Why 90s star stopped getting roles


As far as teen '90s idols go, Julia Stiles was up there with the best of them.

The young Hollywood actress appeared in a string of blockbuster hits in the late '90s and early 2000s, seemingly paving a long and lucrative career for herself in the spotlight.

But after a few years playing the leading lady in her many films, Stiles' success very quickly hit a snag, with the blonde star falling into the category of playing minor supporting roles.

With her good looks, uber talent and signature wit, Stiles' fast fall from the A-list after only a short few years on top was not one anyone could have predicted.

The now 38-year-old began acting at the age of 11, making her big break as a lead role in the thriller Wicked, released in 1998.

The next year she starred in the cult romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You - which is currently streaming on Foxtel - opposite late Australian actor Heath Ledger.

A modernisation of William Shakespeare's late-16th century comedy The Taming of the Shrew, the film was a huge commercial success and is still considered among the most cherished rom-coms of all time.

Most notably, it made stars of its lead cast, which included Stiles, Ledger and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

RELATED: Stiles reveals Ledger's hidden talent

Heath Ledger and Stiles in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You.
Heath Ledger and Stiles in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You.

Stiles, who played Katarina Stratford, the anti-social bad girl who ends up falling for Ledger's character Patrick, revealed why she was so drawn to the part.

"I wanted that part so badly because I responded to how they wrote Kat - and by the way, those were two female writers," Stiles said in an interview reflecting on the movie.

"It was so refreshing because I was an auditioning actress and an angsty teenager. Everyone would say, 'Can you be more bubbly and not so serious? Just be more effervescent', and 'Oh, you're so intellectual', like it was a bad thing. Or, 'You think too much'.

"So to read a character like Kat, who was feisty and opinionated and a fish out of water - but not sullen about that, she's proudly a fish out of water - I was like, 'Yes, this is an amazing character'."

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Stiles, who was only 18 at the time, went on to star in a handful of uber popular romantic comedies that made her the ultimate "It" girl among teens at the time.

In 2000, she played alongside heart-throb Freddie Prinze Jr in Down to You, in which she was nominated for several Teen Choice Awards. It failed to perform at the box office and received mixed reviews but was still embraced by fans of the two leading stars.

One of her most successful roles was as a ballerina in Save The Last Dance (2001), which to this day is the fifth most profitable dance movie ever according to IMDb, beating the likes of Dirty Dancing and Footloose after making $91 million in the US alone.

It won a truckload of awards, including MTV Movie Awards, Teen Choice Awards, Young Hollywood Awards and Black Reel Awards.

Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas starred in Save The Last Dance.
Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas starred in Save The Last Dance.

After that, Stiles continued to regularly appear in movies, most of which weren't money makers or critical successes, including the 2003 films A Guy Thing and Carolina (direct to DVD).

Despite approaching her mid 20s, Stiles was still only securing teen roles, including in the 2004 rom-com The Prince & Me.

While again it was embraced by her young fans, who nominated her for yet another Teen Choice Award, the movie was described as "bland" and "fluffy".

Stiles stated in a recent interview she struggled to break her mould as a teen star, with directors and producers not associating her with adult parts, according to comments she made to The Daily Beast.

Stiles in the 2004 film The Prince and Me.
Stiles in the 2004 film The Prince and Me.

"I think a few years ago my frustration was feeling like nobody knew what to do with me," she said.

"You know, I had had some success in my 20s and now I'm in a different place in my life, and I didn't really fit anywhere.

"I felt like I was sort of jumping from job to job that I wasn't really connected to and worried about where my career was going."

Had she not been cast in the first movie in the massively popular Bourne franchise, The Bourne Identity (2002), Stiles might not have a career as an actor at all.

Matt Damon and Stiles in Jason Bourne.
Matt Damon and Stiles in Jason Bourne.

Co-starring A-list star Matt Damon, the debut Bourne movie grossed an impressive $121.7 million and led to three sequels, all of which included Stiles.

Playing Nicky Parsons in four out of five Bourne films, and serving as the franchise's female lead, Stiles managed to score a role in the movie when her star was at its peak, giving her a role that lasted over a decade. Her character was killed off in the 2016 blockbuster Jason Bourne.

In between filming Bourne sequels, Stiles threw her hat at horror with the 2006 remake of The Omen. Playing a mother, it was her first real crack at playing a mature character. It drew negative reviews when it first hit theatres, ultimately grossing $119.5 million at the box office.

From 2006 to 2009, Stiles worked on projects like A Little Trip to Heaven and The Cry of the Owl, but nothing was gaining her the praise she received in her earlier days.

"I think there was the commercial viability of romantic comedies and that's how people saw me," Stiles added in The Daily Beast interview. "And then there was what I was interested in, and I was trying to balance both. But I was also so young and had to learn how to stick up for myself and assert what I wanted."

She then switched her attention to TV, breathing life back into her career with the popular drama Dexter, in which she starred in 10 episodes from 2010.

She managed to score a Golden Globe and an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of rape victim Lumen Pierce.

Stiles as Lumen in Dexter season 5.
Stiles as Lumen in Dexter season 5.

Stiles didn't sign on for another movie until 2012, this time the Oscar-nominated comedy Silver Linings Playbook, alongside Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.

This seemed to cement her current status as a support star, in which she played the privileged older sister of Lawrence's character.

However, she was unable to translate that into more high-profile roles.

Stiles had an impressive 13 film credits from 2012 to 2016, but the only notable ones were Silver Linings and Jason Bourne. Three of them were released directly to DVD.

Speaking in a recent interview with Vogue, Stiles hinted she was the one turning her back on Hollywood as opposed to the other way around. 

"I am more thoughtful about that (movie roles) now. In my 20s I was a bit more cavalier and didn't think ahead about how a project might be received.

"Now I am drawn to roles not just because I am interested in what I would be doing but whether it's something that I would want to watch." 

Stiles found another break in TV again in 2017 with the drama Riviera, in which she plays the leading role.

It was Sky's most successful original series, with an audience of 2.3 million an episode and more than 20 million downloads.

The show, set in the French Riviera, is popular in Europe but hasn't managed to become well known elsewhere just yet.

Stiles has only recently finally made a big screen comeback in the blockbuster movie Hustlers, starring Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu and Cardi B, which is generating a ton of Oscars buzz.

It chronicles the true story of a group of strippers who drug their Wall Street clients and rob them of their credit cards.

Stiles plays a journalist named Jennifer.

"Hopefully, I can get the audience to understand why they did what they did. It's not a movie that denigrates these women. It's not a 'true crime' story. My character, as hopefully the eyes and ears of the audience, starts off very judgmental of them and then has a better understanding of why they did it," Stiles said of the movie.

"Instead of just having a bunch of Barbie dolls running around naked, it's exciting to see that there are all different kinds of women."