Why Hollywood Won't Cast Julia Stiles Anymore

Julia Stiles was one of the most familiar faces of the late '90s and early '00s, thanks to starring roles in several romantic comedies and dramas such as Save the Last Dance (2001) and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). Indeed, it seemed like hardly a year would go by without seeing her somewhere on the big screen. But just as quickly as it began, her career seemed to vanish in the blink of an eye. Aside from a few small and sporadic appearances, she seems to have disappeared from Hollywood. Why isn't she being cast in major films anymore? Here are a few theories.

Her critics haven't pulled punches

Even though Stiles found success early on with 10 Things I Hate About You, several other movies in which she starred weren't well-received by critics. In fact, they were hated. 

After 10 Things I Hate About You, Stiles starred in the romantic drama Down to You (2000) alongside Freddie Prinze Jr. The most memorable moment in this movie involves Prinze Jr. drunkenly making friends with a spider. Entertainment Weekly gave the "abysmal" film an F, and the New York Post dubbed it a "brain-dead romantic comedy." 

Bad reviews for Stiles continued with 2003's A Guy ThingRolling Stone declared that Stiles and co-stars Selma Blair and Jason Lee "[crushed] their careers in this laugh-free romantic comedy." What followed was The Prince & Me, which The Washington Post described as "bland and immediately disposable." Even Mona Lisa Smile, which featured Julia Roberts fresh off an Oscar win, received middling reviews from critics.

Did she do too much Shakespeare?

After 10 Things I Hate About You became a cult classic, Stiles landed roles in two other movies inspired by Shakespeare plays. 

First up came 2000's Hamlet, which took Shakespeare's classic play and transported it to modern-day Manhattan. The following year brought O, another modern-day update that was delayed by two years after the 1998 shooting at Columbine High School. A year later, she played Viola in a production of Twelfth Night by way of New York City's famous Shakespeare in the Park series. 

The combined effect pigeon-holed Stiles, making her look less like a versatile actress and more like that girl from high school who just really, really, really loved theater. It didn't help that both of the aforementioned films received mixed reviews.

Box office blues

Most of the movies in which Stiles appeared after 10 Things I Hate About You either lost money or barely made it to the black. Down to You brought in just $20 million off a reported $35 million budget. A Guy Thing (2003) earned about $15.5 million off a reported $20 million budget.

Had she not been cast in The Bourne Identity (2002), Stiles' career might have completely fallen by the wayside. That movie, co-starring A-lister Matt Damon, grossed an impressive $121.7 million and led to three sequels, all of which included Stiles.

Did her career die along with her Bourne character?

For a long time, the only thing seemingly keeping Stiles' undercover career in theaters was the Bourne spy franchise. Stiles played the brilliant, butt-kicking agent Nicky Parsons, gal pal to Jason Bourne (Damon), but her character was killed in the opening moments of 2016's Jason Bourne blockbuster, putting the nail in the coffin of a 14-year run and adding another layer of obscurity to her already quiet profile. 

Stiles told Entertainment Weekly she was comfortable with her character's death. "I was just so excited about Nikki's turn in this one that to me, as long as her ending was dramatic and deliberate, I thought that was worth it and exciting." 

It will be even more worthwhile if Stiles can resurrect some action elsewhere in Tinseltown.

Her first run at TV floundered

Stiles' career showed signs of life again in 2010 when she landed an epic arc on the fifth season of Showtime's popular TV drama Dexter (2006-13). The role won her rave reviews and accolades, including a Golden Globe and an Emmy nomination.

Despite the newfound fandom, Stiles was not able to translate that into more high profile roles or, even better, her own television series. Instead, she was relegated to a handful of mediocre TV movies and guest spots on struggling cult favorites such as The Mindy Project. Had she struck while the TV iron was hot, her so-called "second phase" could have been much, much bigger.

Her passion project floundered

In 2007, Variety reported that Stiles would produce and star in a much-anticipated adaptation of Sylvia Plath's beloved novel The Bell Jar — the kind of project that typically generates early Oscar buzz. But by 2012, the film had fallen through, for reasons that are all too common in Hollywood.

"Unfortunately I let the rights expire, I had to give them up," Stiles told Gothamist. Though she'd had the rights for years and commissioned a script, she struggled to get the right people to back the project. "To me it's a no-brainer, but I think people who have to give money for movies, they didn't see that it would find an audience, or they thought it was too dark ... I tried, but maybe there will be some incarnation of it."

Indeed, there may be an incarnation of The Bell Jar — just not with Stiles in the lead. Page Six reported in October 2017 that The Bell Jar will now be crafted by Kirsten Dunst, in her directorial debut, and star her fiancé, Jesse Plemons, as well as Dakota Fanning.

She's not an 'influencer'

Though she has verified Instagram and Twitter accounts, Stiles doesn't cast a big presence on social media, and that pose a problem these days. In an Interview with Metro, Stiles turned her nose up at the concept of having an open digital diary. "The danger is that it gets in the way of being able to play pretend. Because you're advertising your own personality and your own real life, how can you trick people into thinking that you're somebody else," Stiles said, adding, "And it seems to have an influence over casting, now they're very interested in people who have lots of followers. And I feel like that's sort of contrary to actors who I think are really interesting."

Sure, perhaps that sounds a bit out of touch, and perhaps even a little elitist, but let's not forget that Stiles also had to weather an attack on her child-rearing skills from Instagram followers who fell all over themselves criticizing the way she held her baby in a carrier, so maybe she has a point.

Her 'yes woman' days are over

Speaking with Vogue, Stiles revealed the possibility that maybe she's the one turning her back on Hollywood, as opposed to the other way around. 

Asked about her current approach to the roles she chooses, she said, "I am more thoughtful about that now. In my twenties I was a bit more cavalier, and didn't think ahead about how a project might be received." That sounds bad, especially considering she was barely even able to watch clips of her old work when HuffPost reviewed her greatest hits.

But just like her approach to social media, this is more about a quality experience for her fans, not just appeasing her own actorly preferences. "Now I am drawn to roles not just because I am interested in what I would be doing," Stiles said, "But whether it's something that I would want to watch." Zing! Take that, Mona Lisa Smile!

A successful pivot

The great thing about Stiles is that, while many of her early movies weren't the type to make the Academy take notice, they still made audiences fall in love with her at a very early age, and there appears to be a lasting desire to see her succeed. That might be one reason her unexpected, albeit small role in David O. Russell's Oscar-winning Silver Linings Playbook was met with such a warm response in 2012; or why audiences were so happy to see her cameo in 2016's Jason Bourne

Her turn as anti-hero Georgina Clios in the South-of-France-set crime drama, Riviera, is where Stiles sole focus seems to be these days, especially considering the show was picked up for a second season in November 2017, despite lackluster reviews. Hey, even if her pivot to TV fails, she could probably just pivot right back to Tinseltown and cash in on the nostalgia wave that Hollywood is riding. Like, oh we don't know, Save the Last Dance 2? Or, wait. Since that apparently already exists, maybe a threequel?