Personal detailsName: Julia Stiles
Born: 28 March 1981 (Age: 32)
Where: New York, New York, USA
Height: 5' 7"
Awards: No Major Awards
All about this star
The turn of the millennium saw teen flicks dominate the box office charts. After the massive success of Dawson's Creek on TV, producers finally recognised the renewed power of the youth market and milked it with gusto. Horror movies, psychological dramas, comedies, even Shakespearian tragedies - all of them made millions when set in a High School. And it was this period that saw the rise of Julia Stiles. Just as she was beginning to make a mark as an actress, suddenly she was able to surf this new wave to the very top. With 10 Things I Hate About You, Down To You, Hamlet, O and Save The Last Dance, she became the undisputed Queen of Teen. But, no squeaky cutie and hugely ambitious, she had all the equipment to grow into a serious adult actress.
She was born Julia O'Hara Stiles on the 28th of March, 1981, in New York City, and is of Irish, Italian and English heritage. Her mother, Judith, was an artist, working in ceramics, and ran a ceramics store in Greenwich Village. Her father, John, was a Second Grade teacher in Harlem, who helped in selling Judith's work. There would be two more children - Jane, nine years Julia's junior, and Johnny, born three years after Jane.
Julia was raised in a loft apartment in SoHo, which served as home and studio, so there was a constant stream of artists and aficionados of all races passing through. A curious child, Julia took an interest in everyone, and quickly joined in the political arguments that raged around the kitchen table, her parents being "loud-mouthed" and liberal, true radicals of the Sixties. By the age of six, she was demanding to work in her mum's store, sitting behind the cash register, chatting to the customers and going through the bills. During breaks she would write letters, not to imaginary friends but to political leaders, demanding action. One she sent to Mayor Ed Koch, suggesting that more bins be placed on the streets.
Indeed, Julia spent a lot of her time writing. If she ever had a problem, she'd write to her parents about it. Then, if necessary, she would argue her case. She became very persuasive very quickly. Without taking official lessons, she more or less taught herself to act while watching TV series The Honeymooners, acting out a different role each evening.
She was a keen student of everything. She took modern dance lessons from a very early age and, as her parents would often take her to the theatre, she became infatuated with Shakespeare, actually placing a statue of the Bard in her room. Odd, you might think, for a young girl - but then this young girl would star in three Shakespeare adaptations before she was 20.
Judith and John recognised Julia's potential and did all they could to feed her hungry little mind. They'd take her to Smokestack's Lightning jazz club every weekend, where she'd cartwheel across the dance-floor, entertaining the punters. And they encouraged her acting, at age 9 sending her to summer classes with the YMCA.
At 11, Julia's precociousness, her New York sass, her penchant for letter-writing and the notion instilled in her that she could do anything came in handy. Having been thrilled by a performance there, she wrote to the director of the experimental off-Broadway La Mama Theatre, enclosing photos of herself dressed up in different costumes and asking if they had any parts for child-actresses. And, as it happened, they did. Having debuted at the One Dream Theatre in Jungle Movie, an odd play spoofing jungle movies from the 1940s, with Julia lip-synching over pre-recorded tapes about cannibalism, she'd appear at the La Mama in Everyday Newt Berman, The Sandalwood Box and Photo Op, and at the Kitchen Theatre in Matthew/School Of Life and Hughies.
At 12, she got herself an agent, and the paid work began. She appeared in adverts for Tide and for Apple Jacks (she was the little git teasing someone for eating them). And there was some TV work, with a recurring guest part in Ghostwriter. But it was a tough time. Very, very ambitious, Julia had terrible trouble with rejection. When Kirsten Dunst won the part of Claudia in Interview With The Vampire, Julia was inconsolable. Her mother even considered forbidding her from continuing her career.
But her education continued apace. She spent her early teenage summers at Camp Rowe, a "hippie camp" where all the kids attended workshops and listened to Phish and the Grateful Dead, and the adults worked hard to build the kids' self-esteem. During the year, she attended New York's Professional Children's School, an establishment preparing kids for a career in the Arts. Here she'd study the likes of Latin and constitutional law - naturally, she was a Straight-A student.
At 15, she made her big screen debut, as Claire Danes' buddy in I Love You, I Love You Not, a movie which, rather unfortunately, compared the problems of a girl in high school to the troubles her grandmother (Jeanne Moreau) faced in Auschwitz. But then came a slightly meatier role in a much bigger film, AND she got to star alongside The Vampire Being Interviewed, Brad Pitt. In The Devil's Own, Pitt played an IRA terrorist who flees to America to arrange a gun-run, and lodges with straight-up Irish copper Harrison Ford. Julia played Ford's daughter, Bridget O'Meara, a young tyke who will NOT get off the phone.
These were reasonable, if uninspiring parts. But Julia did not have to wait long for her breakthrough. In 1997, the same year as The Devil's Own, she made a big splash as Ellen Barkin's daughter in the Oprah Winfrey-produced Before Women Had Wings, concerning child abuse.