Guest of Honor

Actress Julia Stiles on eating lipstick instead of brunch…and other ‘disaster’s

arrives at the 63rd Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards held at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland on January 29, 2011 in Hollywood, California.

Actress Julia Stiles became a star with the 1999 teen flick Ten Things I Hate About You, which made Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew a hit with the MTV set. Since then, she has appeared in films like Save the Last Dance, The Bourne Identity, and Silver Linings Playbook.

Her newest film, It’s a Disaster, opens this weekend. The dark comedy about a couples brunch set during the apocalypse is already earning impressive reviews. Julia spoke with Brendan about anti-brunch clubs, instant stardom, and eating lipstick.


Julia Stiles: I hate brunch, and I particularly hate the idea of couples’ brunch. My character says that at one point, and that was just because that’s how I feel.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Brunch takes up most of your day. If you have one mimosa or Bloody Mary then you’re checked out all afternoon.

Julia Stiles: Exactly.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That eats up the heart of a beautiful day.

Julia Stiles: I also particularly hate the idea of going to a restaurant for lunch. It’s just like, wait in line and then get rushed out of there. It’s just more stressful than it’s worth.

Brendan Francis Newnam: You wait in line.

Julia Stiles: And you do feel like you waste the day, thank you.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I’m glad we’re aligned on that.

Julia Stiles: Yeah, we should start a club.

Brendan Francis Newnam: We should have anti-brunch. We could have a breakfast club. Well, that was already taken.

Julia Stiles: Oh. Anti-brunch- what would anti-brunch people do?

Brendan Francis Newnam: I think-

Julia Stiles: Walk? Go for walks?

Brendan Francis Newnam: I think anti-brunch people would have breakfast and then they would help homeless people. Do something positive.

Julia Stiles: Yeah. Here here.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So, in this movie you play a doctor.

Julia Stiles: Yeah, she’s a first responder but she’s irresponsible. She abdicates her responsibilities, deciding not to go out and help people like she should.

Brendan Francis Newnam: She’s also searching for an ideal mate, so the other part of this character is that she keeps dating crazy people, right?

Julia Stiles: Yeah, I’m the perpetual singleton in the group. Everybody else is either married or engaged, and I’m the one who keeps bringing a revolving door of different guys to each brunch.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Is it harder to prep about what it’s like to be a first responder or what it’s like to date crazy people?

Julia Stiles: Danger. The first responder thing, it actually came out of- I said to Todd Berger the director, like I don’t really believe that I could be a doctor, so we decided to make her a bad doctor.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And so the crazy people part-

Julia Stiles: She’s very different from me in that all of her girlfriends make fun of her because she is too picky. Wait, what does that say about me?

Brendan Francis Newnam: So wait, you’re not picky at all?

Julia Stiles: No.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Another movie you were in recently was “Silver Linings Playbook.” In it you play the overbearing sister of Jennifer Lawrence’s character, and I wonder if as an actor you have any qualms about taking on a prickly character like that.

Julia Stiles: I had no qualms about taking the part because I was thrilled to be part of that movie and thrilled to work with David O. Russell and the rest of that cast, and I loved the story, but it did take me a second to get used to playing the sort of comic relief. It was a little humiliating at first to be like, oh God, I’m such an annoying person, and the joke is how gross this girl is.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So humiliating- how so?

Julia Stiles: It just took me a second to stop judging her, or it took me a second to like embrace the fact that everyone was going to be laughing at me, not with me.

Brendan Francis Newnam: You do a lot of theater. Would that have been easier maybe with a live audience?

Julia Stiles: Yeah, definitely, cause you have no idea. It’s sort of like, if you were like standing at a mountaintop and trying to yodel or something and the echo never comes back.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah.

Julia Stiles: Definitely, cause the crew is not allowed to make any noise, so you have no idea if you’re being funny or not.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So for a certain generation of 20-30 somethings, there was a time when you were a teen idol. Right? Fair to say? Movies like “10 Things I Hate About You,” “Save The Last Dance.” When you look back on that, what do you make of the teen fame experience?

Julia Stiles: Honestly, really, I don’t mean to sound earnest but I’m like really grateful. It afforded me a lot of opportunities in term of my career and also even just like to pay for college. Particularly like “10 Things I Hate About You” to be in a move that 13 years later people remember and still enjoy watching is really remarkable.

I’m proud of that. I think socially and probably just for my life it was a little bit strange. My life like radically changed. It’s funny though, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen “Exit Through The Gift Shop,” that movie about Banksy.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, the movie about the street artist Banksy.

Julia Stiles: There’s a part at the end where Shepard Fairey talks about how like instant fame is not really a good thing for an artist. You need the period of time where you’re trying things and failing before people start to pay attention to you work. So part of me thinks like I don’t know what would have happened if I had-

Brendan Francis Newnam: Floundered a little bit early on.

Julia Stiles: Yeah, exactly. I feel like I did a little bit of trial and error publicly, and so there are a lot of roles that I look back on that I want a do-over on, or even just amazing life events like hosting Saturday Night Live or being on the cover or Rolling Stone. Like that stuff I kind of want do-overs on, but you know.

Brendan Francis Newnam: What? You did fine.

Julia Stiles: Thanks, but I’m here now, you know.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah.

Julia Stiles: I’m just in a different phase of life.

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, well we’ve reached a different phase in this interview. This is the part of the show where we ask our two standard questions. And the first question is, what question are you tired of being asked?

Julia Stiles: Oh, what is your guilty pleasure? It’s like, why would you want to tell somebody your guilty pleasure if you really feel guilty about it?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yes. Yeah.

Julia Stiles: And I always feel like the expected answer is something really dumb.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Like something-

Julia Stiles: Like what reality TV show do you watch?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah.

Julia Stiles: And then I feel like a snob if I’m like I don’t really watch reality TV.

Brendan Francis Newnam: You don’t?

Julia Stiles: No I-

Brendan Francis Newnam: Excuse me. Excuse me Ms. Stiles.

Julia Stiles: I dabble in my occasional dumb- don’t get me wrong, I love a good dumb show.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Okay, so our second question is, tell us something we don’t know about you or the world at large. It could be an obscure fact or just an interesting personal fact you haven’t shared in interviews before.

Julia Stiles: Interesting fact- in a woman’s lifespan, when she dies, she will have consumed on average 10 pounds of lipstick.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh my gosh.

Julia Stiles: Just from the little bits of licking your lips throughout your life.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh my gosh.

Julia Stiles: 10 pounds of lipstick.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Do you use less makeup just knowing that?

Julia Stiles: Yeah, because-

Brendan Francis Newnam: You don’t seem super makeuped here.

Julia Stiles: Umm, thank you?

Brendan Francis Newnam: I don’t know.

Julia Stiles: Thank you question mark?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Your lips look lip-colored.

Julia Stiles: I try to give my face a break because you know, to have to wear foundation and all that on a movie set, you know, I try to give my skin a break.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And then you do a lot of stage acting. There’s a lot of makeup involved in that.

Julia Stiles: All day long.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So you could be like, we’re talking 15-20 pounds of lipstick consumption.

Julia Stiles: Oh, so gross.