Julia Stiles Falls for a Royal in "The Prince & Me"

Interview with the 'Me' of "The Prince & Me"

Julia Stiles Jewelry
Julia Stiles - 2011 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards - September 2011.

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In the 2004 film "The Prince & Me," Julia Stiles plays a dedicated, hard-working, serious college student, intent on graduating and making something of her life.

According to director Martha Coolidge, it was Stiles' intelligence and ability to empathize with the character that sold Coolidge on casting Julia in this role. "Julia understands the issues Paige is up against. She's very savvy about the character and knows the conflict between the emotions and intellect that young women who are seeking careers face."

In 2004, the young actress sat down with us to discuss the film, her career, her insistence on getting her college degree, and her experiences with the first films of the Jason Bourne series.

Romantic Comedies Have a Certain Formula. How Do You Make One Stand Out?

How do I make a romantic comedy stand out? You know, I don't really see this as a romantic comedy. That sort of label definitely has a negative spin to it. I feel like my intention with the movie all along and Martha's [Coolidge] and the studios were to make a romance, almost like the classic love stories from the 1950's. And certainly there are funny moments in the movie, but when I think of a romantic comedy, I think of. I don't know. I think of more like written jokes, slapstick almost.

Why Do You Think That Name "RomCom" Has Such a Negative Connotation?

Because it's become like a meaningless phrase. Everything gets labeled a romantic comedy if it has romance in it or a joke. Am I wrong?

Do You Think This Is More Fantasy?

Yeah. You watch two people fall in love and connect. It's the tried and true story of two people from different walks of life connecting on a really deeper level. There is a fantasy element to it and a fairy tale element to it, but what's nice is that my character is really grounded and real and believable, hopefully, if I did my job. It's not a repeat of the Cinderella stories.

Would You Leave School for Your True Love?

I don't think that I'd have to leave school. I think that whoever I fell in love with truly would want me to stay in school.

But Under the Same Extreme Circumstances as the Movie?

I couldn't imagine circumstances where I'd have to leave school.

Are You Still in School?

Yes, I have a year left. I'm enjoying it a lot. My friends are all graduating this year, but yeah, I enjoy school a lot. I took this semester off to work. I did the sequel for "The Bourne Identity" and so I just got back from Berlin and then I'm going to do a play for four months. So, I haven't been in school since December.

Does School Provide a Balance to the Hollywood Lifestyle?

Yes. It's nice to go to a place where my professors really demand that I perform intellectually. They care about my ideas and what I have to say. Not that the work that I do as an actress, that the people I work with don't care about what I have to say, but it's just apples and oranges. I guess I have attention deficit disorder and I guess that I like to change it up a lot.

Do You Have Any Ambition to Do Post-Graduate Work?

No. My experience being in school is really different from a lot of my peers. Really, school is almost like a really expensive book club. I feel like I get to go and read great literature and hear what really intelligent people have to say about it. And that's a luxury. I'm just sort of in school because it's a safe place to grow up and it's very stimulating, but I don't think that I would do post-bachelor work. I mean, it wouldn't really make sense for me because I don't need an English degree to be an actress. It becomes much more specific, getting a masters degree in English. It's really more designed for people who want to be English scholars and it's much more focused.

Why Continue with School Now That Your Acting Career is Really Hot?

Well, my reasons when I started were different from the reasons that I'm continuing now. My reasons for starting school had to do more with the experience of it all, and then, I ended up really just enjoying studying. There are things that I can study in school that I can't learn on a movie set. It's good to get perspective.

Are You Treated Differently at School?

It runs the gamut. Some people are nice to me, some people are not nice to me, but that would happen to anyone. I have a good group of friends, and I'm also in school with a lot of really driven kids that, you know, are world-renowned cellists and kids who are doing science research. So, it's pretty humbling.

Did You Draw On Any of Your College Experiences for Your Role in The Prince & Me?

No, because actually, the character is really science-oriented and hates Shakespeare, and I'm an English major who hates science. So, it's really the opposite.

You've Done a Few Films That Are Adaptations of Shakespeare. Why Does That Keep Coming Up Again and Again in Your Career?

Because I think that a lot of stories go back to what Shakespeare wrote centuries ago. Again, the tried and true love stories. The reason that I think the writers put the reference in there from "Romeo and Juliet" was just because it was a nod to this classic playwright. There are like three stories that get told over and over again because people really connect with that.

Do You Think About Having Onscreen Chemistry With Your Co-Star While You're Working?

Yes, because chemistry is not really something that you can pinpoint or control or even really define. And certainly, when Martha was casting for the part of the Prince, I screen-tested with Luke [Mably] and certainly we were thinking about that. But what was really great about him as an actor was that he was very unpredictable, and so it made me always have to pay attention to what he was doing. So, in that sense, we didn't have good chemistry. But I feel like that's part of my work as an actor, to be able to use my imagination and not be so dependent on how I'm relating to my co-stars.

Did You Screentest With A Lot of Actors?

One other. Martha scoured all of Europe trying to find an actor, but I was lucky that I got to come in at the last cut-off point.

Being That This Is a Date Movie, What's the Best Date You've Been On?

I went to see the band "The Darkness." Rock concerts are fun dates to go on. There was a restaurant in Germany called The Blind Restaurant that I went to where everything was dark, where you had the entire meal in the dark, and you were led around by people like you were blind.

And You've Got the Sequel to "The Bourne Identity" Coming Up. Do You Have a Bigger Role in the Sequel?

I do. I mean, it couldn't really get any smaller than the first one.

Are You Matt Damon's Love Interest?

No, I thought that I'd gotten out of the world of the CIA after almost being killed in the first one and Joan Allen is sort of heading the operation to find him again. She drags me off of the street and against my will kind of makes me help her find him because they think that I have more information. I was the last person to see Jason Bourne alive and they think that I have a lot more information. They make me sort of spy on him.

Did You Do the First Film Knowing You'd Have a Larger Role in the Second One?

It crossed my mind, but I didn't hang my hat on it. They're still constantly rewriting the script and so, who knows. Years ago, of course, I had no way of predicting what would happen in the second one.

Do You Have Any Action Sequences?

Actually, I'm really happy that I don't have any action scenes. Most of my [scenes] are more psychologically driven scenes. Matt does a lot of the action stuff.

Do You Work With Him in the Movie?

Yeah. I have a really great scene with him in the movie where he catches me sort of spying on him, and at the risk of giving too much away, he remembers that I was the last person who saw him and so, he also wants to help me fill him in on his past, but he wants to do it without the CIA sort of observing us or having me wired. He drags me into the subway and is interrogating me and even holds a gun to my head and things like that. I don't want to give it all away.