Julia Stiles on what made Heath Ledger great in ‘10 Things I Hate About You’

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 20: Julia Stiles attends the “The God Committee

Julia Stiles, at the premiere of The God Committee at the 2021 Tribeca Festival, talks about her early stardom after teen flicks including 10 Things I Hate About You. (Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Tribeca Festival)

Julia Stiles is reflecting on a grounding experience — attending college — during her early days of stardom.

The star of TV’s Riviera and films from Hustlers to the Bourne film series talked on the People in the ’90s podcast about finding early success in the film industry — including 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You and 2001’s Save the Last Dance — and then, amid that fame, enrolling in college. She also spoke about her 10 Things costar, the late Heath Ledger, being a generous scene partner.

“College, in many ways, insulated me from that huge change in anyone’s life,” Stiles, 40, said of her young stardom.

Stiles said some of her co-eds at NYC’s Columbia University, which she attended from 2001 to 2005, “would go, ‘Oh, you’re in that movie, right?'” After all, despite being an English Literature major, she continued making films including 2002’s The Bourne Identity, 2003’s Mona Lisa Smile and 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy. However, “My peers were all studying to become doctors, so that’s humbling,” and it “put things in perspective.”

Stiles added, “Very quickly I was able to focus on school.”

And while her star power was mostly ignored at the Ivy League school — sometimes it was impossible not to notice.

“And then, yeah, there were some really funny, weird moments, like a limo for the MTV Movie Awards pulling up in front of my dormitory with my name on it,” Stiles said with a laugh. “Where it’s like, you’re like, ‘Oh God!’ So, no big deal.”

Julia Stiles and guest during 2001 MTV Video Music Awards - Show at Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

Julia Stiles at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. (Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

She also infamously endured a few backlashes, making a comment about the cafeteria workers on a late night talk show.

Stiles also talked on the ’90s podcast about working with Ledger in 10 Things, the popular film which was a takeoff on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew retold in a late-’90s high school setting. They were love interests and rising stars who both saw their careers boom after the success of the film.

Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles at swing in a scene from the film '10 Things I Hate About You', 1999. (Photo by Buena Vista/Getty Images)

Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles in a scene from the film 10 Things I Hate About You. (Photo: Buena Vista/Getty Images)

“I remember Heath Ledger was so gracious about the whole thing,” referring to a scene where her character recited a poem. “He wasn’t trying to compete with me. He stood back and he was like, this is your scene.”

She said when they filmed his reaction shot, “He didn’t go, ‘OK, now I have to do something with my side of the camera,'” to garner attention. “He was just like, ‘That was beautiful and this is your scene.'”

She continued, “He had his amazing moments in the movie, too — the singing and dancing and running up and down those steps. But he was confident enough, even just starting out, to be like, ‘I’m handing over the stage to you.’ And I learned way later in life that that doesn’t always happen.”

Ledger died in 2008 — less than a decade after that film came out — at just 28, after accidentally overdosing on sleeping pills. Ledger won an Oscar posthumously for his performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

Stiles’s role in 10 Things last made headlines in May when director Gil Junger claimed in an interview that the actress — now married to Preston J. Cook and the mom of a 3-year-old son — dated another co-star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, during the making of the film romance.

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