon.
You've said that you identify a lot with your character in this film. How?
I think I learned a lot about myself by playing her. Like my character, I'm really focused and driven and career-oriented. But I never really fantasized about love and marriage and all that stuff. But as we were rehearsing and I'm playing Paige more and more, I realized that her sarcasm is sort of a defense mechanism, and a way of being antisocial and being guarded and protecting herself from the possibility of being rejected by a guy. And it occurred to me that I do that too. I guess getting to play things out on screen helps me exorcise my own issues.
Is there anyone that you think you could leave it all behind for, like 1950's actress Grace Kelly becoming the Princess of Monaco. Could you be swept off your feet like that?
I feel like you can have your cake and eat it too. Whoever would sweep me off my feet would appreciate my ambitions. What I look for in a guy is passion and ambition and there's nothing sexier than intellect, and so hopefully that would be reciprocated.
Do you think you live your life more by a plan, like Paige does, or are you more of a 'whatever happens' girl?
I think I'd sort of have to be flexible. I have to be adaptable because especially going back and forth from working and going to school -- the nature of being an actor, you're always going from job to job. You never really can have a roadmap for the long term.
Do your fellow students at college treat you as an equal or is it, 'here comes Julia the actress'?
It's actually really great to be a student and an actor. Because I get to do this job that I love, then, just when I think my head might explode, I get to go to school where they don't really care about, you know, what magazine cover I'm on. They really want to hear what I have to say and what my ideas are.
How are your studies going?
After the "Mona Lisa junket", I was taking final exams, so I finished that semester. And I have about a year left.
Which of those two worlds, academic and Hollywood, do you find the easiest to inhabit?
I don't think one is really easier than the other. School, there's a lot less pressure to be sort of glamorous, I guess. But one of the things I think I'm getting from school is you get equipped with the tools to learn for the rest of your life. So even when I'm not in school, I'll be curious and reading and learning.
You filmed on some beautiful European sets for Prince and also on a real, working dairy farm. Which was more fun for you?
I liked both. I mean, obviously it was spectacular and gorgeous in Europe. But, as a city girl, I liked being in these country pastures and we were shooting outside of Toronto. It was really beautiful. I got into the country lifestyle. It was so far away from the city that I ended up staying on the farm, or close to it. It was really cool to get up in the morning and no, I didn't milk the cows.
What would you do professionally if you had to give up the acting?
I ask myself that all the time. My other English major friends have to answer to their parents right now, 'what are you going to do with an English major'? So you can do anything and you can do nothing. I don't really know what I would do.
You have some beautiful outfits in the movie. What was your favorite costume?
The ball gown was pretty spectacular. The pink, for the coronation ball. Because it was custom made, because I got the jewelry. I liked the longer earrings. The stuff that I ended up picking was worth like thousands and thousands of dollars.
Did you get to keep any of that stuff?
[frowning] No. They're in some box in Paramount's office somewhere.
Are you finding it hard to find roles that are meaty enough for you?
No, I'm really happy. Like is a dream come true for me, so I'm really happy right now. I can't complain. Actors in general have to be proactive about the kinds of projects that they pursue because there's a limited amount of material out there.
Your "Prince", Luke Mably is a little less experienced as an actor than you are. Did you guide him a bit?
He's really really good actor. He would say to me that he was overwhelmed by the experience of being in a big movie. I got to learn by sort of trial and error. I had small roles in movies, and then sort of built up to bigger studio movies. But he just sort of jumped into a leading role in a studio movie, so it was overwhelming. But I feel like he handled it really well, and that sort of human aspect is what makes him a good actor.
You'll be working in London on stage soon. How scary is that?
I go to London in a week to start rehearsals in Oleanna, a David Mamet play. I feel like the process for me is going to be so rewarding that I have to kind of focus on that more than how I'm going to be received by critics. But that doesn't mean that a scathing review isn't going to hurt, but I'm choosing not to think about that.
Who else is in that production?
Aaron Eckhardt and it's just the two of us for two hours on stage. It's really exciting for me, but it's also very daunting. It's like a lot more responsibility that you have, but that's the thrill of it.
Weren't you just shooting the sequel to The Bourne Identity with Matt Damon?
Yeah. I was in Berlin. I flew straight from there like two days ago. It was great. I had a lot of really interesting psychologically driven scenes with Joan Allen. As the movie starts, (my character) thought that I had kind of gotten away from the world of the CIA and Joan Allen has this operation to find Jason Bourne again and she drags me off the street and sort of against my will, I have to go and help them. Meanwhile, Jason Bourne wants to interrogate me because I'm a link to his past. I was the last person to see him alive. So I'm sort of stuck in this paranoid world between two groups of people that are dangerous.
Sounds exciting. Some girls think it's exciting to meet royalty. Have you ever met any?
I've never met any royalty. I saw the Queen coming out of Buckingham Palace once, but I admit, it took my breath away. I mean, yeah, I'm constantly meeting people that where I'm shocked at how star struck I get.
Did Luke take you around England when you were shooting?
Yeah. He took me around London because I wanted to go look at the theater I'll be performing in. I went over for a couple days. I had been for a press junket and for New Year's Eve, but only for short periods of time.
Do you really think that it's still a myth that women can really have it all, a "prince" and a career?
I don't think it's easy, but I think if we keep on demanding that we need to have it all, then we'll get there, sure.
Article by Lynn B
Originally published at agirlsworld.com - Posted on March 2004