Stiles's stylish rise is no Cinderella story
Julia Stiles plays a dedicated student who falls for Danish royalty in the retro romance The Prince and Me.
Los Angeles -- Teenage girls love Julia Stiles. The 22-year-old has won two Teen Choice awards (for Save the Last Dance) and two MTV Movie awards (for Save the Last Dance and 10 Things I Hate About You) and has been a regular cover girl for magazines like Teen People. However, while both of those films did appeal to teenagers, it's difficult to find anything about Stiles that would define her as a teen queen.
Although Save the Last Dance was a music-and-dance fest that scored big with teens, much of the rest of Stiles's career has been rather high-end. Three of her films (O, Hamlet, and even 10 Things) were based on Shakespeare plays. She performed Twelfth Night in Central Park and is currently on the London stage with David Mamet's Oleanna. And in her latest movie, The Prince and Me, a role-reversal Roman Holiday that is being promoted as a romantic comedy, she plays a dedicated pre-med student who falls for a Danish prince tutoring her in all things Shakespeare. (It opens next Friday [April 2] in Vancouver.)
In an interview room at a Los Angeles hotel, Stiles says that she doesn't feel particularly comfortable with the way the film is being promoted. "I think that connotation has a negative spin to it," she says. "My intention was to make a romance, a classic love story from the 1950s. And there are funny moments, but I think of romantic comedies as having written jokes containing some slapstick. Here, you watch two people connect and fall in love in a tried-and-true story of people from different walks of life. There is a fairy-tale feel to it, but what is nice is that my character is really grounded and real and believable. It is not a repeat of the Cinderella stories."
Unlike her character, a Midwest farmer's daughter, Stiles is no Cinderella. Her parents ran a store in New York's trendy SoHo district and Stiles took roles in off-Broadway productions from the time she was 11. She graduated from New York's Professional Children's School and stayed in her hometown to major in English literature at Columbia University. She says that although her character contemplates leaving her education behind to move to Denmark, she would expect any man who fell in love with her to wait for her to earn her university degree.
"I feel that demanding partners are annoying, but I am annoying because of the nature of the work I do and the constant travel. All of those things make me very demanding. But I also think that if I truly fell in love with someone they would want me to stay in school. I couldn't imagine circumstances where I would have to leave school. I took this semester off to work on the sequel to The Bourne Identity [The Bourne Supremacy]. I just got back from filming it in Berlin and then I am going to do a play [Oleanna] for four months. I haven't been in school since September, but it is great to know that I can go back to a place where my professors care about my ideas and what I have to say. I get to read great literature and hear what really intelligent people have to say about it, and that is a luxury. I probably will go back in the fall and try to complete my degree, but they will let me defer for 10 years."
Stiles was the first person cast in The Prince and Me. The film's director, Martha Coolidge, knew that whoever was going to play the prince had to have on-screen chemistry with Stiles for the film to work. She screen-tested Stiles with several actors before both women settled on 28 Days Later's Luke Mably.
"Martha went all over Europe looking for an actor. The chemistry was so important, and Martha wanted me to be comfortable. My own feeling is that chemistry is not something you can pinpoint or control or define, but certainly when Martha was casting for the part we thought about it a lot. What is great about Luke as an actor is he is very unpredictable, which made me have to pay attention to what he was doing. So in that sense we did have good chemistry. At the same time, I feel that part of my work as an actor is to use my imagination and to not be so dependent on this elusive thing."
Article by Ian Caddell
Originally published at Straight.com - Posted on March 25, 2004