Julia Stiles compares watching the teen hit to watching a "home video from high school"

By Christina Dugan
July 05, 2019 10:00 AM

20 years later, Julia Stiles finds it challenging to watch her 1999 teen hit with Heath Ledger, 10 Things I Hate About You.

“If you had your prom video or a home video from high school, I don’t know that I’d watch it,” the 38-year-old actress tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I usually just look away. I’m glad that people enjoyed it and I’m glad that they’re still talking about it. I don’t take that for granted, but I look away pretty quickly.”

Inspired by William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, the iconic rom-com was briefly adapted into a TV show in 2009. Stiles starred opposite the late Heath Ledger in the film, who also had a breakout performance.

“The success of it was an affirmation of some of my instincts,” she adds. “I was just so eager to get that part because it was unique at the time. I hadn’t read a character that was so feisty, outspoken and opinionated so when other people responded to that it was an affirmation that I was on the right track.”

Corey Nickols/Contour/Getty

Now, Stiles is starring in Sundance Now’s drama series Riviera and the upcoming film Hustlers, with Jennifer Lopez. The drama will follow revenge-seeking strippers who band together with a group of fellow exotic dancers to scam their male Wall Street clients out of thousands of dollars. Cardi B and Constance Wu costar alongside Stiles and Lopez.

Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You
Buena Vista/Everett Collection

“Jennifer Lopez is so riveting in this movie,” she says. “The audience is going to be floored when they watch it. I would do scenes with her and it took every ounce of me to not have my jaw to the floor.”

But her best role yet? Being a mom to 20-month-old son, Strummer — whom she shares with husband Preston J. Cook.

Julia Stiles and Strummer
Julia Stiles/Instagram

“Becoming a mother has only enhanced my work, I think. Specifically, in terms of acting, my attention is outward more instead of focused inward. I believe that makes you a better actor.”

The second season of Riviera is now streaming on Sundance Now.