Julia Stiles: Ready for the Prom

Julia Stiles; Prom queen of everyone's inner high school.


Julia Stiles reminds me of every girl I ever wanted and had zero chance of getting in high school. Except, no 17-year-old girl in my high school ever acted with Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford, or wrote a Sundance-accepted screenplay, or came off as quite so New York tough and self-possessed as Stiles.

Even at her vulnerable age, this actress is not a girl you could imagine as a hapless victim. "Yeah, I tend to gravitate toward the more powerful roles," she agrees. "As opposed to the doe-eyed girl who bats her eyelashes and runs around in towels, you know what I mean? Because that kind of makes me vomit." Having played a small part in The Devil's Own (as Harrison Ford's daughter), Stiles is now playing lead roles, one as a psychotic teen in Wicked ("A mystery and dark comedy that has elements of the story of Electra, but it's set in the immaculate suburbs") and the other in Ten Things I Hate About You ("A high schoolized The Taming of the Shrew. I play the shrew! It's really cool").

A Manhattanite entering the 12th grade as we speak, Stiles has plenty of opinions about showbiz--like the way the media fixated on the mildly zaftig figure of Kate Winslet ("Just because she doesn't look like she lives in Ethiopia. What's up with that?! Still, I can say that, but at the same time I have to conform").

But showbiz is what she wants, for all kinds of reasons: "I never had a problem being a teenager--I kind of like it--but being in high school sucks. I take calculus, and it... sucks. And it sucks getting out of bed at seven in the morning. One of the reasons I love acting so much is that it gets me out of school." Actually, not quite. "When I'm in L.A., I feel sometimes like I'm back in high school: there's the prom queen, there are the cool people and the people outside who want to get in, and there are the big events, which are like proms, and everyone wants to see what the prom king and queen are going to be wearing."


Michael Atkinson