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Julia Stiles gets candid about overcoming bullies, worries about being an actress in her late 30s & negative body image

Riviera is BACK and Julia is back in our lives – YAY!

14 May 2019

As the juicy Riviera premieres its second season, it not only marks the return of the show dripping in diamonds but it also marks the second chapter in the renaissance of Julia Stiles.

Watch Julia Stiles's candid interview for our new empowering franchise, GLAMOUR Unfiltered

Julia was – and still is - the queen of our teens having catapulted to fame in 10 Things I Hate About You. Save The Last Dance followed, which forged new ground in the rom-com genre with an interracial love story at its centre.

However, whilst Julia was breaking boundaries on screen behind the camera, toxic masculinity was rife and, as the Me-Too movement has shown in recent years, Hollywood was ravaged by its effects. Here, for the first time, Julia opens up about the bullying she faced on set, how the culture of Hollywood made her ‘afraid’ of becoming an actress in her late thirties and now, as the mother of one-year-old son, Stummer Newcomb Cook, her concerns for raising a white boy in 2019.

It turns out Julia is every bit as empowering as Riviera, which is not only leading the way by having female protagonists at its centre, but also depicts how far the representation of women on TV has come…

Ten years ago, I would have been afraid of becoming an actress in her late 30s…

Now, almost because of these conversations, I can breathe a sigh of relief and I feel like the opportunities for me and my peers are better and better as we get older. Most of my roles were the roles that came my way and with my peers as well, you were either the girlfriend and then eventually you’d shift over to the mum. The two were not interchangeable. The role that I wanted so desperately was Cat in 10 Things I Hate About You and it was because I’d never seen such a feisty teenage girl on screen before. The opportunity to play this woman was new and exciting but it was few and far between and I didn’t think that could continue.

I was screamed at on set and burst into tears…

I’ve worked with bullies. Without naming names, I was screamed at on a set and burst into tears. Without naming names, it was my first day of work and the producers essentially came to me and said, ‘this is how it goes!’ So, that message to me was you have to take this kind of behaviour. If everybody around you is accepting it then you have to as well. Now that would never fly.

How I have dealt with toxic masculinity…

It really depends on the situation and the context. I would love to say that in that situation I should have shouted back at him or said 'you can’t talk to me like that' but it wasn’t the right situation to do that in and I feel like ultimately I won because I was still in the movie but you have to have standards and you have to judge where someone will cross the line and what you’re willing to put up with.

I wonder, what does it mean to raise a white boy in 2019?

My husband said the most beautiful thing when we were at the playground and some other parent looked at my son and he was playing with a fire engine and she said, ‘what are you going to be when you grow up? Are you going to be a fireman?’ And my husband said, ‘I just want you to be kind.’ It was so cute and so honourable.

The gender pay gap is finally being taken seriously…

I was on the phone to my lawyer just recently about what I was going to be paid for a little movie I did. They pointed out to me that I was going to be making less than the lead actor and it was my choice to accept that or not. I won’t go into detail because it’s boring and champagne problems but it’s a conversation. It’s now taken really seriously.

I don’t think you should be quoted in print before you turn 25/28 – I was so driven by people trying to like me…

I look back on a lot of my career and I really want to do over on many things where I now look back and go, I would love to have that experience again or I would have handled this differently or even just in terms of my performance, I would have known what to do better but I learnt from it all so I can’t really look at it as a failure. I want to do over every role until probably yesterday. I don’t think you should be quoted in print before you turn 25/28 years-old. You pick a number - it depends on the person. I shouldn’t have been quoted in print. I was just figuring out what all of this is, the entertainment industry meant. I was largely driven by wanting people to like me and approve of me because you’re so used to it, as an actor, auditioning and wanting people to hire you and that means liking you. So, I would say things I didn’t really believe or think to be true, what people were encouraging me to say, what would get a laugh on a talk show and often times that backfired. In fact, the further away I was from my own truth, the more that would backfire.

This talk show appearance backfired on me, on an immediate level…

I went on late night talk show; I think it was Conan O’Brien or David Letterman. I was in college at the time and I was talking about college life and they asked me if I ate in the cafeteria like a normal kid. I rambled on because I was insecure and I think I used the term, ‘mole people.’ But my thought was there was an Adam Sandler song at the time where there was a character on a sketch comedy show where he was playing the lunch lady and she had a hairnet and a mole. It backfired on a very immediate level. The people I was in school with were furious with me. Someone wrote in the school newspaper, ‘she’s an elitist! How dare she insult the cafeteria workers,’ which was so not my intention and not who I am as a person. To know the people who were working hard in the school, cleaning up the garbage, feeding us meals thought I was insulting them was so devastating to me because it was absolutely not my intention. So, I wrote something in the newspaper. I issued a handwritten apology to the cafeteria workers, but I learnt a valuable lesson aside from 'think before you speak'. That kind of thing is so exaggerated now because of social media. You do have to be careful about how what you say is perceived and the impact it will have.

I would tell my younger self to stop hating on your body…

Someone asked me what I would tell my younger self and my answer was 'please stop hating on your body'. I used to put on clothes for a red carpet and be so uncomfortable and because I was trying to look good, it took away from enjoying the whole experience. Now I’m very conscious of making sure I feel confident in how I step out into the world.

My ultimate lesson has been…

An important life lesson for me is that you cannot control another person's behaviour whether they bully you, whether they put you down, whether they lift you up. All you can do is control how you internalise it, your response to it and how you react to it.

Riviera returns to Sky Atlantic and NOW TV on 23rd May