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10 Questions for Julia Stiles

Published in Gourmet Live 10.17.12
The Dexter and Bourne Ultimatum actress talks about her favorite food film, her eating habits on and off the set, and how she's come to agree with Michael Pollan

By Carolina Santos-Neves
10 Questions for Julia Stiles

If you know movies, then you know Julia Stiles. If you're a big Dexter fan, then you know that last year Stiles received Emmy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild nominations for her role as Lumen Pierce. If you're into theater, you'll also know she has starred in Shakespeare (Twelfth Night, New York, 2002) and Mamet (Oleanna, London, 2004, and New York, 2009). And last summer, she played a single mom struggling to pay for private school with a steamy second job in the WIGS Web series Blue. What you may not know, though, is that Stiles is big into food. Read on to discover what you'd find in her fridge, what she'd choose to eat for the rest of her life, and what role food plays in her new movie coming out next month, Silver Linings Playbook.

Gourmet Live: What's your earliest food memory as a child in New York?

Julia Stiles: In elementary school, I used to love to go to this pizza place after school called New Pizza on the Block, in Soho. My friend Michelle and I would get off the school bus and go straight there. We'd order pizza with crumbled sausage on it, and you could watch the guy make it.

GL: Have you always been interested in food?

JS: I started paying attention to what I was eating and where it came from as a teenager. But I didn't really start cooking until after college, [with] an ex-boyfriend, who was so passionate about food.

GL: In your new movie Silver Linings Playbook, does food come into the story in any way?

JS: In the movie, I try to play matchmaker to Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, and I do this by organizing a big dinner party, which at the end of the day ends up being a big disaster. My character is also obsessed with food, kitchen gadgets, and dinner parties.

GL: Are there food scenes or food films that have resonated with you over the years?

JS: Big Night is the best food movie ever made. It's such a celebration of food, and the Italian tradition of celebrating people. Plus, everything looked delicious!

GL: How does your work affect what you eat? For example, do you change your diet when preparing for a role? And has your professional relationship with food changed over time?

JS: I like to stay balanced in life, so I don't have to do some radical diet. I love my job, and I obviously want to feel good when I am working, but I also want to feel energized and agile all the time. As a New Yorker, I live in the land of plenty, and yet every day I see people who could use a good meal. I try to remember how lucky I am to afford a trip to the farmers' market.

I started acting pretty young and, like any woman, have had my issues with food, but I've also been fortunate to travel all over the world as a result of my career. I've been able to eat in amazing places, and I'm not just talking fancy ones. When I was younger, I thought about food as an indulgence I needed to restrict, or didn't have time for. Now I make time. What a luxury!

GL: What's it like when you're filming a scene that involves eating or drinking? For example, if it takes a few tries to get a good take, do you end up having to eat or drink whatever it is over and over?

JS: You definitely have to plan ahead! I used to be self-conscious about that, but I just shot this TV movie called The Makeover and had to do a scene where I was stressed, so I decided it would be great to be stress-eating. I skipped lunch so I'd be hungry in case we had to do a million takes.

GL: Name five items we would find in your fridge right now.

JS: Greek yogurt, GT's Kombucha, organic strawberries, organic free-range eggs, fair-trade coffee. That's it. I guess I'm a bit "bougie." I also haven't had time to shop!

GL: If you could eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?

JS: That's impossible—I'd get bored! OK, the kale salad at Locali in Los Angeles, but with avocado…and pine nuts. That'll keep you alive long enough to get bored.

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