Wednesday, February 15, 2012 / 7:23 am
Interview Talk – One For The Money Press Junket
"There's something about her that's really endearing. You just like her. You just really like her. She's a decent person with a big heart. She's fearless and courageous but perpetually puts herself in situations where she's in over her head," Katherine told journalists at the press conference for One For Money recently.
Describing Stephanie Plum, the character she portrays on the big screen and the star of a series of best-selling novels by author Janet Evanovich, Katherine continued, "She never takes herself very seriously and doesn't take other people too seriously either. She has this great perspective on life that happens to be really funny, witty and charming as well. I like everything about Stephanie. She's sort of that hapless heroine that you don't get a lot of. Normally you get the overly perfect heroines that you can never aspire to be like, but Stephanie's a sort of everyday girl."
Production Values: Following The Story
"I was approached about the project when I was doing The Ugly Truth with Lakeshore. They had wanted to turn the book into a movie and at that point I had not read the book. So I started reading them and then became obsessed with them. I got really excited about the idea of bringing it to the screen, " Katherine said, explaining her involvement and passion for the project.
"I knew that I was going to really do my absolute best to get as close as I could to her because I feel the same way that the fans of the books do, and I'm a fan of the books. It was nerve-racking and it is scary and hard to take a book that is so popular and that has so many fans, and go out on a limb and turn it into a film. And a lot of these fans have been waiting for a film for a long time, so you don't want to disappoint."
Katherine had a dual role in the film, in addition to playing the leading lady she also served as one of the executive producers, an opportunity she relished. "I really loved the producer role on this, because it was so important to me to keep the film really close to the book – because that's what I fell in love with and that's what millions of people have fallen in love with. It was great to be in the room and have an opinion, not that I was necessarily listened to all the time. But it was fun. And here we are. Yeah, we made it. We did it, guys. We did this."
The film is just one of several Heigl has co-produced with her mother and producing partner, Nancy Heigl, under their Abishag banner and it is a process she enjoys because it is a unique creative outlet. "It's a different challenge and it has a different set of obstacles that I just found really interesting and exciting, and I just love having more control," she said. "I love being able to have a voice when it comes to sort of the bigger creative decisions. And producing, too, is an opportunity for me to sort of actively seek and create art and roles and stories for myself instead of just waiting for them to come to me."
Katherine noted she's constantly looking for new projects to produce, "the business is changing and making fewer films now. Hollywood is an interesting place. If one thing is successful then you get a slew of scripts that sort of mimic that one project that did well," she continued. "So if you want to get outside the box at all or tell a different story you know, I tend to read a lot. I love to option books and go from there."
She's Got The Look
Known for her blonde locks in the majority of her major roles, Katherine realized immediately that to keep to her mantra of following Janet Evanovich's story as closely as possible, that she would need to change the color of her hair for the role. "Yeah, she's brunette. Her look is very specific in the book, and once you get attached to that idea in your head I couldn't imagine Stephanie any other way. It would have been really weird to play Stephanie blonde. It just wouldn't have worked. But the other side of that is that most people know me as a blonde so it was disconcerting, I think, for certain fans to see me as a brunette. And then it was disconcerting for the fans of the book to imagine me as Stephanie and blonde and blah, blah, blah. So I dyed it before we started filming, brown, trying to like get people on board. I ended up just wearing a wig, because I don't have curly hair and Stephanie does. Then I went back to blonde while promoting the movie, so I didn’t really think it through, but hopefully people will buy it!"
While Heigl wore a curly brunette wig, worked with a dialect coach on a New Jersey accent and learned how to shoot a real gun for the part, her baby daughter, who was on set during shoot in Pittsburgh back in the of summer 2010. "didn't get too freaked out by the wig or anything like that," explained Katherine. "I think she's sort of used to it by now. I've changed my hair colour and style, six times in her short little life," she added with a laugh.
Not Just A Chick Flick
Although she has featured in a number of successful romantic comedies in recent years, Katherine was keen to let viewers know they should expect One For Money to be much less of a 'chick flick', with a broader appeal to both men and women. "What's interesting about the books is that they all have a murder mystery tie-in with the bounty-hunting aspect. It's not all just about romance. It's not all just about comedy. The murder-mystery storyline in this movie is kind of dark and a little edgy and gives a vibe that is not purely chick flick-ish. I'm really excited about it because I think it does appeal to everyone. It isn't just a girls' movie, and I think we're working hard to advertise it so everyone knows that. It's a good time for everyone, men included.". Adding with a laugh, "Tough men. Tough men will love this movie."
What was Katherine's definition of a tough guy?
"I have no idea. Oh, that's right. Josh (Kelley) is here. I just insulted all three men in the room that I work with or live with." she quipped.
Referring to the advertisements the film, which see her dressed in jeans and boots holding a pair of handcuffs, Katherine continued "It could be any type of movie, couldn't it? I actually just got back into town Saturday night, and yesterday was the first day I really left my house, so I hadn't seen any of the posters or anything yet. It's always really thrilling. There's always this moment of adrenaline when you see your face and butt and name on a big poster when you drive down whatever boulevard. So I'm really thrilled. I'm really excited and very hopeful, fingers crossed, it works."
Singin' In The Rain
Working Debbie Reynolds was a particular highlight of One For Money for Katherine, and the screen legend was always happy to share stories from her incredible career. One tale in particular made Katherine very grateful for the comforts of modern moviemaking. "I was complaining one day about the hours, as I normally do, and Gary (Lucchesi), our producer, said, 'Oh, you ought to hear Debbie's story about her hours on Singin' in the Rain.' It was so horrifying what that woman went through to make that movie. She was so young at the time. It was her first big break, and she's working with an icon. And they were dancing and singing, and I think she said they were working something like 20 hours a day and she would just get a few hours of sleep on the sofa in her dressing room and then go back to work a few hours later. It was just so much that I couldn't really even believe it. I thought she was exaggerating, and it was sort of one of those "When I was your age I walked to school in bare feet and in 10 feet of snow." I thought, "This can't be true." Then she told me how she had to dance with bleeding feet at one point. Gene Kelly, he wanted to stop it. Like, 'I guess we should stop. Debbie's feet are bleeding all over the scene.' And she was like, 'No, no. I'm fine. I'll wrap them up. I'm fine. I can keep going.' So then I stopped complaining about my hours!"
Katherine was proud of getting both Reynolds (Grandma Mazur) and co-star Sherri Shepherd (Lula) on board with the picture. "We were lucky Debbie (Reynolds) was interested," she said. "And that's the same with Sherri (Shepherd), who ad libbed half of her lines." Allowing others to shine was fine with the producer and the star of the film. "I'd much rather be surrounded by stronger comedians than me, because it makes me look good," Heigl insisted. "The only hard part was not messing up the takes by laughing."
Taking on the role of a bounty hunter meant that Katherine got to shoot a gun - not something she was unfamiliar with from previous on screen action scenes, but for One For Money the producers decided that instead of just playing with props, the cast would benefit from getting to try out the real thing.
"I've been wielding guns in films since I was 15, but they're fake and there's no actual bullet in them. So they took us to a shooting range to practice because there are certain things that you're not supposed to do, like blink when you shoot. But it's impossible not to blink. It's really hard! It was really intimidating and nerve-wracking the first time they put a loaded gun in your hand. Plus, they'd just given you a 20-minute spiel about the dangers of this gun, so you're freaking out. I really enjoyed it because it was super satisfying and cathartic on some level. And then I turned around and Jason O'Mara was... What kind of gun was he shooting? It shot fire out of it or something. I wanted that one! It was a little intense, but it was fun. I had a good time. I started wanting to go to the gun range regularly. And then I started shooting clay pigeons with Josh. I really like to shoot things. I know, it's funny. Who knew!?"
Katherine also managed some gym time to get in running-and-jumping shape for the action role, "I just turned thirty-three last year, so I'm like, "I gotta make more of an effort." Every year I get older, it's more of an effort. Even just to keep my back from going out, I have to do more weight training, more cardio. I hate it. But when I'm in Utah, I actually love it because I can be outside and be active, whereas in LA, if I'm going to go for a job and get photographed, it's super embarrassing to me. So then it's treadmills in a basement somewhere, and I hate that. "
Best friend and longtime stunt double, Cheyenne Ellis, did most of the more complicated action scenes in the movie Katherine confesses. "I really count on her to protect me, and to tell me what I can do, and what I shouldn't do," says Heigl of Ellis, who also showed the actress how to perform a specific physical stunt for one particular sequence. "I had to clothesline a guy, and I would never have known how to do it, but she showed me."
Janet Evanovich's Words Of Support
Katherine was desperate to make sure she had captured the essence of Stephanie Plum in her performance and was grateful for the reassuring words of wisdom she received from Janet Evanovich. "I didn't speak to her until after the movie was made and after she saw it. I really wish I had gotten to talk to her on the phone beforehand, because I think she would have relieved a lot of pressure. She was so supportive and so cool about it, and just took the angle of, 'Look, you're always going to have a few people that don't think you're the right fit for the role. But I think you are, and I think it's great. So just be you and do your Stephanie, and people will embrace it.' That was such a relief to hear from the creator of the novels because I was trying so hard to fit myself into... It's hard to know what anyone else is thinking of the character. You only have your imagination to go off of. But I was trying to read people's minds and fit myself into it somehow. And ultimately, I just have to do my thing. That's the best I can do."
"We had met on Grey's Anatomy and really enjoyed working together, so certainly it influenced us working together on this because we were like, 'That was great fun. Let's do it again.'", Katherine said of director Julie Anne Robinson, who helmed several episodes of the hit medical drama from 2006 to 2009. Robinson was one of several Grey's alumni working on One For Money, with Jason O'Mara (Joe Morelli) and Debra Monk (Mrs. Plum) guesting on the show during Katherine's tenure and Daniel Sunjata (Ranger) having joined the ABC drama last year."It was crazy. So weird. I didn't even realize it when I first met Jason and we were talking about the part," Katherine said. "Julie Anne I knew, of course, because we had done a few episodes together and she said, 'Hey, remember when Jason was in "Grey's?"' And I was like, 'No. What role?'" Heigl recalled with a laugh.
"I was so embarrassed at myself for not remembering, but his storyline was with some of the other actors and I hadn't had any scenes with him. I don't know if I missed the episode or what. And then Daniel, of course, goes on Grey's as a regular as soon as the movie wrapped. It was so funny. I was like, 'How random!'"
Katherine who played Dr. Izzie Stevens for six seasons on Grey's Anatomy said she hasn't had a chance to talk with Sunjata about being on the show, but added: "I hope he had as great an experience as I did. I think he was great. I didn't get to see much of his role because I don't watch much anymore but he's such a great actor and such a great guy, I hope it was a positive experience."
With One For Money being the first of 18 books in the Stephanie Plum series adapted for film, the possibility of a sequel was something that journalists were eager to explore. Katherine was guarded but optimistic about future franchise opportunities. "It just really depends on whether or not this one does well enough to get the big finance guys to get onboard," she said with a laugh. "My goal is to do two or three movies from the series, but you never know, it could be like James Bond! They just keep getting better and better and more and more fun. I love when Lula and Stephanie team up and are detectives together. And it's very Cagney and Lacey, and it's super weird. And then the relationships keep bouncing, which would be so much fun."
The struggle of making ends meet is as familiar to Heigl as it is to her fictional character. "I had lots of ebbs and flows, certainly, before Grey's Anatomy. I struggled a lot before that and I was living from paycheck to paycheck too."
"I started modeling when I was nine, did some things for Sears. I modeled Cabbage Patch underwear. Good times. Kids at school really liked that," Katherine joked when asked about her worst work experiences.
Women In Communication"Yeah, I think it does," Katherine pondered when asked if it made a difference when women are more directly involved in the production. "I completely forgot, actually, that this was such a female-driven project. I didn't think of it like that for the same reason that Julie Anne was saying - it was really just the best people for the job. It wasn't necessarily a gender issue, but it does make a difference because women communicate differently than men do. And when you've got a room full of people making the decisions about a project, communicating sort of the same way that you do, it does make it a little bit easier. Because it's not necessarily like I have to have everybody communicate the way I communicate to get the job done. It just does make it a little bit easier because you feel like you're being understood in a different way."
Katherine couldn't pin down her favorite scene from the film but said "The best is when there's nothing I can do except laugh, where I can't try to stay in character or respond with something witty. I just start dying laughing. So then I ruin it because you can't use it,"
Home, Family & Animals
The press junket discussion was not all movie related - turning to general chat about family life, home and Katherine's passion for animals. Discussing her spay / neuter fundraising PSA and campaign I Hate Balls aimed at reducing the number of pets being killed in shelters, Katherine joked, "Next we're going for ovaries — it's only fair!" adding that she "didn't realize how many men would be offended. I thought they would know I was joking. I hope we get more of my celebrity friends to do these PSAs for me."
Asked if she and husband Josh Kelley had plans to add to their family, Katherine said that the couple were hoping to adopt again soon. "I hope we do. I'm trying to, yes. I'm hoping we have another child sooner than later — at least maybe in the next year," adding that daughter Naleigh loves babies and the whole idea of babies.
She also revealed that while the couple would also like to have a child biologically, "I'm on an adoption bent at this point. I'm afraid of pregnancy. That terrifies me. After being in Knocked Up and having to watch birthing videos, I'm terrified!"
Daughter Naleigh who turned 3 last November is "just too cute for words" and had been very affectionate with her mom earlier in the day ahead of her talk with reporters. "Naleigh seems to like me better when I'm prettier, so when my hair is done and my makeup is on. And she was so cuddly with me today, and I was like, 'That's funny. Usually she's so squirmy and wants to run around.' It was because I look pretty right now. Somebody else made me look pretty," Katherine said laughing.
The family divide their time between Los Angeles and rural Utah where Katherine has built an eco-friendly second home. "Our house in Utah is solar-powered and radiant floors and reclaimed wood. I did the whole thing. It's a little pricier, though. I'm just telling anybody else out there who doesn't realize that when they start."
One For Money is in theaters now.