With a number of high-profile projects, a variety of magazine covers, and a spot on Teen People's 21 Hottest Stars Under 21 list in 1999 under her belt, actress Julia Stiles has come a remarkably long way in a very short time.
Born March 28, 1981, in New York City, Stiles was interested in performing from a very young age. When she was eleven years old, she wrote a letter to a Manhattan theater director asking to be cast in a production and was soon acting on-stage in avant-garde plays at both the La Mama and Kitchen Theaters. In 1996, Stiles made her film debut with a small part in I Love You, I Love You Not and the following year had her television debut in the Oprah Winfrey Presents: Before Women Had Wings, in which she played an abused child. The same year, she made a brief appearance as Harrison Ford's daughter in The Devil's Own and followed with roles in two 1998 films, Wide Awake and the Sundance entry Wicked.
The year 1999 proved to be Stiles' breakthrough year, as she played a prominent part in the television miniseries The '60s and the lead role in 10 Things I Hate About You, the latest film to mine gold and produce endorsements out of William Shakespeare. The film was a hit, and Stiles was soon being heralded as one of the hottest, young actors of her generation. With her name attached to a number of future projects, it seemed that Stiles would indeed have success in living up to this label.
Sure enough, Stiles was almost immediately cast in two modernized-for-MTV-generation Shakespeare flicks, namely director Michael Almereyda's Hamlet (2000) with Ethan Hawke and O, a teen-oriented adaptation of Othello starring Josh Hartnett and Mekhi Phifer. As classic literature once again fell in place behind predictable romantic comedies, Stiles could be found playing the romantic lead in Down to You with teen movie veteran Freddie Prinze Jr., and alongside Sean Patrick Thomas in Save the Last Dance, which featured Stiles in the role of a grieving ballet dancer who attends an inner-city school and eventually finds love within a primarily black high school. Though the film was not a critical success, Save the Last Dance (2001) and 10 Things I Hate About You nonetheless helped construct Stiles a respectable fan base, and the young actress -- now with a Saturday Night Live credit under her belt -- would continue to build her resumé throughout the early 2000s.
In the film adaptation of novelist Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity, Stiles had the chance to participate in a film starring Hollywood golden boy Matt Damon and returned to the role in 2004's The Bourne Supremacy. Stiles was praised for holding her own against Stockard Channing in The Business of Strangers (2001), which was shown at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and fared decently in A Guy Thing, a romantic comedy-of-errors co-starring Jason Lee and Stiles' fellow Down to You alumna Selma Blair. In 2003, Stiles would play opposite the Oscar-winning Julia Roberts in Mona Lisa Smile, which finds Stiles playing a conservative '50s college student whose beliefs undergo some serious scrutiny after coming in contact with an uncharacteristically progressive teacher (Roberts).
The year 2004 promised more teen-styled roles; Stiles played the eccentric title character in Carolina under the direction of Dutch filmmaker Marleen Gorris and worked with director Martha Coolidge and 28 Days Later's Luke Mably in The Prince & Me. A key role in opposite William H. Macy in director Stuard Gordon's critically lauded but little seen David Mamet adaptation Edmond served well to remind audiences of Stiles acting abilities, and the following year the wholesome-looking beauty would serve as mother to the ultimate evil in the high profile horror remake The Omen. Jumping genres to action with The Bourne Ultimatum the following year, Stiles quickly ventured back into dark territory when she joined the cast of the popular Showtime series Dexter in late 2010. Cast as vengeful rape victim Lumen Ann Pierce, the versatile young actress proved an unlikely partner for the murderous protagonist, and earned an Emmy nomination for her role in the process. In 2012, Stiles had a small role in the award-winning Silver Linings Playbook.