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Actress Julia Stiles is best known for her roles in films like Save the Last Dance, 10 Things I Hate About You and The Bourne Ultimatum.
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Born in New York City in 1981, Julia Stiles had a love of theater from an early age, particularly the works of Shakespeare. She began acting at age 11, and by 18, had her first lead part in 10 Things I Hate About You, starring opposite Heath Ledger. Based on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things was a hit, and became a teen classic. Stiles went on to star in Hamlet,
Save the Last Dance and The Bourne Ultimatum, as well as 10 episodes of Showtime's Dexter and numerous theater productions. She also wrote and directed Revolving, a short starring Zooey Deschanel.
Julia O'Hara Stiles was born on March 28, 1981 in New York City. She is the oldest of three children born to Judith Stiles, an artist who owned a ceramics shop in Greenwich Village, and John Stiles, a second-grade teacher who also helped sell Judith's artwork. Julia Stiles grew up in a loft apartment in New York City's SoHo neighborhood that served as both the family home and her mother's art studio. When Stiles was growing up, SoHo was still largely an abandoned industrial wasteland. Stiles recalls sidewalks strewn with drug paraphernalia and disembodied doll limbs from a nearby toy factory. "They had broken eyeballs and missing limbs," Stiles remembers. "My mom was like, 'Don't touch them! They're dirty!'"
Stiles was an intelligent and outspoken child. She describes her parents as liberal 1960s radicals, and from almost the time she could talk, she joined in their political arguments at the dinner table. She began working at her mother's ceramics shop at age 6, working behind the register and chatting with the customers. Stiles also developed a love of theater at a very young age. Her parents frequently took her to the theater, and Stiles became so infatuated with Shakespeare's plays that she kept a bust of the bard in her bedroom. She took modern dance lessons, and taught herself how to act by watching the TV series The Honeymooners and acting out different parts along with the show.
As a child, Stiles also loved to write, and whenever she wanted something from her parents, she stated her case in handwritten letters. At the age of 11, she wrote a letter to New York City mayor Ed Koch suggesting he place more trash bins along the streets. Another letter landed Stiles her first role in the theater. At 11, she wrote to the director of New York's La MaMa Theatre Company, and within months she was acting in its avant-garde productions.
After a few years of acting exclusively in the theater, Stiles made her film debut with a non-speaking role in the 1996 film I Love You, I Love You Not, starring alongside Jude Law and Claire Danes. She then landed her breakthrough film role by again penning a letter, this time to director Michael Steinberg, who agreed to cast her in his 1998 dark comedy Wicked. Although Wicked was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival, it never aired in theaters. But Stiles's role in the film placed her on the radar of casting agents and film critics.
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