Telegraph Interview with Julia Stiles

At the beginning of Jason Bourne, her fourth film in the blockbuster action franchise, Julia Stiles appears in near-total darkness. “Christian Dassault sent me,” she says in a voice so low she could be a man or a woman. That password admits her to a hackers’ headquarters in Iceland. Within minutes, she has broken into the CIA’s mainframe and stolen top secret files, unleashing the action for the rest of the film.

In the nine years since Stiles and Matt Damon last joined forces for a Bourne movie, both their characters have been living “off the grid”. The change in Nicky Parsons, who began in 2002 as the neat CIA analyst Nicolette and appears in Paul Greengrass’s new film under the hacker codename Knightrider, is dramatic. Not only has she gone rogue – smart, wild and threatening – but, under cover of a riot in Greece, she lures Bourne out from hiding, in the film’s single most impressive sequence.

“It seems a little bit exploitative for me to say this, but I get chills when I think about the scenes that I was in,” she says when we meet, early on the day of the UK premiere. “Paul Greengrass has a knack for setting an action movie in a world that is very familiar to us. He can keep the political issues and the environment very timely and relevant. He wrote it a year ago. But it feels shockingly familiar given all the protests and violence that we’ve experienced in the United States.”

Stiles first read the script of the 2002 film The Bourne Identity – or at least, the parts she was allowed to see – when she was in her dorm room at Columbia University. She was 19, and already enough of a teenage star that going to college was in itself an unusual move. “I remember thinking: Doug Liman was a really interesting director. At that time he was more of an indie darling,” she says now. “And I thought it was really intriguing that Matt was going to play this action hero, because at that time he wasn’t an obvious choice”.

In the first edit, her character died – “she was thrown up against a wall and her neck was snapped,” Stiles recalls – but the film was recut to make way for a possible sequel with her in it. As a result, she has lived with Bourne, as she puts it, “my entire adult life”.

By the time that script arrived, Stiles had already starred in the magnificently tart teen rendering of The Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things I Hate About You, alongside the young Heath Ledger; she’d been Ophelia to Ethan Hawke’s modern-day Hamlet in Michael Almereyda’s urban indie film; she’d been cast in State and Main by David Mamet, whose play Oleanna she’d go on to perform on stage in New York and London; and she’d played the lead in Save the Last Dance, an inter-racial teen love story which was released to distracting levels of success while she was in her first year at Columbia.

This was not long after she’d been deemed by Neil Jordan to be “too old” for the part in Interview with the Vampire that eventually went to a squeaky Kirsten Dunst. Dunst is just one year Stiles’s junior; the truth is, though, Stiles would always have been too old for a part like that. She brings to everything she’s done a quality of seriousness that is rare in real life and even rarer in Hollywood. “I remember finding that character very refreshing,” Stiles says now of Kat in 10 Things I Hate About You, “because she was so angst-ridden. Or just brassy and more fierce than any other example of a teenage girl that I had seen”.

Wonderful though that film is, contemptuous teenagers are arguably more familiar fare than adult women with equal levels of severity. So Stiles’s exceptional nature has become more emphatic the longer she goes on, and the fewer prisoners she takes. In the Bourne films, she signals a kind of intelligence that genre films don’t usually require of their female characters. A Bond movie wouldn’t know what to do with a Stiles in its script. Alicia Vikander, the ostensible heroine of the latest Bourne incarnation, struggles to achieve CIA steeliness, but Stiles is all determination and ticking thought from the moment of her arrival.

In person, she’s equally austere. Once rumoured to have dumped a boyfriend because he didn’t like the novels of John Steinbeck, Stiles admits now that she’s often stopped in the street by men telling her to smile. When we meet, her replies to my questions are considered, friendly and even unguarded – she volunteers the information that she’s just got engaged and is looking forward to “nesting” with her fiancé, the cameraman Preston J Cook – yet her face is so still and her gaze so direct it’s disarming. You’d call her expression deadpan if she were joking, but she’s not.

I ask Stiles if she thinks people are afraid of seriousness in women, and she cites the Bechdel Test, a theory devised by the graphic novelist Alison Bechdel. “She developed this idea that there’s a litmus test for movies,” Stiles explains. “There’ve got to be two main female roles, and they have to have a conversation together, that’s not about men. I can’t think of an example of a movie that passes that test.”

Some of the more interesting roles for women, she says, can be found on television. Stiles took on the gruelling role of a mother with a secret life as a prostitute in Blue, shown on Lifetime last year, and she’s about to move to the south of France to film Neil Jordan’s Sky series Riviera, in which she plays the widow of a wealthy and corrupt art dealer. “I’m not exactly sure why,” she says, “but I feel optimistic”.

She has directed a short film, and a more recent short web series, Paloma. Being in an editing room taught her a lot about acting, she suggests, and although she’d like to direct a feature (many years ago, there was a mooted adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar), doing Bourne reminded her how much work directing involves.

Meanwhile, she’s listening to a lot of music – Nina Simone’s covers of protest songs are a current favourite – and for the past year, she’s been taking singing lessons. “Not that I’ll ever sing in front of anyone,” she adds, a note of self-consciousness creeping into her voice. She sings a lot of Patsy Cline, she says, “because I have quite a low voice – but I’ve been able to expand my range as a result of these lessons”.

Though Stiles sometimes travels with what she calls a “baby banjo”, she says there’s no chance she’ll join a band either. “If I could put a mask on, I would, maybe. I guess I’d have to get over being self-conscious.”

As for married life, there are no immediate plans for a wedding, she says. “We’re in the daydreaming phase, where we fantasise about where it would be, and the food and the music, but we don’t actually get around to concrete things.” For now, after a lot of travelling between New York and Canada (where Cook is from) or wherever either of them happened to be working, she’s just pleased that Cook is also getting to work on Riviera. “It went from me being anxious and terrified of our being separated for a while to now getting to work together in the South of France. It’s a pre-honeymoon, I guess.” She pauses for a moment. “That might make me nervous. But we’ll see.”

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The New Potato Interview

Actress Julia Stiles
On Mosh Pits & Why Chivalry Is The New Macho

Julia Stiles telling us chivalry is the new macho – in answer to “what is the new potato?” – seemed like a Kat a la 10 Things I Hate About You sort of answer. Stiles (like Kat) has always been ahead of her time, both badass and beautiful in a way all of us consistently aim to be. We had many girl power teen aspirations when we’d watch her in movies like Save The Last Dance and the aforementioned 10 Things I Hate About You, and have felt continuing fandom in recent years when she stole the show in projects like Dexter and the Bourne movies.

The newest Bourne movie – Jason Bourne – comes out Friday, and we couldn’t think of a better time to catch up with one of our favorite timeless actresses who happens to be its star. Stiles spoke about all things concerning the newest Bourne installment, breakfast foods and hot yoga. This is a great Monday read.

From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
Fresh organic green juice in the morning, then a salad with avocado and quinoa for lunch. Dinner would be Sushi or something homemade, with a delicious glass of wine.

How do you usually start your day? What’s your go-to breakfast?
I know people say it’s the most important meal of the day, and I love breakfast foods, but later in the day. Is that weird?

How do you practice beauty from the inside out?
I swear by hot yoga. It consistently makes me feel great, mind, body and spirit. It focuses my mind, makes me feel lean, flexible and strong, I’m hooked. And if it’s too hot outside, swimming is meditative too. I really believe that food made with love and from good, simple ingredients is the way to go. I love cooking with friends, and the social experience of eating together. The more mindfully you eat, the more nourishing and satisfying it can be.

What are your morning and nightly beauty routines?
In the morning I wash my face with Jordan Samuel “Plie Cleanser” and moisturize with a day cream from Dayle Breault, then sunscreen from Weleda. And a giant glass of water with lemon.

What’s a beauty mainstay that hasn’t changed since 10 Things I Hate About You?
Giving my skin a break from makeup, exercise, water. Now I indulge in facials.

How do you prepare for your role in the Bourne movies, if at all?
There’s very little you can do to prepare because so much of it involves thinking on your feet. It’s good to be well-rested.

Were you surprised when Matt Damon decided to come back? What’s the most fun part of filming?
I was. It had been so many years of people asking me when we were going to make another; I had given up trying to guess. The most fun part is all of the travel; this series has taken me to amazing parts of the world.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? The worst?
Best: “Comparison is the thief of joy”
Worst: “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness…”

Who do you think you were in a past life? Why?
I think I was a fish. I love swimming…but I also love to eat them, so that’s weird.

You never liked X till you tried it at Y…
I never liked mosh pits until I tried it at a Titus Andronicus show.

What’s your perfect salad comprised of? Your perfect smoothie?
Salad: Endive and radicchio with avocado mushed in, olive oil and cider vinegar or lemon. Smoothie: Anything but peanut butter (put that on a sandwich please!), and no fake supplement thingies.

What are your favorite current cities for food? What restaurants do you go to in each?
NY: Colonia Verde, Angelica’s Kitchen, Mermaid Inn
Paris: L’Atelier and Dersou
London: J Sheekey and Bocca Di Lupo
Vancouver: Minami, Rodney’s Oyster Bar and Lupo
Calgary: Anju
LA: Little Dom’s

In the same vein as ‘what is the new black’ in fashion, what’s the new potato right now?
Chivalry is the new macho.

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Jason Bourne Press Tour (Interviews)

Check out some recent interviews with the wonderful Julia …

After nine years, actress Julia Stiles has returned to the supporting role of Nicky Parsons in the upcoming movie “Jason Bourne.” Stiles says her character cares about Bourne and wants him to know about his past before she exposes the secrets surrounding him. The actress also admits she was surprised when her fiance Preston J. Cook popped the question, because she didn’t want to “ruin a perfectly good vacation” by getting her hopes of an engagement up.

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Travel & Leisure Magazine Interview

Welcome to our series, the T+L Carry-On, where we take a look inside the luggage of those who find themselves frequently traveling around the world—and gain a few expert tips along the way.

This week, we caught up with actress Julia Stiles at 11 Howard in New York City. Stiles, who recently starred in the movie Blackway, will soon be appearing in the upcoming Jason Bourne film, which took her to various locations across Europe. We sat down to chat all things travel with the star, including her top tips for beating jet lag, her best celebrity airplane encounters, and, of course, her carry-on essentials. Plus, don’t forget to check out last week’s column with professional dancer, singer, and actor Derek Hough.

On Her Relationship with Travel:
“Airplanes and I have a very intimate relationship; we spend a lot of time together. I travel mostly for work because I never seem to work at home, especially now that I live in Vancouver. I was born and raised in New York City, and I come back a lot, but I’m giving up my apartment here because I’m getting married to a Canadian. There’s tons of work in Vancouver, but I always work in foreign countries, which is great and exciting, but I’ve counted and in the last year in a half, I’ve been on a plane at least once, sometimes more, every month.”

Her Top Picks for Visitors to New York City—and Vancouver:
“Most people who come to visit New York City are in Manhattan most of the time, but I’d recommend going to some of the other boroughs; every neighborhood in Brooklyn is very different and diverse—it kind of has that feeling of the New York I grew up in. And I love this restaurant Jack’s Wife Frida, just as a staple—especially at lunchtime. It’s consistently great. In Vancouver, there are a lot of great hikes and delicious meals to be had. The Seawall is beautiful. Just going on a bike ride, or a walk around it—it’s sort of the boardwalk around the coast, and it’s so extraordinary and amazing to me that it exists in a city.”

Travel Tips and Tricks:
“I like to travel light. Sometimes, if I’m going somewhere for a longer trip, you have to check luggage, but I’ve gotten my little carry-on bag down to a tee. There are these little, square toiletry bags that that have bubble wrap on the outside, but by airport security, they’re considered a plastic baggies that you can put your toiletries in when you have to declare them—but because there’s bubble wrap, they also protect your stuff. But my number one tip would have to be to wear socks, because the most annoying thing is to get to airport security and then have to take your shoes off and walk barefoot—it’s gross, and I don’t like doing it, and I’ll never do it again.”

Her Advice for Beating Jet Lag:
“Usually, I have trouble sleeping on planes, and they say you’re supposed to stay up the whole day so you can adjust your body clock, especially if it’s an overnight flight and you arrive somewhere in the morning. I can’t do that, because I hate the feeling of being sick and exhausted. So my recommendation is to take a one hour nap—not too close to bedtime, and not too much of a nap.

If I’m working, or in a place luxurious enough to do something like go to a sauna or steam room, I like to do that because it kind of takes all the grime of the plane off, and I find it really refreshing. I think it’s really good for jet lag. If it’s not, then a walk, no matter how jet lagged you are, getting sunshine and getting your bearings is really important.”

Her Travel-Beauty Routine:
“I try not to wear any makeup on planes. I don’t use masks, because a plane isn’t your bathroom—it’s a public aluminum tube that’s flying through the air. I’ve been on a plane where someone was doing a sheet mask over night, and it freaked me out. But if you do want to keep your skin hydrated, which is key—no matter what type of skin you have. Spritzes are nice, and if you don’t want to buy an expensive one, you can go to any health food store and they have rosewater sprays, or you can get a bottle and mix up your own—even if just with water. So, serums and stuff—just moisturize. And I take Valerian root if it’s an overnight flight, because that’s a healthier way to try and fall asleep—or relax, at least.”

The Best Meal She’s Ever Had While Traveling:
“I went to Cuba, twice—legally—and my favorite meal was from this woman who was passing food that she’d made through from her kitchen window out on to the street. It was like, a fried egg on top of rice and beans and a little salad—it was delicious.”

Her Favorite Hotel:
“I’ve spent a lot of time at the Ham Yard Hotel in London—anytime I go there for work, I stay there, and it was for quite a bit when I was working on Jason Bourne. I’ve got my little coffee shop and juice spot around the corner. It’s in the center of SoHo, so it’s quite busy and chaotic outside, but as soon as you walk into the hotel it’s so peaceful and chic.”

Her Advice for Those Who Ever Find Themselves Sitting Next to Her on a Plane:
“Honestly, I’m really lazy and just watch whatever movies they’re showing you. What I’ll do is put my headphones on to kind of calm down and relax, but I always wind up watching whatever the person next to me is watching. So if you’re ever sitting next to me on a plane, pick something good.”

Her Best Celebrity Encounters on a Plane
“When you luck out and somebody else is paying and you get to fly first class, then it’s like, oh my God; there’s that person, and there’s that person! I’ve seen Morgan Freeman, Sigourney Weaver, and Annette Bening. Oh, and Sting! I stood next to Sting at baggage claim, once.”

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