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Julia Stiles Wanted to Be Just Like Kat Stratford, Too

Julia Stiles starts lunch with a disclaimer: “I’m kind of like a bundle of emotions, because I have a 5-month-old baby and I went into directing my first movie.”

Maybe you didn’t know Stiles had gotten into directing. Her feature, “Wish You Were Here,” doesn’t yet have a release date and has only been lightly covered. You definitely didn’t know about the baby, because Stiles declined to do the standard-issue celebrity-birth promotion (post an announcement on Instagram to get aggregated by People magazine). She’s been in the business for nearly three decades. It’s not that she doesn’t know the norms. But participating in the norms just because they’re the norms has never been her thing.

“I didn’t really talk about it,” she said of her latest pregnancy, though she was excited to talk about it now, about how being a parent (her older sons are 6 and 2) nourishes her work. “I think that actually being a mom is really great training for being a director,” she said. “You have to think 10 steps ahead but also be in the present moment. You have to be good at time management. You have to be sensitive to people’s needs and guide them, but also hold a boundary.”

Over a two-hour lunch at Jack’s Wife Freda in the West Village — a likely place to spot a celebrity, though unlikely for said celebrity to have gone to school just a few blocks away at P.S. 3, as Stiles did — she was exhausted but animated, especially when the conversation turned to directing. “I am running on fumes in terms of sleep,” she said. “But I feel more energized than I ever have.”

Stiles on the set of “Wish You Were Here,” her directorial debut.Credit…Jayme Kaye Gershen

On the second day of shooting, she said, her supervisor told her to stop apologizing. “I wasn’t saying ‘sorry,’” Stiles said. “But she meant, ‘Just stop qualifying your opinions and your ideas. You don’t have to explain them. You’re the director.’ And she was totally right. I took it to heart and I put on my big girl pants and leaned into being a director as opposed to a people-pleasing actress.”

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