Julia Stiles on the Jason Bourne Series and Growing as an Actress: “There’s always room for improvement”

Actress Julia Stiles in 'Jason Bourne'

“I like a director that encourages me to be playful. I don’t really like being restricted or controlled by a director.” – Julia Stiles

Matt Damon isn’t the only actor who made his return to the Bourne series in Jason BourneJulia Stiles, who appeared with Damon in the first three Bourne movies, also returns to the series. Speaking with Interview, Stiles talks about how her approach to acting has changed over her years as a teen actress and her long association with the Bourne series.

In her early years as an actress, Stiles did two modernized adaptations of Shakespeare (10 Things I Hate About You and O) and Jason Bourne marks her fourth Bourne movie over fourteen years. However, Stiles doesn’t feel like she’s ever repeating herself in film since so much of the performance is out of her hands, unlike in theater. She explains, “With film, so much is in the director’s hands. Once something is cut together—unless you’re in the editing room—you don’t really remember what the alternatives are. The exercise in theater is night after night you are doing the same play, but you have another opportunity to explore. It changes nightly even because of the audience and your day going into the evening of the performance. With film it’s much more controlled.”

In fact, a 2014 production at New York’s Cherry Lane Theatre helped rejuvenate her interest in acting, as did her work behind the camera. She reveals, “I did a run of a play over the summer in a really tiny theater in New York and that was rejuvenating for me. I directed a short series for Hulu called Paloma and being in an editing room, I learned a lot about acting. It gave me a new bolt of energy in terms of my interest in filmmaking because it made me realize how collaborative filmmaking can be and also that you’re not just limited to one job. Actors can write and produce too. Then when I was working on Jason Bourne­—having had that experience—instead of going back to my trailer and being separate from everyone else, I would sit behind the monitor and watch Paul Greengrass work and be much more included in the process. That was new for me and really enriching.”

Having directed projects, Stiles is now more aware of the type of directors she prefers to work with as an actress. She says, “I like a director who is very observant and is watching what I’m doing and noticing what I’m doing, but is giving me time to figure it out. They don’t jump right in and give you a note before you’ve had time to really search on your own with how to do a scene. I like a director that encourages me to be playful. I don’t really like being restricted or controlled by a director.”

While she is certainly more aware of herself as a performer than she was when she was a teen actress, Stiles believes that she continues to grow as an actress. She says, “In my early career, I look at that time as a series of trial and error and learning as I go. Now I feel like I have a skill set, but every experience is different and there’s always room for improvement.”

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