Interview with Julia Stiles
She just celebrated her 22nd birthday last month. And as she keeps busy with school and work, this English major at Columbia University sounds like any other college student you'd find strolling across Spaight's Plaza at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
But chances are, the girl next to you in class wasn't named one of People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" in 2001, or didn't grace the cover of Cosmopolitan last month. Her resume probably doesn't include movie roles either. Mostly because Hollywood's girl-next-door, Julia Stiles, isn't wandering around UWM.
If you've seen any chick flicks in the past five years, you've seen Julia Stiles. Her roles are generally filled with teen angst, such as her character in 1999's 10 Things I Hate About You and 2001's Save the Last Dance. She added a little spice to her roles with her luau-wearing, bachelor party-dancing character in 2003's A Guy Thing, and joined fellow female all-stars Julia Roberts and Kirsten Dunst in last year's drama, Mona Lisa Smile.
But Stiles' latest role in The Prince & Me thrusts her into modern college life, something she herself is familiar with. And as an undergrad at UW-Madison, Stiles' character hits a little closer to home for Wisconsinites.
A quick synopsis of the film has Julia's character, Paige, unknowingly falling in love with the prince of Denmark, who so happens to be visiting Madison, Wis. And as you would guess, when she finds out who he really is, Paige is slightly peeved, which leads to a fight, a flight to Denmark, some romantic moments, and inevitably a happy ending -- which you'll be pleased to know is not the obvious ending you'd expect.
Stiles is currently in London, where she is performing in a play by David Mamet called Oleanna. In it, she plays a college student who after a series of events accuses her professor of rape.
"I don't want to give too much [of the play] away," she said, "but it is not black and white. You can't really tell who is right and who is wrong."
After eight hours of rehearsal, Stiles took a breather to answer questions about college, movies and life.
Do you think your college experience is different for you than it would be for most girls your age because of who you are?
Well, I think that my college experience is different, not because of my celebrity but because I have already been working outside of school and have a career that I am really devoted to. So I am lucky that I don't have to be searching for what I want to do after school. It is more something that I can do for my own enjoyment. You know, I don't have to worry about going to graduate school or getting into certain graduate schools. I don't have to worry about grades except for my own pride really.
It seems you sort of happen to be typecast as a sort of girl-next-door, romantic comedy type of role and I was wondering if that was by your own volition or if those are the type of scripts you are typically sent. How do you seem to fall into those types of roles?
I see a lot of my roles as different because there is always something different that excites me about them. So I can only speak from my perspective. I think it is very easy to be pigeonholed and have people offer you the same sort of parts because it was a repetition of what was successful. But I feel like all I can do is keep making choices based on what will excite me about going to work every day. Something that I am learning is that movies sometimes end up differently than what I expect them to end up like, and so I have to sort of keep that in mind when I am anticipating what or choosing what I am going to do for the future, which is why I am doing Oleanna now.
Do you feel under pressure to be a role model for younger girls and women? If so, how does that affect the way you portray yourself in the media or the way you carry yourself?
Well, I try to think of a role model as not somebody who is like a perfect person but somebody who is just honest about themselves. I mean I don't even really choose to think of myself as having to be a role model, but if I were to I don't think it means that I have to change my behavior and be perfect. It just means that I have to be honest; otherwise I would feel like I would get stuck and sort of paralyzed by calling myself a role model.
If you could date a prince in real life, which prince would it be?
Kind of daunting that idea, I mean I just cannot even imagine what we would talk about, but you never know. You know, I think I would date the rock star Prince actually. It would be more fun. You wouldn't have to worry about people ironing your newspapers before you had your tea.
So with the play going on right now, you must have a pretty hectic schedule? What is a typical day like for you right now?
I just got home before I got on this phone call. So, I have like eight hours of rehearsals every day. I eat, sleep and breathe this play, but it is actually really enjoyable and wonderful and I don't feel like I am overextended. It is such a great challenge. I am really happy. The thing about doing eight hours of rehearsal in a play is that every day is exhausting and exhilarating, but like in a different way. I find that on the movie set you sit around waiting a lot and you only really get to do the work that you really enjoy for about five minutes a day, and you take those five minutes and stretch them to eight hours a day on a play and it is just really nice. You get momentum going. It is wonderful.
You have had a lot of movies where you played a character in a college setting. How was shooting The Prince & Me different from shooting all the others? Putting in your own college experience, how was it different?
The University of Wisconsin is a really different school than Columbia anyway. It is in a different part of the country. I find a lot of times at Columbia, it feels like it is a just a bunch of kids living in New York City taking classes. There is less of sort of campus environment than say at the University of Wisconsin. What else would be different? Just like the little jokes. Or, say [the character of] Eddie is having to deal with like a really messy roommate, while I had to deal with rats in my building. There were a lot of differences.
Do you identify yourself as a feminist?
Yes, but I think I have a different definition of it than a lot of people do. I think that word has gotten a negative slant to it unfortunately and some people think feminist means man-hater, and I certainly don't hate men. But, I would call myself a feminist because I have a different definition of that word, which is much more respectful of women and into equality and also respecting differences. I mean if you want to get into some antics you could call me a womanist or whatever, there are different terms for it.
Article by Krista Ledbetter
Originally published at uwmpost.com - Posted on April 6, 2004