Julia O'Hara Stiles (born March 28, 1981) is an American actress.
After beginning her career in small parts in a New York City theatre troupe, she has moved on to leading roles in plays by writers as diverse as William Shakespeare and David Mamet. Her film career has included both commercial and critical successes, ranging from teen romantic comedies such as 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) to dark art house pictures such as The Business of Strangers (2001). She is also known for playing the supporting character Nicky Parsons in the Bourne film series and the leading role in Save the Last Dance, and for her role in Mona Lisa Smile. She guest starred as Lumen Pierce in the fifth season of the Showtime series Dexter, a role that earned her Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations.
Stiles was born in New York City, the eldest of three children. Her mother, Judith Newcomb Stiles, is a potter, and her father, John O'Hara, is a businessman. Stiles is of English, Irish, and German descent. She started acting at age eleven, performing with New York's La MaMa Theatre Company.
Stiles's first film was a non-speaking part in I Love You, I Love You Not (1996), with Claire Danes and Jude Law. She also had small roles as Harrison Ford's character's daughter in Alan J. Pakula's The Devil's Own (1997) and in M. Night Shyamalan's Wide Awake (1998). Her first lead was in Wicked (1998), playing a teenage girl who might have murdered her mother so she could have her father all to herself. Critic Joe Balthai wrote she was "the darling of the 1998 Sundance Film Festival" and Internet movie writer Harry Knowles said she was the "discovery of the fest", but the film was not commercially released in the U.S. and went direct-to-video.
In 1999, she portrayed Kat Stratford, opposite Heath Ledger, in Gil Junger's 10 Things I Hate About You, an adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew set in a high school in Tacoma, Washington. She won an MTV Movie Award for "Breakthrough Female Performance" for the role, and the Chicago Film Critics voted her the most promising new actress of the year. Foreign critics applauded her work as well, including Adina Hoffman, who praised her as "a young, serious looking Diane Lane" and Martin Hoyle, who commented that Stiles played Kat "with bloody-minded independent charm from the beginning with hints of wistfulness beneath the determination."
Her next starring role was in Down to You (2000), which was panned by critics, but earned her and her co-star Freddie Prinze, Jr. a Teen Choice Award nomination for their on-screen chemistry. She subsequently appeared in two moreShakespearean adaptations. The first was as Ophelia in Michael Almereyda's Hamlet (2000), with Ethan Hawke in the lead. The second was in the Desdemona role, opposite Mekhi Phifer, in Tim Blake Nelson's O (2001), a version ofOthello set in a private boarding school. Neither film was a great success; O was subject to many delays and a change of distributors, and Hamlet was an art house film shot on a minimal budget.
Stiles's next commercial success was in Save the Last Dance (2001), as an aspiring ballerina forced to leave her small town in downstate Illinois to live with her struggling musician father in Chicago after her mother dies in a car accident. At her new, nearly all-black school, she falls in love with the character played by Sean Patrick Thomas, who teaches her hip-hop dance steps that get her into The Juilliard School. The role won her two more MTV awards for "Best Kiss" and "Best Female Performance", and a Teen Choice Award for best fight scene for her battle with Bianca Lawson. Rolling Stone pronounced her "the coolest co-ed," putting her on the cover of its April 12, 2001 issue. She told Rolling Stone that she performed all her own dancing in the film, though the way the film was shot and edited might have made it appear otherwise.
In David Mamet's State and Main (2000), about a film shooting on location in a small town in Vermont, she played a teenage girl who seduces a film actor (Alec Baldwin) with a weakness for young girls. Stiles also appeared oppositeStockard Channing in the dark art-house film The Business of Strangers (2001) as a conniving, amoral secretary who exacts revenge on her boss. Channing was impressed by her co-star: "In addition to her talent, she has a quality that is almost feral, something that can make people uneasy. She has an effect on people." Stiles also had a small but crucial role as Treadstone operative Nicolette "Nicky" Parsons in The Bourne Identity (2002), a role that was enlarged in The Bourne Supremacy (2004), then greatly expanded in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007).
Between the Bourne films, she appeared in Mona Lisa Smile (2003) as Joan, a student at Wellesley College in 1953, whose art professor (Julia Roberts) encourages her to pursue a career in law rather than become a wife and mother. Critic Stephen Holden referred to her as one of cinema's "brightest young stars," but the film met with generally unfavorable reviews.
Stiles played a Wisconsin college student who is swept off her feet by a Danish prince in The Prince and Me (2004), directed by Martha Coolidge. Stiles told an interviewer that she was very similar to the character, Paige Morgan. Critic Scott Foundas said while she was, as always, "irrepressibly engaging," the film was a "strange career choice for Stiles." This echoed criticism in reviews of A Guy Thing (2003), a romantic comedy with Jason Lee and Selma Blair. Critic Dennis Harvey wrote that Stiles was "wasted," and Stephen Holden called her "a serious actress from whom comedy does not seem to flow naturally".
She returned to the Bourne series with a much larger role in The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007, and to this day it is her highest grossing film. Producer Lynda Obst said that Stiles was "turning into the next Meryl Streep." Stiles also appears in the 2008 film Gospel Hill. She portrayed a woman who falls in love with her stalker in the 2009 thriller The Cry of the Owl, based on the novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith.
Julia Stiles began filming on her latest project, Between Us, in May 2011 with co-stars Taye Diggs, David Harbour and Melissa George. Between Us is the screen adaptation of the off-Broadway play by the same name written by playwright Joe Hortua. The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, where its producers hoped to find a domestic distributor.The film has since screened at 15 film festivals, winning the grand jury prize at the 2012 Bahamas International Film Festival.
In 2012, Stiles starred alongside David Cross and America Ferrera in the dark comedy It's a Disaster. The film premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and has been picked up by Oscilloscope Laboratories for commercial distribution. The film will premiere in select theaters starting on April 12, 2013.
Stiles's first theatrical roles were in works by author/composer John Moran with the group Ridge Theater, in Manhattan's Lower East Side from 1993–1998. She later performed on stage in Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, in the summer of 2002 and appeared as Viola, the lead role in Shakespeare in the Park's production of Twelfth Night with Jimmy Smits. Reviewing the production, Ben Brantley of The New York Times saluted Stiles as "the thinking teenager's movie goddess" who put him in mind of a "young Jane Fonda."
She reprised the role of Carol in a 2009 production, directed by Doug Hughes and co-starring Bill Pullman at the Mark Taper Forum. On June 30, 2009, it was announced that this production would be transferring to Broadway's John Golden Theatre, with previews beginning September 29 before an October 11 opening night.
Stiles appeared in the video for Cyndi Lauper's single, "Sally's Pigeons" in 1993. On March 17, 2001, Stiles hosted Saturday Night Live and, eight days later, she was a presenter at the 73rd Academy Awards.She returned toSaturday Night Live on May 5 appearing as then-President George W. Bush's daughter Jenna Bush in a skit that poked fun at the two first daughters being arrested for underage drinking.MTV profiled her in its Diary series in 2003,and she was Punk'd by Ashton Kutcher at a Washington DC museum in the spring of 2004.
In May 2010 Stiles was cast in a major role in the Showtime series Dexter and signed for 10 episodes.For this role Stiles received a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film as well as a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.
In June 2012 the YouTube series “Blue” premiered which stars Stiles as the main role. She plays the role of a 29–30-year-old single mother with a 13-year-old son. Her salary doesn’t quite support her so to make ends meet she works nights as an escort. She must fight to protect her son from the collision of her complicated past and tenuous present.