Julia Stiles: Antihero Of The 'Riviera' Julia Stiles tells us about playing a female antihero in the new Sundance Now series Riviera, then plays a game inspired by her role in the Bourne films and her love for the singer Morrissey.
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Julia Stiles: Antihero Of The 'Riviera'

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Julia Stiles: Antihero Of The 'Riviera'

Julia Stiles: Antihero Of The 'Riviera'

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JONATHAN COULTON: This is ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and trivia. I'm Jonathan Coulton here with puzzle guru Art Chung. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.

(CHEERING)

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Thank you, Jonathan. Our special guest has starred in "10 Things I Hate About You" and the Jason Bourne movies. She can be currently seen in the new scripted series "Riviera" streaming on Sundance now. Please welcome Julia Stiles.

(CHEERING)

JULIA STILES: Hello, hello.

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: This is so exciting for me.

EISENBERG: Julia, you've starred in a bunch of Shakespearean adaptations. "10 Things I Hate About You" was an update of "Taming Of The Shrew." You played Ophelia opposite Ethan Hawke in "Hamlet," and you were Desdemona in "O," which is, of course, short for "Othello." So is there any particular Shakespeare play you would love to take on?

STILES: Sure. I feel like I want a do-over on a lot of the Shakespeare that I've...

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: ...Already done because, like, I also did Shakespeare in the Park many years ago. I did "Twelfth Night." And I feel like those plays are the thing that you never really get right, you know. That's why we keep remaking them. But, yes, like, a classic verse, you know, traditional version - the Scottish play would be really great.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

STILES: I'm trying to think of what I'm at the right age for now because I'm not quite - I'm, like, too old to do Ophelia over again. So - but I'm too young to be, like, Gertrude. So...

EISENBERG: Julia, you're talking all these Hollywood terms. Come on. You can do anything you want.

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: Yeah, Lady M would be really fun.

EISENBERG: OK, very cool. Now, you starred with Matt Damon in four Jason Bourne movies. You know - and what a good gig, I got to say, for you because "Bourne Identity" - what? - how old were you? Nineteen?

STILES: I was 19, yeah. And I...

EISENBERG: OK.

STILES: ...Was supposed - my character was supposed to die in the first one. And then they reshot it, so I got to survive. And then there were three other movies. So that was a surprise...

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: ...And a really welcome one.

EISENBERG: OK, wait a second. So you get the job, and you're like, this is great. It's a big blockbuster thriller. But I die in the film, so that's that.

STILES: Well, no, I - nobody knew that it was going to be a big success, the first one...

EISENBERG: Sure.

STILES: ...Because it was the first time that - Doug Liman had pulled the project together. And he really had the vision to make it - to use those hand-held cameras and kind of make it look more like a guerilla indie movie, which was a risk for a studio at that time and then kind of became the trend. But also, Matt Damon was really well-respected as an actor and a writer, but he wasn't your go-to guy for action...

EISENBERG: Action.

STILES: ...Movies. And Franka Potente, who was, like, a German, indie...

EISENBERG: Great casting.

STILES: ...Actress. Yeah, it was great, but it was risky. So we didn't know what was going to happen with the franchise.

EISENBERG: So you get the role of Nicky, and the script says that you get killed.

STILES: I got thrown up against a wall, and my neck was snapped.

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: And...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

STILES: And...

EISENBERG: So that's...

STILES: ...I'm glad they changed it.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: So your new show is a crime series called "Riviera." You play Georgina, a woman whose life of leisure is kind of torn apart when her rich husband is murdered. And the producers likened your character to Michael Corleone in "The Godfather"...

STILES: Yeah.

EISENBERG: ...Which is pretty cool.

STILES: Yeah. A bit of pressure, but, yes, very cool. And I was - that was one of the selling points for me.

EISENBERG: Because you thought this is a new role for you to play?

STILES: Yeah. And I just thought - when I read the first couple episodes, I thought, well, she could either be, like, the naive American with all these Europeans who's kind of - has all this tragedy thrown at her. But when they started talking about this Michael Corleone antihero idea, it got interesting because I thought, oh, she's going to rise to the circumstances and become maybe more manipulative or do some questionable things because she has to. And she does.

Neil Jordan, who created it, told me that the inspiration for the show was, behind every great fortune is a great crime. And I thought that was a really interesting premise that I would want to see for 10 or more episodes, not just, you know, a half an hour.

EISENBERG: The one-off.

STILES: Yeah.

EISENBERG: And you said a female antihero - that's sort of something you actually don't see very often...

STILES: Yeah.

EISENBERG: ...Reflected back to you. You see plenty of men, male antiheroes. It's like...

STILES: Totally, yeah.

EISENBERG: ...One of our favorite things, actually.

STILES: Yeah. But we still had discussions on set, you know, about things that she would do. And there were concerns that - is she going to be unlikable? Is she going to be sympathetic? And then we didn't care.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Yeah.

STILES: I mean, as long as you don't lose the audience - as long as you don't turn them off so much that they're not with the main character...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

STILES: ...Because she is kind of the window into this world of crazy wealth - but we like to see people behaving badly, I think.

EISENBERG: So you know, you had the opportunity to meet a bunch of your musical heroes, including one of mine, Prince.

STILES: Yes.

EISENBERG: So you and Matt Damon, as I understand, scored tickets to go see him in London...

STILES: Yes.

EISENBERG: ...And then had a meet and greet with him...

STILES: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: ...Backstage.

STILES: Yes. He was - I was - I - really gives me chills thinking that I was really lucky that that happened, you know, before he passed away. But it was - I think "The Bourne Ultimatum" - the - he came to the screening of it. And then - so we were at the party after - this is going to sound so crazy when I tell the story.

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: He - but I know that it's crazy. So I'm not, like...

EISENBERG: Right.

STILES: ...Totally out of touch.

EISENBERG: It's Prince.

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: So we were at the party afterwards, and somebody summoned me over to a different room and said, Prince wants to meet you. And I was like, the prince of what? And...

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: And it was, like, the artist Prince. So he gave the cast tickets to the show that he was doing at the O2 Arena that week. I remember that apparently during his show on that tour, he would always at a certain song call for the ladies to come up on stage - the ones who were, like, in the front row, which we were.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

STILES: So front row, Prince concert - then we get up on stage and we're dancing with Prince, which is amazing enough. And then he kind of - he starts playing the opening bar to "Play That Funky Music White Boy," which - just the music - you kind of recognize the song, but you don't know it exactly. But you know that you want to dance to it. But he comes up behind me and kind of nudges me and whispers in my ear, sing. And he, like, pushes me in front of the microphone. Yeah, I'm getting, like, flustered just talking about it right now.

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: So I do. And it's, like, 50,000 people in this arena, blinding white lights, and I'm like, no, no, no. I can't. I can't. I can't. And he goes, too late.

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: And I'm also thinking, like, oh my God. This is my rockstar fantasy.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

STILES: I get to sing in front of 50,000 people. Wait. I don't know how to sing.

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: And I also don't know the lyrics to the song.

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: You got to - you know, this is your chance. So I just went for it. And I looked down into the pit, and I saw the bass player just kind of shaking his head...

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: ...And not shaking his head, like, to the beat but shaking his head like, oh, girl.

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: And then I just remember, like, staying up all night with my sister going, was it OK? Oh, my god. Was it OK?

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: I want to do it again - another do-over, another do-over that I would like to have.

EISENBERG: Did Prince say anything to you afterwards?

STILES: Yes, I - so there was, like, afterwards, people just sort of hanging out. And I was like, I can't believe you made me do that. You could of told me what song it was. Thank God it wasn't one of his songs. And he was like, but it's not fun that way.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: You're like, for you.

STILES: Cheeky bugger.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

STILES: Yeah, exactly. So now I know all the lyrics to "Play That Funky Music White Boy."

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: All right. Are you ready for an ASK ME ANOTHER challenge, Julia?

STILES: I am. I'm very excited about.

EISENBERG: All right - Julia Stiles, everybody.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: But another tidbit we found out about you, Julie, is that you are a big fan of the musician Morrissey...

STILES: Yes.

EISENBERG: ...Who once led the band The Smiths. So tell me about this obsession.

STILES: Oh, I also met Morrissey...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

STILES: ...But not in a good way.

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: I was in London doing a play that I had to promote. So I went on their version of David Letterman, which is the "Jonathan Ross Show" at the time. And Morrissey happened to also be performing on "The Jonathan Ross Show" or, like, the next night. And I told them that I was a huge fan. And they said, well, you can come in, and we'll sneak you into the rehearsal. Morrissey does not allow anyone to listen to his soundchecks, but we'll get you in. We'll sneak you in. So I come the next day. They sneak me through the back door. And then I turned a corner, and Morrissey was right there. And I went, oh, my God.

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: And about two minutes later, security came and asked me to leave.

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: OK. So we didn't really meet, but I saw him.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Right, right. So since you appear in the Bourne action movie franchise and you love Morrissey, your game is called The Bourne Morrissey.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: We are going to read you a quote. You just have to tell us, is it a quote from elite, brainwashed assassin Jason Bourne, or is it a lyric sung by animal rights activist Morrissey?

STILES: Wow, amazing.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: And if you do well enough, you and Chris Gomez from Redding, Calif., will win an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube each.

STILES: Oh, OK.

EISENBERG: OK. So here we go. Here's your first quote. I'm just trying to do the right thing.

STILES: Oh.

EISENBERG: Jason Bourne or Morrissey?

STILES: I'm trying to do - I'm going to practice it and see if I remember.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

STILES: I'm just trying to do the right thing.

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: Or is it like - what does he sing like? Like, (singing) I'm just trying to do the right thing.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Very good.

EISENBERG: It was excellent.

STILES: I feel like he was never really trying to - I'm going to say Bourne.

EISENBERG: Yeah. That was Jason Bourne, yeah...

(APPLAUSE)

STILES: OK, OK.

EISENBERG: ...From "Bourne Identity."

COULTON: Here's another one. I'd like to smash every tooth in your head.

STILES: Morrissey.

COULTON: Yeah (laughter) - no hesitation, yes.

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

STILES: No hesitation - I think I know what that song is, yeah.

EISENBERG: It's - that's The Smiths. That's "Big Mouth Strikes Again."

STILES: Yes, yes.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

STILES: It's a good one.

EISENBERG: Yeah. He was only joking.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: I would hate anything to happen to her.

STILES: I would hate anything - does not sound like Morrissey. I'm going to say Bourne.

EISENBERG: Interesting.

STILES: Uh-oh.

EISENBERG: Are you familiar with "Girlfriend In A Coma?"

STILES: Oh. (Singing) girlfriend in a coma, I know - yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: It's really serious.

EISENBERG: I know it is weird that he would hate anything to happened to her. And it's a little too late; she's in a coma. But...

STILES: Yeah.

EISENBERG: ...That was a Morrissey.

STILES: OK.

EISENBERG: How about this one? I can read. I can write. I can add, subtract. I can make coffee.

(LAUGHTER)

STILES: (Singing) I can read. I can write. I can subtract. That's not Morrissey - Jason Bourne.

EISENBERG: Yeah. That's Jason Bourne.

STILES: OK.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Yeah. All that matters is staying alive. You get off the grid, survive.

STILES: Jason Bourne.

EISENBERG: No - yeah. That's Jason Bourne.

STILES: That was an easy one.

(APPLAUSE)

STILES: That's, like, the premise of the whole franchise.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: And also was delivered to your character - right, yeah.

STILES: Yes, yes.

COULTON: OK. This is your last clue. Save your life because you've only got one.

STILES: That doesn't sound like something Jason Bourne would say. Save your life because you've only got one - Morrissey.

COULTON: That's correct. It is Morrissey.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: That is a Smiths song. It's "The Night Has Opened My Eyes."

STILES: Oh, OK, OK.

EISENBERG: Puzzle guru Art Chung, how did our special guest Julia Stiles do?

ART CHUNG: Congratulations, Julia. You and listener Chris Gomez have both won ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cubes.

(APPLAUSE)

STILES: Yay.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: You can now watch the scripted series "Riviera" on the streaming service Sundance Now. Let's hear it one more time for Julia Stiles.

(APPLAUSE)

STILES: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: Want our next special guest to play for you? Follow ASK ME ANOTHER on Facebook and Twitter.

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