Julia Stiles Talks The Omen
The actress plays her most adult role yet in the new horror film
Julia Stiles plays her most adult role yet in The Omen. She's been in quite a few films, but this is the first one to break her out of the youth-oriented characters. No one will forget Lee Remmick's fantastic performance in the original, but Julia holds her own against some acting heavyweights. She co-stars with Liev Shreiber, Mia Farrow, and the English all-stars, Michael Gambon, Pete Postlewaite, and David Thewlis. Julia will next begin filming The Bourne Ultimatum. The third installment of the "Bourne" series will land in theaters next year.
What attracted you to this film?
Julia Stiles: I really enjoy watching horror films, but I never thought I wanted to be in one because usually actors are just reacting a lot, they're not getting to do much. But I think the most powerful horror films are really psychologically driven. It's not so much the violence. I think the Omen is a good example of that. There really is a story you can sink your teeth into beyond the violence and the gore.
This is your most adult role to date. Was it a conscious decision to play a mother, an older character?
Julia Stiles: I think it's a natural progression. I'm twenty-five, so it doesn't really make sense for me to play somebody in high school or college any more. I thought there was a lot of rich material there that I wanted to explore. It was easy for me to see the struggle that this woman goes through. I think one of the hardest things for a mother to admit, or even come to terms with, is having at all mixed feelings about her own son. And it's not so much that she fears him and maybe hates him eventually, but what does it take to get her there? Those kinds of emotions are really interesting to me.
How did you practice being a mother?
Julia Stiles: Part of it was my imagination; I could imagine what it would be like for a mother to have to come to terms with having those mixed feelings. But I think my inexperience as a mother actually helped with the role, because I think a more mature, experienced mother would not only identify what was going wrong sooner, but she would not doubt herself so much, or not question her maternal instincts right away. I think that she would be able to assert herself with her husband, or ask for help sooner.
Had you seen the original movie?
Julia Stiles: I saw it when I was younger on VHS. I met with John Moore [the director] and I was thinking about doing it. I watched the original just to sort of refresh my memory. It totally captured my attention, the scene where the first nanny hangs herself, it was jarring to me. I think I had gotten up to answer the phone or something and I saw that and I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. I've never seen the scene where Lee Remmick says to Gregory Peck "You need to see a psychiatrist". It was so harrowing and chilling because almost nothing is said. You could feel that she is just tormented. I want to explore that more, that was what was really the turning point for me.
Were you at all worried about doing a remake? What else convinced you to do this?
Julia Stiles: It was a lot of things. I wanted to work with Liev [Schreiber] and Mia [Farrow], and I like John's work a lot. But definitely the story, I felt now more than ever it was right for being retold. It's a testament to the original that it's an enduring story for thirty years, but I think that it is even more relevant to modern audiences because we are living in chaotic times. There's a lot of tragedy going on all around us. I think in times like that people look for answers. The film deals with that, but in a very personalized, individual story. So, I think without being exploitive, it asks the question what is evil, how can you identify evil, can you predict the future, can you control what negative things are going to go on in your life?
What was it like working with Seamus Fitzpatrick [Damien] on his first film? Did he understand what was going on?
Julia Stiles: It was tricky. Obviously his parents were reminding him that it's a work of fiction. We all had to kind of get him into whatever mood was appropriate for the scene. He and Liev would be horsing around all the time and playing games so that they could bond. Because my character is supposed to be very distant from him, and he's supposed to be uncomfortable around me, I had to kind of refrain from participating. Then after the scene was done, I would reassure him that I actually am a nice person and that I actually wasn't angry at him or whatever.
How old was he?
Julia Stiles: He's just seven.
A question about the religious aspect of the film, do you see it as fiction, or is there a possibility that there could be a devil incarnate someday?
Julia Stiles: I think giving somebody the term "devil incarnate" or labeling somebody as evil is sort of a cop out. It's a way for people to not take responsibility for their actions. I think the film touches on that. What's funny to me about The Omen is that Damien actually doesn't do anything. It's all the people around him. Everybody identifies him as the Anti-Christ because of this prophecy.
Being a New Yorker, were you worried by the 9/11 reference?
Julia Stiles: I remember when I read it in the script, I was careful to question John Warren and find out how exactly he was going to handle that. I don't think it's inappropriate the way it's used because ever since that day, religious rhetoric is used a lot in public discourse. That was an intense tragedy. People are clinging to faith and looking for answers and explanations as to why that happened. And in this film, we sort of play out what would happen when people look to this sort of prophecy as an answer about the state of the world.
What's it like working with Liev Schreiber and Mia Farrow, who calls Liev 'the Olivier of our time'?
Julia Stiles: It was such a delight to work with both of them again. I think that Liev is entirely different from Olivier. It's hard to make a comparison like that, but I just think that he's so talented. What I learned from him is that he makes the most, he puts so much preparation and thought behind everything that he does, he questions every single line that he has to say and understands it and plays around with every possible way that he could say it. Yet when he gets on set, he is completely at ease, he makes it look easy. I feel like he makes everyone around him act better.
Can you talk at all about The Bourne Ultimatum?
Julia Stiles: I'm going to be in it. Paul Greengrass is going to direct. Matt Damon and Joan Allen are going to be back too. It's going through so many incarnations of scripts. I think I was lucky to not die in the last one. I just don't know if I'm going to be good or bad.
The Omen creeps into theaters on June 6th and is rated 'R' for disturbing violent content, graphic images and some language.