Julia Stiles reveals the hardest lesson she’s ever had to learn

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Colin Crummy
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Julia Stiles

Five Minute Philosopher is a weekly series in which Stylist gets profound with people we love. What will the 10 Things I Hate About You actor Julia Stiles make of our existential questions?

What is the meaning of life?

It’s the name of a Monty Python movie. I’m very proud of that answer, by the way.

What is the difference between right and wrong?

Intention. I guess that sounds right. Often outcomes are unpredictable so it’s more about, was someone trying to do the right thing or were they being destructive?

Where is your happy place?

With my husband and son, sleeping in on a Sunday morning. 

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Nature or nurture?

Nurture. I can see that, especially spending more time with children now. People do come into this world with personalities but positive and negative traits can be enhanced or redirected. Ultimately, people are mostly afraid and they can be comforted and made to flourish or that fear can be exacerbated and turned into anxious, neurotic, destructive behaviour.

Is it more important to be liked or respected?

Respected. Being liked and being likeable is such an ephemeral thing. Respect has more gravitas.

If you could be remembered for one thing what would it be?

Listening well. It’s an important quality to have. Everybody wants to be heard and it’s a very generous and kind thing to acknowledge the other person.

Who or what is your greatest love?

My son and husband.

When did you last lie?

Just now when I was ordering coffee and talking to you on the phone, I said sorry to the woman I was ordering the coffee from because I think it’s rude to be on your phone when talking to someone in a public space. But I wasn’t really sorry because if I was really sorry I wouldn’t have done it. 

Does the supernatural exist?

The word supernatural is pretty loaded but I’m a spiritual person so yes, I think there are things beyond what we can see.

Are you fatalistic?

I don’t think so. It would be hard to walk through life if you think you can’t make changes.

What is your greatest fear?

Loss of loved ones, pain and suffering. Ugh, so heavy! 

Animals or babies? 


What talent do you yearn for?

To be able to play an instrument really well. I dabble in the ukulele, which is the easiest instrument on the planet, but I would love to be able to play the piano.

Do you like to be complimented?

Yes, if it’s genuine. How do I know if it’s genuine? If there isn’t another agenda or request following.

Julia with co-star Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You

Do you have a high pain threshold?

It depends on the situation but, after having a baby, I have more confidence in my threshold for pain.

What book do you recommend most to others?

Native Son by Richard Wright. It’s so well-crafted in that the main character commits murder but it’s somewhat accidental and every step of the way you are with this protagonist. It’s also a very good study of race relations in America at a certain time but also seems timeless.

Which lesson has been the hardest to learn?

Surrendering control over your time and outcomes. It’s probably a daily work in progress.

What food sums up happiness?

Anything my husband cooks and anything fresh and nourishing. There’s also nostalgic food like New York City pizza.

Richard Wright’s timeless Native Son is Julia’s most recommended

What have you never understood?

Brunch. I don’t understand why people go to brunch. It’s just not my thing. I’m generally not hungry first thing in the morning. If I’m hungover, the last thing I want is a bellini. It’s not part of my rhythm. I look forward to sitting down to a good meal, but if you do that early in the day what else do you have to look forward to?

What is the one thing you want to know before you die?

I would like to know if things are predetermined.

Are you scared of dying or what happens when you die?

I’m more scared of people that I love dying.

Quinoa or Quavers?

I don’t know what Quavers are. Quinoa. 

Images: Rex Features, Amazon