The Untold Truth Of Julia Stiles

Julia Stiles' career was on fire in the late '90s and early aughts, as the actress was coming off of a star-making turn as Kat Stratford, a smart, bold, feminist teenager in the hit teen comedy "10 Things I Hate About You." The film catapulted Stiles into stardom, but she stood out among her peers by choosing subsequent roles in Shakespearian films like "O" and "Hamlet" and the interracial love story "Save the Last Dance." The versatile actress was careful about the parts she chose as she rose the ranks of Hollywood, and, after cementing her status as the "thinking teenager's movie goddess," the star took a hiatus from Hollywood to pursue a college degree.

As Stiles entered adulthood, she found that it became tougher to find roles well-suited for her. However, Stiles further secured her place in Hollywood in 2019, when she landed the part of a journalist in the Jennifer Lopez-led film Hustlers, which has been hailed by critics as an empowering female heist drama. While the actress continues her re-emergence in film and TV, let's take a look back at her career. This is the untold truth of Julia Stiles.

She almost starred in a vampire movie

Before Julia Stiles landed a breakthrough role, the young actress was trying to make a name for herself in Hollywood. As a pre-teen, she landed small roles in shows like Ghostwriter, and she even scored her first big-screen role in "I Love You, I Love You Not" before starring as Harrison Ford's daughter in "The Devil's Own," which also co-starred Brad Pitt. While the film gave Stiles the opportunity to work next to some A-list actors, the actress almost had an opportunity to work with Pitt in a film a few years earlier.

The film was 1994's "Interview with the Vampire," and Stiles had auditioned for the part of Claudia, a vampire child. The role eventually went to Kirsten Dunst, as Stiles reportedly was considered "too old" for the part by the film's director, Neil Jordan, as reported by The Telegraph.

Thankfully, the actress didn't let losing the coveted part stop her from pursuing her acting career, and audiences would see her strong, captivating performances in "10 Things I Hate About You" and "Save the Last Dance" a few years later.

Her breakout role was in a teen movie favorite

While Julia Stiles lost the role of Claudia in Interview with the Vampire to Kirsten Dunst in 1994 (via The Telegraph), she would beat out several actresses for the part of Kat in "10 Things I Hate About You" in 1999. At the time, Stiles was relatively new to Hollywood and she was presumably up against actresses like Kate Hudson and Katie Holmes, whose stars were both on the rise. 

Stiles was drawn to the part because Kat was so different than the other heroines in popular teen comedies at the time. In an interview with InStyle in September 2019, Stiles said, "The reason that I wanted that part so badly was because I thought it was so refreshing, seeing a teenage girl be feisty and opinionated and be a fish out of water, but proudly [so]."

The strong chemistry between Stiles and her on-screen love interest, Heath Ledger, helped her land the part. As the film's casting director, Marcia Ross, told The New York Times in March 2019, "We screen-tested Josh Hartnett, Eliza Dushku, Heath and Julia. But Julia and Heath just had the best chemistry together."

She has serious love for one playwright

When Julia Stiles first popped up on the Hollywood radar, she gravitated toward intelligent, brazen female roles, unlike the ones featured in most teen rom-coms focused on a teen girl undergoing a makeover to win a guy. Coincidentally, the well-read actress starred in three films based on Shakespeare plays over the course of a year.

Stiles' breakout film, "10 Things I Hate About You," was inspired by Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew," and the actress followed it up by starring in an adaptation of "Hamlet" opposite Ethan Hawke. She also acted in O, an adaptation of Othello, alongside Josh Hartnett and Mekhi Phifer.

Surprisingly, Stiles didn't intend to star in the Shakespeare-inspired films. In an Entertainment Weekly interview in March 1999, Stiles said, "I didn't set out to be in three Shakespeare movies," noting, "But just because I had done (10 Things), I wasn't going to turn down the acting experiences of my life." The actress continued to be drawn to Shakespeare, and, in 2002, she starred in the Delacorte Theatre's presentation of "Twelfth Night" in Central Park.

Stiles left Hollywood behind for a time

At the height of her acting success and popularity, Julia Stiles did the unthinkable: She walked away. The actress left the glitz and glamour of Hollywood life for academia, enrolling in Columbia University.

Stiles, who graduated with a major in English literature in 2005, told Independent in August 2007 that she wasn't sure if her degree helped her obtain acting roles. "It's funny, because being cerebral isn't necessarily the best thing for an actress," she said. "It is in terms of understanding a role or understanding what roles you want to choose, but in terms of being a visceral actor and reacting emotionally to things, it can be an obstacle. I tend to think about things too much."

While going to college may or may not have helped her with Hollywood success, going to school helped Stiles stay grounded. She told The Daily Beast in September 2019, "Academic professionals don't really give a s*** 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."

She made her Broadway debut

Julia Stiles starred in several Shakespeare adaptations throughout her career, so it's no surprise she would take her acting chops to the stage one day. In 2009, the actress took on the role of Carol in the Broadway play "Oleanna," opposite Bill Pullman. The two-person play focuses on a college professor and his student who is failing his course.

Stiles previously played the same role in London in 2005, starring alongside Aaron Eckhart. She explained why she revisited the role In an interview with Broadway.com in October 2009, saying, "When I did it in London, I was in college [at Columbia University]. I was very much like the good student who doesn't question why I'm there. I think I politicized the play too much. ... I was fighting against the play." 

She continued, "What I was really excited with this production was [the opportunity] to embrace what the play calls for. I felt like I could go deeper with it. I also was curious what would happen playing opposite a different actor. There're so many amazing lines in the play. It just stuck with me."

Stiles got her revenge on TV

In 2011, Julia Stiles took on the role of a woman teamed up with a serial killer. The actress starred in Season 5 of Showtime's hit series "Dexter." Portraying an abuse victim named Lumen, Stiles sought revenge on her abusers with the help from the show's titular character, and romance would blossom between the pair over the course of the season.

Stiles was drawn to the part because Lumen wasn't just a victim; she was a layered character — and she got to kill someone on-screen. She told The Hollywood Reporter in August 2011, "I was really excited by the idea that she would be involved in Dexter's secret life, as opposed to on the outside of it like a lot of the other characters."

The role earned Stiles an Emmy nomination for outstanding guest actress in a drama series in 2011. Although she didn't win that year, the actress had a blast starring on the show and really "enjoyed the kill scenes" her character got to participate in.

She thinks her acting in one of her most popular films is cringeworthy

In 2001, Julia Stiles added another memorable teen movie to her resume, "Save the Last Dance." The film focuses on a white Midwestern girl who falls in love with a Black classmate (played by Sean Patrick Thomas) after the pair bond over their love of dance. The film was a hit, likely in part to Stiles' vulnerable and emotional performance, and it has gone on to become a cult classic.

While fans adore the film and Stiles' portrayal of Sara, the actress admitted to Good Morning America in September 2019 that she found her performance hard to watch. "Save the Last Dance came on TV the other night ... and there was a part of me that was curious about the memories of making that movie," she said, adding, "And then I immediately turned it off because it was cringeworthy to me."

Stiles compared watching her old film to looking back at old photos of herself as a teen. "When you see pictures of yourself as a teenager, part of you goes like, 'Oh yeah,'" she said. "And then part of you is like, 'Oh my God.'"

Stiles doesn't take kindly to getting mommy-shamed online

As Julia Stiles adjusted to acting life as an adult, her personal life changed dramatically. In October 2017, the actress welcomed her first child, a son, with her husband, Preston J. Cook. The star confirmed the exciting news in an Instagram post on Nov. 21, 2017, sharing an image of her newborn's tiny hand along with the caption, "Strummer Newcomb Cook, born October 20, 2017."

The new mom has been overjoyed with her life caring for her son, but she still tries to maintain a certain level of privacy, especially after receiving widespread criticism over how she was holding her son in a photo she posted to Instagram in November 2017. In response to the backlash, Stiles told InStyle in September 2019, "I can take all the criticism, I can deal with that. I'm an adult." She continued, "But when they started making comments about him, the mama bear kicked in and I was like, 'Oh, hell no. That's totally off limits, and how dare you?' I don't really have regrets, but it was a big lesson for me to not share photos with my son."

She's since welcomed a second child, Arlo, in January 2022.

Stiles was majorly starstruck by one celeb

Sometimes when a person meets their favorite celebrity or someone they admire, the encounter doesn't exactly turn out as they had always dreamed. This was the case for Julia Stiles, who "totally embarrassed" herself when she met "Fleabag" creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge at the 2019 BAFTA Awards. 

The actress detailed the brief experience to The Daily Beast in September 2019, explaining how — after having a few drinks — she gushed to Waller-Bridge about admiring her work, and then ended their encounter by winking at her. "Then I was like, 'Oh my god, why did I do that? I'm so sorry," Stiles shared. She continued, "I was like, 'I'm tired and have a twitch — like you know when you're tired and your eye just starts twitching?' I totally embarrassed myself."

While the encounter was laughable for Stiles looking back, it was certainly memorable — and on point with the lovable characters she has portrayed in the comedy films that make up her filmography.

She went straight to the source for her role in Hustlers

When Julia Stiles read the script for Lorene Scafaria's "Hustlers," she knew she had to be a part of the film. The movie focuses on a group of female strippers who con their wealthy clients, and Stiles portrayed the part of the journalist who interviews them about their crimes. The movie is based on a true story, and was inspired by journalist Jessica Pressler's 2015 article featured in The Cut

To prepare for the role, the actress reached out to Pressler, her character's real-life counterpart, via Instagram, and they eventually scheduled a playdate for their kids. She told Glamour in September 2019, "I brought my son over to her apartment, and he proceeded to destroy her living room while we talked about everything that led to this point. 

She continued, "There were so many interesting anecdotes I took away from our meeting, but I also really learned that she's got a lot of compassion for the people she writes about."

Hustlers reaffirmed Julia Stiles' place in the industry

While Julia Stiles has enjoyed an acclaimed career for decades, starring in fan-favorite films like "10 Things I Hate About You" and "Save the Last Dance," the actress began feeling out of place in Hollywood as she aged. She told The Daily Beast in September 2019, "I think a few years ago my frustration was feeling like nobody knew what to do with me." Stiles went on, "You know, I had had some success in my twenties and now I'm in a different place in my life and I didn't really fit anywhere."

However, after landing her coveted role as the journalist Elizabeth in "Hustlers" in 2019, the actress felt a sense of belonging again. She explained in the same September 2019 interview, "But a movie like Hustlers to me is such an affirmation that like I have a place in the film industry and stories that I'm interested in are being told."

Stiles is a pro at playing the anti-hero

When Julia Stiles was a teen, she lost out on the highly coveted role of Claudia in "Interview with the Vampire" because director Neil Jordan deemed her to be "too old" for the part. Coincidentally, the actress went on to work with Jordan in the Sundance crime drama "Riviera" in 2017. The show became a hit for the network.

In the series, Stiles plays Georgia Clios, an art curator attempting to uncover the truth behind her husband's death. The character commits some immoral acts throughout the series, and Stiles has enjoyed playing the anti-hero. In an interview with Deadline in February 2019, Stiles said, "The thing I think about an anti-hero that I think is interesting is that, I like watching the process of how does this person slide into immorality."

In fact, the crime behind the success is the element of the story that drew Stiles to the part. She told Paper Mag in September 2019, "The original nexus of the idea behind Riviera that sold me was this idea that behind every fortune is a great crime, and "Hustlers" kind of deals with the same thing."

She is glad she became famous in the '90s

Julia Stiles rose to fame during a much simpler time. Without social media, the actress didn't have to endure hateful comments from trolls or need to endlessly self-promote herself online, which is something she is thankful for. 

In an interview with InStyle in September 2019, Stiles said, "When I was starting out, becoming more successful and having to promote what I was in, doing an interview like this for instance, I'd still be careful about what I was saying, but I didn't have to worry about something being pulled out of context for clickbait and the Twittersphere."

The actress previously shared the same sentiments in an interview with Harper's Bazaar in May 2019, saying, "You have to be a lot more cautious, so much more is recorded now but then at the same time, with Instagram and Twitter, you have an opportunity to have a more direct platform and I am trying to navigate that, just like everyone else is." While social media wasn't really a thing back in 1999, Stiles has certainly upped her social media game since, frequently sharing images on Instagram and tweeting to her followers.

She secretly dated her 10 Things I Hate About You co-star

The romance between Julia Stiles' Kat Stratford and Heath Ledger's Patrick Verona still makes us swoon, but offscreen, there was nothing going on between the two actors. However, Stiles did enjoy a brief dalliance with another "10 Things I Hate About You" co-star. During an interview on the YouTube channel "Mirá a Quién Encontré," director Gil Junger reminisced about the iconic poem-reading scene from the movie, during which Stiles shows some impressively raw emotion — Junger even admitted he was bawling himself by the end of the one and only take(!). 

As for where all that emotion came from, "She told me, 'I was just thinking about' — that person's name that she was deeply in love with at the time." Junger was quick to confirm that it wasn't Ledger who was on Stiles' mind. Rather, when pressed by the interviewer, he revealed, "She, for a minute or 10, went out with Joseph Gordon-Levitt," who played Cameron in the hit movie. Junger explained, "They were very, very attracted to each other." Notably, a 2001 Rolling Stone profile referred to Levitt as Stiles' ex but she clarified they were just "friends."

Stiles wishes she'd chosen her words more carefully in the past

Julia Stiles is probably relieved not to have come of age with social media capturing everything she was doing and saying wrong, but that doesn't mean she escaped completely unscathed. As the actress admitted in an interview with NME, if she had it her way, nobody would be "quoted in print before the age of 30." Looking back on the '90s, when Stiles was firmly in the paparazzi's sights, she deadpanned that maybe going out without makeup on, or even simply dressed down, wasn't the best idea.

For the most part, though, she's grateful for that time in her life, and she looks back on it fondly. However, Stiles wishes she'd chosen her words more carefully, admitting to a lack of experience speaking to the press. She recalled, "I learned through trial and error what it means to be quoted," explaining if she could do it all over again, "I wouldn't have said things for effect and for popularity over things that I actually thought."

She is more excited about acting as she gets older

Although Hollywood is, unfortunately, very well known for putting actresses out to pasture once they've hit the age of 31 — sometimes even before — Julia Stiles isn't concerned about finding work as she gets older. In fact, Stiles is relishing the parts she's getting in her 30s and 40s. She admitted to Glamour that, in her 20s, the idea of trying to find work ten or 20 years later would've been terrifying. Now that she's actually there, however, she said, "I feel like the opportunities for me and my peers are better and better as we get older."

Stiles acknowledged that she started out being offered the girlfriend role, which slowly transitioned to the mother, but the older she gets, the meatier the material the actress is being offered. The Riviera star reiterated in an interview with InStyle, "I think the roles that we're playing have gotten so much more interesting than what we were doing in our 20s."

Stiles would be open to doing a 10 Things I Hate About You sequel

The movie "10 Things I Hate About You" was such a major, career-defining moment for Julia Stiles, one that will likely continue to dominate interviews even in her golden years. Thankfully, the actress is more than happy to continue discussing her character, Kat, and everything she loved about playing her. "We were all really present and it was just so uninhibited. None of the actors felt jaded or shut down [on the set]," she gushed to NME. Stiles credits the role with getting her more interesting parts down the line, too.

When it comes to the matter of a reunion sequel — however many years later — she's not against the idea, although she admitted to having no idea how it would work logistically, considering her character was in high school at the time.

Working with Heath Ledger was a dream for Julia Stiles

The late Heath Ledger touched so many lives, not least those of the people he worked with. During an appearance on People's "People in the '90s" podcast, Julia Stiles looked back on their shared breakout roles in the beloved teen comedy "10 Things I Hate About You." She reminisced about how wonderful Ledger was to work with, noting, "He wasn't trying to compete with me. He stood back and he was like, this is your scene." She continued, saying, "When they did his reaction shot, he didn't well up. He didn't go, 'Okay, now I have to do something with my side of the camera.' He was just like, 'That was beautiful and this is your scene.'"

The actor also acknowledged how confident Ledger was in his abilities, even though he was a relative newcomer at the time, admitting actors aren't always so gracious. The Aussie import was the oldest cast member and, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Stiles revealed how he "kind of led the pack," particularly since they all stayed together during shooting. Naturally, everybody was excited to be working on the movie so they had a great time.

She learned how to advocate for herself the hard way

She may regret some of the things she said early on in her career, but there were also times Julia Stiles wishes she'd spoken up more. The actress hinted at some of the difficulties she had as a less experienced performer, referring to a "hostile director" who pushed her around, limiting her ability to be creative, in an interview with Coveteur. She elaborated with Glamour, admitting to being screamed at and driven to tears on set. She recalled, "It was my first day of work and the producers essentially came to me and said, 'this is how it goes!' So, that message to me was you have to take this kind of behavior."

Although the "10 Things I Hate About You" star acknowledged she wasn't confident enough to fight back, nowadays Stiles knows how to stick up for herself. As she explained to Coveteur, the desire to be a people-pleaser is something all actors have to contend with, but she can be assertive when necessary. Thankfully, acting allows Stiles to "say and do all the things on screen that we don't get to do in real life."

Stiles would never play a Bond girl

Julia Stiles is very thankful for her career and all the work she's been lucky enough to get, particularly since her '90s heyday, but there are still certain roles she wouldn't even consider pursuing, never mind the way she doggedly did with Kat all those years ago. As she explained to Coveteur, "I don't know how much of it is in my control and it maybe is a mix of what I gravitate towards and what people consider casting me in," but, especially as she gets older, Stiles is drawn to stronger female characters.

She's emotionally invested in those kinds of stories even if, as the actress acknowledged, it wasn't a conscious effort from "10 Things I Hate About You" onward. One particular role she could never imagine herself playing, however, is also one of the most famous in film history. Stiles told The Independent succinctly, "I could never be a Bond girl," stating, "I'll only accept a part if there's something I can contribute to a character."

Voiceover work brought Julia Stiles closer to being a singer

"Riviera" star Julia Stiles apparently also has a long-dormant desire to be a singer. In an interview with Romper in late 2021, the actor shared that working on the animated series "Dragons: The Nine Realms," which is part of the beloved "How to Train Your Dragon" franchise, helped Stiles realize her aspirations.

"It's like the closest I'll ever get to being a singer or a musician," she argued, "because you have to put everything into your voice — a higher or lower pitch, a different inflection at the end of the sentence, that kind of thing." Stiles was also thrilled to be doing work her children can watch too, acknowledging that for much of his life, her son Strummer probably thought all she did was sit around getting glammed up all day long. 

Now that he can see "Dragons: The Nine Realms" for himself, Stiles' little one can finally appreciate just how much effort goes into doing what she does for a living.

Julia Stiles' fame embarrassed her during college

Julia Stiles took some time off from her career to attend college, but being a budding star made it difficult to blend in with the other students. In particular, as she recalled during an interview with W magazine, the actor was mortified when "a limo for the MTV Movie Awards [pulled] up in front of my dormitory with my name on it." Thankfully, Stiles was able to take it in stride and continued to focus on her studies, eventually earning a bachelor's degree in English.

However, similar to Kat Stratford, one of her most famous characters, Stiles fretted about selling out in the eyes of her idols, including folk singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco. Thankfully, as she informed The Independent, "I was lucky that when I started becoming more recognizable as an actress and when fame hit, social media wasn't a big thing, if at all. It was easier to have a line between work and play." Stiles, therefore, had the space to figure out who she was, on and offscreen, without too much outside intrusion from others.

Where Julia Stiles thinks Kat Stratford would be now

Regardless of what trajectory her career takes, Julia Stiles will always be synonymous with Kat Stratford. Her lovably spiky "10 Things I Hate About You" character is a feminist hero, teaching a whole generation of young women how to express their anger in a healthy way, as Hello Giggles pointed out. And, if you're wondering where Kat would be nowadays, the woman who made her a household name has an idea.

Stiles told The Hollywood Reporter, simply, "I think she'd be happier being out of high school." That makes sense, considering Kat had such a tough time dealing with constantly being surrounded by, as she so memorably put it, "unwashed miscreants." The actor is incredibly touched that Kat meant so much to fans, telling the publication, "It was such an affirmation that, even at 17, my instincts, in terms of what I was interested in, actually resonated with other people, too." No matter where Kat ended up, though, it's safe to assume she's doing just as well as Stiles.

She is finally making her feature directorial debut

In 2021, after years of working in front of the camera, Julia Stiles started getting ready to make her directorial debut with an adaptation of the romance novel "Wish You Were Here" (via Deadline). Stiles co-wrote the screenplay with the novel's writer, Renée Carlino, but she will not be appearing in the movie.

The story follows unlucky-in-love Charlotte, who enjoys a night of passion with the mysterious Adam, only for him to drop off the face of the earth immediately afterward. When Charlotte finally tracks him down, she discovers Adam hasn't got long left and dedicates herself to making his final days special.

Although "Wish You Were Here" marks Stiles' feature directorial debut, she has several episodes of the TV show "Paloma" under her belt. The "Save the Last Dance" star posted the exciting news on Instagram, writing, "So excited to share, bringing this beautiful book to life." Stiles continued, writing, "We need more romance in this world, more love, more connection. Hope to make you all smile, make you laugh, and make you cry that good cry."