Julia Stiles may have done her fair share of comedies in mainstream Hollywood, but now she gets to step into the shoes of the legendary Lee Remick, playing the young mother of a devilish child, who happens to be well, the son of Satan himself. It was a very serious and pragmatic Ms Stiles who talked about the new Omen, to Paul Fischer.
Question: So, let me start by just asking what was it that made you want to step into, I guess, Lee Remick’ s shoes?
Stiles: When John came to me and offered me the role I watched the original again – just to refresh my memory – and I remember seeing the scene where Lee Remick says to Gregory Peck that she needs to see a psychiatrist and there is so much said yet so little is said. It was just a chilling scene because you can see how tormented she is underneath the surface and is unable to communicate that to her husband. I thought, oh, that’s really intriguing, I want to explore that more. And that’s probably what made me want to do the film.
Question: I mean do you remember seeing the original?
Stiles: Oh, yeah, it is a scary movie. I think it’s scary because it goes beyond the sort of shock value or violence. It actually sticks with you after the movie is over because there’s a psychological through-line in the story. I mean it works even aside from all the accidents that happen or the violence that occurs in the film. I remembered images from the original film because they’re like what happens in common dreams. I mean it’s the same sort of symbolism that I guess recurs a lot among many different people.
Question: When you shoot a film that is particularly scary and you have to elicit fear and you have to do this time and time again, what goes through your mind as an actor? What do you do to try and keep each take as fresh as the preceding one, and remember that the purpose of the exercise is for you to scare the bejeebers out of the audience?
Stiles: You know, I always felt that I was the kind of actor that could put the role away when I go home, and for whatever reason on this film I couldn’t. I really had horrible nightmares while we were shooting – could barely sleep and I was terrified. I don’t know what it was, I thought maybe we were tempting the fates. Maybe my mind was playing tricks on me. But ultimately I thought that was a good indication that the story was powerful.
Question: The characters are younger than they were in the original film, so how different is your interpretation of the roles against the way Remick played her?
Stiles: Well we couldn’t ignore that I’m playing a young mother in this so we had to figure out a way to incorporate that into the story, and it actually works well in the sense that my character is so riddled with guilt over her feelings towards her son – I mean the hardest thing for a mother to come to terms with would be to be afraid of her son or think that there’s something wrong with him , because she’s so young the first thing that she thinks is that she’s a bad mother, and I think anybody who is more mature, more experienced would be able to assert herself. And because my character can’t do that she suppresses all of her emotions, and that’s ultimately what makes her go crazy.
Question: How does making a movie like this effect your relationship with the young actor who plays your son?
Stiles: Well I would see Seamus and Liev horsing around on set or playing games and I wanted to jump in and participate but I had to kind of refrain from doing that because there’s supposed to be a distance between Katherine and her son and a discomfort and so I wanted Seamus to not feel that comfortable when I picked him on screen and things like that. So I would keep a distance and then I’d ultimately go and apologise and reassure him that I was actually a nice person that we were just acting.”
Question: Now what strikes me about you is that you like to alternate between quirky Indie films and mainstream Hollywood fare. Is that what keeps you going as an actor?
Stiles: I don’t have a preference either way of the size of the film or the size of the budget, but obviously when you’re making a movie you want people to see it. So in that sense, making a studio film at least you have a guaranteed release. But my main goal is to be a chameleon as an actor and play various different kinds of roles so people don’t get used to seeing you in one particular type.
Question: What happened with your tertiary education, are you done?
Stiles: I’m done. I graduated in May.
Stiles: Thank you.
Question: It seems to me that every time I speak to you it’s another year progression at college.
Stiles: I know. I’ve been through so many press junkets where I’ve been talking about being in school and now I have graduated. I feel relieved.
Question: What did you ultimately major in?
Stiles: English Literature.
Question: And are you going to use that at all?
Stiles: Probably only when playing Scrabble or doing a crossword puzzle. [Laughter]
Stiles: Surprisingly I’ve become increasingly less articulate since I graduated.
Question: It’s all these press junkets.
Stiles: That’s true. I speak in sound bites.
Question: So what else is going on with you professionally? I mean what are your plans?
Stiles: The next thing I’m going to do is The Bourne Ultimatum, which is the sequel to the Bourne Supremacy – it’s the third in that sort of trilogy. Paul Greengrass is going to direct it and Matt Damon and Joan Allen will be in it again…
Question: I understand that finally you get a chance to sink your teeth into this character.
Stiles: Yeah, I think I’ll have something substantial and interesting to do. I’m not exactly sure what it is yet because that kind of movie goes through so many rewrites before you actually get started shooting that I’m waiting for another draft of the script.
Question: But you’re happy with the way that the series is progressing in terms of your character?
Stiles: I am, yeah. I’m really looking forward to working with Paul Greengrass again.