Julia Stiles Reflects on Working with Heath Ledger: 'He Wasn't Trying to Compete with Me'

Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger had breakout performances in 1999's 10 Things I Hate About You

Julia Stiles still remembers how gracious Heath Ledger was as a costar on 10 Things I Hate About You.

Inspired by William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, the iconic 1999 rom-com starred Stiles opposite the late actor in the film, who also had a breakout performance. The duo starred together in the beloved movie as love interests, with Stiles' character unwillingly falling head-over-heels for Ledger.

Stiles, 40 reminisced about the movie on the most recent episode of the PEOPLE in the '90s podcast and recalled the time Ledger let her shine onscreen without trying to take away from her moment.

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"I remember Heath Ledger was so gracious about the whole thing. I appreciate this so much more now having worked more," Stiles said of the big scene where her character recites a poem.

"He wasn't trying to compete with me. He stood back and he was like, this is your scene," she recalls. "When they did his reaction shot, he didn't well up. He didn't go, 'Okay, now I have to do something with my side of the camera.' He was just like, 'That was beautiful and this is your scene.'"

10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, (aka TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU), Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, 1999
Julia Stiles with Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You. Buena Vista/Everett Collection

Stiles went on to remark how rare that was, even though Ledger also had big moments in the movie.

"You know, he had his amazing moments in the movie, too — the singing and dancing and running up and down those steps," she says. "But he was confident enough, even just starting out, to be like, 'I'm handing over the stage to you.' And I learned way later in life that that doesn't always happen."

Ledger died in 2008 of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. He was 28.

Check out more from Stiles' interview on PEOPLE in the '90s. New episodes drop Thursday mornings on iHeartMedia, Apple podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

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