Her profile was on the rise. Actress Julia Stiles was coming off her star-making role as Kat Stratford in the romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You as the romantic opposite of the late Heath Ledger. But back then, while becoming a successful Hollywood actress was still on Stiles’ mind, it wasn’t the only thing. Julia Stiles wanted an education.
THE SHOT TO STARDOM
Julia Stiles career started when she was but 12-years old. Her first role was on the TV series Ghostwriter which lasted two seasons. From there she took on guest roles in Promised Land and Chicago Hope, then started moving into feature films with The Devil’s Own, Wicked, and Wide Awake.
All of this was the lead up to her big breakout role in 10 Things I Hate About You. But winning the breakout role didn’t come without competition. Josh Hartnett was up for the role Ledger eventually landed. Eliza Dushku was one of the actresses up for Stiles’ role as Kat. So was Katie Holmes and Kate Hudson.
According to the movies casting director, via The New York Times, “We screen-tested Josh Hartnett, Eliza Dushku, Heath and Julia. But Julia and Heath just had the best chemistry together. I loved Katie Holmes. She was about to get “Dawson’s Creek,” and we had to make a decision really fast. The other person I loved was Kate Hudson. But her mom [Goldie Hawn] didn’t like the script for her, so she passed.” Chances are though, Stiles would have jumped higher faster if she had nailed the role in a certain vampire movie.
Before her star rose, Julia Stiles was up for the role in the Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt-led Anne Rice movie, Interview with the Vampire. As she told The Telegraph, even though she fared well in her audition for the role of Claudia, which eventually went to Kirsten Dunst, in the end she was deemed “too old” for the part of the child vampire by the film’s director Neil Jordan. Thankfully, Stiles did not let this discourage her from making acting her career.
JULIA STILES AND SHAKESPEARE
William Shakespeare. It wasn’t her intent, as Julia Stiles told Entertainment Weekly, “I didn’t set out to be in three Shakespeare movies. But just because I had done (10 Things), I wasn’t going to turn down the acting experiences of my life.”
10 Things is based on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Stiles has also appeared in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which she starred in with the likes of Ethan Hawke, Kyle MacLahlan, Sam Shepard, Diane Venora and Bill Murray. Her third Shakespeare movie was O, based on Othello and that also starred Josh Hartnett, Martin Sheen, and Mekhi Phifer.
It’s not that Julia Stiles wouldn’t consider a horror movie script but as the actress says, ”There’s nothing wrong with a lot of them, they just seem redundant.” In fact, the director of Stiles’ 10 Things, Gil Junger even commented about Stiles, “She brings depth and understanding to a part. She’ll have her pick of roles pretty soon.” Stiles affinity with Shakespeare didn’t end with her three movies. She also has appeared on Broadway as Viola in Shakespeare in the Park’s version of The Twelfth Night. Her stage career also includes The Vagina Monologues and Oleanna, which she twice played the lead of Carol.
JULIA STILES GOES TO COLLEGE
“The good thing about being in college was that people took little interest in me because they were so preoccupied with their own ambitions and exams.” Yes, college was the left turn that Julia Stiles took. It was in 2001, a full two years after 10 Things and a year after Hamlet that Stiles decided to take the most un-Hollywood route. She enrolled in Columbia University.
She also added about her decision to enroll in college, “Also there’s that thing in academia where movie-making isn’t supposed to be that important, it’s sort of low-brow. So that was refreshing to me and I was determined to be taken seriously.”
Determined she stayed. Julia Stiles continued to make movies while she was in college, but she did not move away from her goal of getting an education. In 2005, Julia Stiles obtained her degree in English Literature.
Julia Stiles isn’t sure if obtaining her degree helped her or hindered the furthering of her acting career, but she has no regrets. She spoke to the Daily Beast about it, “Academic professionals don’t really give a sh*t about me being in a movie or having to go the MTV Movie Awards. But then also people in the entertainment industry don’t really care about university. That helped me a lot.” It gave her the grounding that she felt she needed.
As we mentioned, Julia Stiles continued to work even while in college. She was seen in the critically acclaimed Save the Last Dance opposite Sean Patrick Thomas, and then jumped on board the Bourne franchise.
In the first film, 2002’s The Bourne Identity, her role in the action movie was small, playing operative Nicky Parsons. That role was expanded in 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy and when 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum came a calling, she was pretty much co-lead with franchise star Matt Damon. Her Parson’s character was also brought back in the 2016 film Jason Bourne.
JULIA STILES NOW
Now 39-years-old Julia Stiles married camera assistant Preston J. Cook in 2017 and they have one son together. She continues to make feature films, though she is pickier about her roles, but the actress has also crossed over to the TV side of the business.
On the movie side, Julia Stiles has appeared in Silver Linings Playbook, Closed Circuit, Out of the Dark, Blackway, as well as the aforementioned Jason Bourne. Her last big feature was in the 2019 critically acclaimed Jennifer Lopez film Hustlers.
Her transition to the TV side includes the series Blue which she led for three seasons. She was also seen on The Mindy Project, Inside Amy Schumer, and she is leading the way in the series Riviera, which just so happens to have been created by Neil Jordan who, as mentioned earlier, had passed on Julia Stiles for Interview with the Vampire.
To Julia Stiles credit, it’s not all about Hollywood. She does plenty of charity work, builds houses in Costa Rica for Habitat for Humanity, as well as working with Amnesty International to help raise awareness of the horrible conditions of the immigration detention of unaccompanied juveniles.