Julia Stiles, 25 Years After “10 Things I Hate About You”

Julia Stiles, 25 Years After “10 Things I Hate About You”

Larisa Oleynik, who played Kat’s kid sister, Bianca, recalls rewatching “10 Things” recently. “The thing I love so much — and I’m going to get emotional — is, she’s so earnest,” Oleynik said. “She’s so genuine. And to me, that is the most beautiful thing about Julia’s portrayal of that character. It is coming from a deeply heartfelt, vulnerable, sensitive, insanely intelligent place,” she said, while adding: “I don’t think anyone else would have been able to be that real.”

Stiles started acting as a 12-year-old in New York’s La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, but had a hard time finding her place in film. “I was a 17-year-old girl, auditioning for romantic comedies and commercials and TV shows and always being told, ‘You’re too serious,’” she said. “You know, ‘Smile. You’re too angsty.’” That changed when she read the “10 Things” script. “It was the first time that I had read a character in a teenage romantic comedy that spoke to me,” she said.

As Oleynik remembers it, Stiles was that girl, “a cool, downtown New Yorker” who, though only a few months Oleynik’s senior, “seemed so much more mature.” Before the “10 Things” table read, Oleynik had gone to Fred Segal to buy her real-life junior prom dress, an indigo slip that wasn’t all that dissimilar to the prom dress Kat wears in the movie. “I really, really wanted her approval,” Oleynik said. “I remember thinking, if Julia approves, I can go.”

IN 2002, ACCORDING TO THE self-appointed cultural anthropologists at Newsweek magazine, there were exactly three types of teenage girls in America. You could be an Alpha: a blonde who loved cheerleading, worshiped Gwyneth and Vogue, and managed to be “both bitchy and nice.” You could be a Beta, which was basically an aspiring Alpha; Betas reportedly took diet pills as after-school snacks, spent after-prom at a motel, and were, tragically, brunette. Or you could be a part of a rising cohort of Gamma Girls: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”-watching, flare-jeans-wearing freethinkers who were “obsessed with Shakespeare,” dated the “class smartass,” and subscribed to Jane magazine. The poster child for the Gamma Girl: Julia Stiles.

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