27 Dresses

Katherine Heigl Interview

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The delightful new film 27 DRESSES stars talented comic actress Katherine Heigl as the captivating Jane: a vivacious New Yorker, who thoroughly enjoys being bridesmaid - again and again and again. So much so, she has worn 27 bridesmaid dresses and is very accomplished at the job of supporting the bride and helping to make sure the weddings of friends and family go without a hitch. Some would say she is obsessed with the romance of weddings. But the question is: will Jane ever find her own Mr. Right and walk down the aisle herself?

She is secretly madly in love with her gorgeous boss George (Ed Burns) who owns an ecological outdoor company. A vegetarian animal lover with a good heart, he is politically correct, successful, athletic, kind and dynamic: what more could any woman want?

The problem is, George, blissfully unaware that he is the object of his assistant's affections, falls hook line and sinker for her duplicitous sister Tess (Malin Akerman) who may be very pretty but is also calculating and quite hypocritical. The plot develops when Jane meets Kevin, a cynical journalist who spots a good story: 'Jane, the compulsive bridesmaid with a closet full of dreadful dresses - who never gets married.' Although Kevin (James Marsden) is funny and attractive, he is very definitely not Jane's idea of a boyfriend, yet they seem to have some kind of chemistry.

Inevitably, in the very best traditions of romantic comedies, love evolves in unexpected ways and the plot unravels with fascinating comic twists and turns. 27 DRESSES is set to be a light-hearted and delightful entertainment.

Born in Washington D.C., Heigl, 28, grew up with her family in Connecticut and acted as a child. At 15 she appeared in UNDER SEIGE 2, then BRIDE OF CHUCKY and at 21 she starred in the TV show, ROSWELL. She recently won rave reviews in Judd Apatow's comedy KNOCKED UP. She also stars on the critically acclaimed drama GREY'S ANATOMY as Dr. Isobel 'Izzie' Stevens, the role earned her a Golden Globe nomination in 2007. Heigl's other film credits include THE RINGER, VALENTINE, KING OF THE HILL, STAND-INS and THAT NIGHT. Her first leading role was MY FATHER THE HERO. The actress is engaged to musician Josh Kelley.

"She is talented and hilarious," says director Anne Fletcher, explaining why the actress was cast in the leading role. "Katie is great; I think she found out very early on in life that this was her soul's work and she is a bona fide actress. She plays a real character with real problems in 27 DRESSES. She's got such a brilliant understanding of physical comedy and character development and what is naturally funny and she has the ability to hone in on that and also find a balance with real characterization. She encompasses it all. I don't know what Katie wants for her future, but she truly has the ability to be the next Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts. She could do anything she wants, she has it all and is not confined to one genre."

In the centre of picturesque Providence, Rhode Island, we are on location in Mills Tavern, a steakhouse where George - Jane's boss is about to propose to Tess, Malin Akerman's character. Jane, looking lovely in a skirt and feminine flowery top, has no idea that the man of her dreams is in love with her sister and inadvertently walks in to the restaurant (delivering a forgotten wallet to her boss) just in time to witness the whole embarrassing moment. She freezes on the spot and of course this provides the perfect comic opportunities, with each character feeling awkward and deeply embarrassed. There is George professing his undying love to Tess. A big plaque screams out: MARRY ME, a guitarist in the background is playing soft romantic music and the tables are decorated with candles and roses.

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"Jane arrives at this beautiful restaurant," says Heigl, "realizes what is going on and is standing there going: 'I don't know how to get out of this or where to go'. She's heartbroken. She's horrified. She's suddenly in the middle of this very important moment for both Tess and George and she is trying to get out of the room and not have to be standing there but can't leave," laughs the beautiful blonde actress, who sits down to discuss the role and her exciting career - during a break from filming.

Q: What appealed to you about Jane?

A: "What I like about Jane is that she is the sort of woman whom everybody identifies with, in the sense that she's always taking care of everybody and putting their lives before her own. But at the same time, she still has a lot of edgy, witty humor and can see the fun in all kinds of situations. The banter that goes on between her and Kevin (Jimmy Marsden) reinforces the idea that this woman has a lot of intelligence even though she's a bit of a 'yes-ma'am' kind of girl. She is still really clever and funny and interesting. She is very quick-witted which is interesting because you don't expect it from her at first."

Q: Can you talk about the story and what happens to her?

A: "To the audience, she will come across as a girl who's not going out there and grabbing the life that she wants or even getting close to approaching it. She has been madly in love with this man from afar for years and has also been catering to her family since her mother died and there is a real innocence to Jane. She allows people to take advantage of her, but she willingly puts herself in that position. You would think that she would be a doormat or more of a wallflower, but she's actually not. She's, funny and strong and likeable in her own right."

Q: So how do you portray her?

A: "She is full of contradictions, so interesting to portray. We flashback to a wedding scene in the beginning, in which she's a young girl and suddenly her true calling comes to light; she's very good at being a bridesmaid. And she's always been rewarded with praise and love and attention because of the fact that she's great at taking care of things and taking care of people. I think Jane really does take pride in her job as bridesmaid. She clearly loves doing it. She's just taking it too far. And in a way she is replacing her own memories or memories she might make for herself with other people's memories and filling her life with their desires and needs and all the excitement that they're going through. There are people who do that. She's sort of peripheral and a secondary character in her own life."

Q: How real is she to you?

A: "There are so many people like Jane, who put themselves in a position in which people can override them and expect them to take care of everything. At first it looks as though Jane is a victim. But she's actually not a victim at all. She's inadvertently orchestrated this whole thing. She is responsible for the way that people are treating her, and to quote the great guru, Dr. Phil, you teach people how to treat you. So Jane has spent her whole life teaching people how to treat her. I don't think anybody in her life is malicious or has a mean or dishonest intent towards her; it is just she's managed to be there whenever anybody needs anything. The beginning of the movie starts with Jane finding her boss's dry cleaning slip on her desk, which sets the tone, because she is expected to do everything."

Q: What was it like working with Ed Burns who plays George?

A: "I am a huge admirer and he's been amazing to work with. He's just got a very down-to-earth, laidback personality. And he's one of the easiest people to be around, as far as actors go. I think we all get used to the more neurotic, self-conscious, cerebral actors and he's not like that at all. He's just Ed. He is funny and charming and wonderful, and my fiancé loves him too, so he has become a new close friend. We go out and hang out together and we're all here in Rhode Island together. I am having a really good time."

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Q: What about working with James Marsden who plays Kevin?

A: "Jimmy's got the kind of sense of humor I love. He's just really quick-witted, smart, and really, really funny. And it's just a joy to be around him, you are literally laughing every five seconds and he's perfect for this part, because there is a lot of Jimmy in the character I think. Kevin really understands Jane. He sees through everything and likes her for who she is, which is really lovely. Jane comes across as very sweet and charming because that is how other people have always seen her. But because of the dynamic with Kevin from the start, she can be free with him to be herself, authentically. When they meet, Kevin is aggressive and contentious and mocks the very things she loves - marriage and weddings; he is a cynic. Usually she is trying to please everyone but she does not do that with him because she does not need to please him."

Q: Have you been to a lot of weddings?

A: "I really haven't. I've only been to one wedding, so I don't have much experience with any of this. I'm getting married soon though and I've been looking at a lot of wedding pictures for photographers and reading bridal magazines. I cry at all the pictures. I have been scrolling through pictures on the Internet and I find wedding pictures so touching. I become really emotional about it. And I think that's probably just because I'm getting married myself and I'm sort of imagining myself in those pictures."

Q: So are you a romantic yourself like Jane?

A: "I am but I think Kevin's cynical approach to weddings and romance is quite common these days. People say 'What's the point? When there is so much divorce, what's important about the actual marriage license?' I think marriage is great because of the idea of committing to somebody in front of all the people you love most in the world and celebrating the love you have for one another. I like the idea of tradition and the party and the idea that two people are willing to take that chance on one another. So, I think it's a fairly emotional thing."

Q: What is it like working with Malin Akerman as your sister?

A: "Malin is a dream. There's always a little bit of hesitation when you're walking onto a set with another female actress, because this is an industry that breeds a lot of competition and a lot of sort of resentment and jealousy and all of those things. But it was fantastic with Malin. She was immediately delightful and charming and mellow and you could sense that she wasn't putting on an act. She is just who she is - accepting and loving towards everyone and she's got a great sense of humor. As far as playing sisters: my first reaction was that we don't look alike. I didn't know how the audience would accept us as sisters. But during the first week, we went out for dinner and four or five people at the restaurant asked whether we were sisters. So I think it is going to be fine. We have started using the same mannerisms and talking in a similar way, it is almost like having a real younger sister. And I'm actually the youngest in my family, so I've never had a younger sister. Tess and Jane do not have an ideal sibling relationship, but there is true love and compassion between these two women. I love that aspect of this movie too, they are not really competitive. They're not too hard on each other. Even though Jane is maybe too sappy and allows Tess to take advantage of her, they love each other deep down. I love Malin. She's delicious."

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Q: Can you discuss your specific on screen relationship with Tess and how it evolved?

A: "I think that when she looks at Tess, Jane sees that little girl whose mother died when she was just a kid. She makes excuses and allowances for her sister, who doesn't have realistic view on how the world works and thinks everything should revolve around her. Jane has a lot of patience and compassion and that's why Tess is the way she is. I mean, the reality is that Jane is culpable for her own situation. She lacks courage to stand up for herself. I don't think Tess is mean-spirited, she just doesn't know any better."

Q: Is it fun working with Anne Fletcher, the director?

A: "It is wonderful - she dances all the time. She's amazing. She makes it look really easy. Anne's got a background in choreography and she just moves around all the time, which is such fun and so unusual. I once tried to mimic her but it didn't work because I'm not a dancer. She's so phenomenal and has an unbelievable sense of humor. She's super funny. She keeps everybody feeling really relaxed and, and in high spirits, which is great for this kind of comedy. There isn't a lot of tension. And she has endless reserves of energy, which I don't understand because I feel like she must be pretty exhausted, she's working harder than anyone here, but she just manages to be really positive. That's a tough job to do."

Q: You are doing a lot of comedy at the moment - KNOCKED UP was hilarious and now 27 DRESSES. Is this your forte?

A: "I enjoy comedy but I think I am funnier in this film than in KNOCKED UP actually. I was more of the straight guy in that film. This is a real opportunity for me to unleash a new side of myself and my comedy, that I haven't really done much of before. I have a tendency to get a little 'shticky' and to go a bit too far, because I love it and it's really fun for me to ham it up and really hit the comedic moments hard. I have to watch it a little bit and rein myself in and pull back into a realm of realistic humor. That is my challenge and I love it. I have to really imagine putting myself in Jane's position. But I have always, always loved comedy - this is a dream come true for me. I have been waiting, I'd say, 17 years, to play a role like this."

Q: 17 years - so you wanted to do this as a child?

A: "I did - even when I was little, all I wanted to do was make romantic comedies. I wanted to be 'that girl', the central character in a 'rom com' and be given the opportunity to be funny in a film with a happy ending and the whole thing. Those are the movies I go and see. I don't really enjoy the very intense dramas because they depress me for months. I just want to laugh and have a good time at the movies. Give me the chance and I will be doing pratfalls and falling into pies and slipping on banana peels. I've had moments here and there on GREY'S ANATOMY, every once and a while we get those sort of scenes where we get to banter. And the same is true of KNOCKED UP; there were good comedic moments where I got the chance to unleash it. But this is, it for me on this movie. I love it: being funny 24/7 in every scene. So, it's pretty exciting."

Q: What are the dresses like that you have to wear?

A: "Well when I first saw them I thought, 'You guys are taking it too far'. I really didn't believe that anybody would ask their bridesmaids to wear dresses like this. They told me that these are real bridesmaids' dresses. And I was shocked and appalled. The one time that I was in a wedding for one of my really good friends, I loved my bridesmaid's dress. It was just simple and navy blue, delightful. But on this film, yes the dresses are really outrageous, crazy, ugly, hideous dresses. There are a lot of theme weddings: we had a Gone With The Wind ensemble that was really bright canary yellow with big orange flowers all over it. Then there was what they call the Bahama Mama dress. It was hot pink with big sections of pink and yellow tulle all the way around the bottom of the skirt. And we did an underwater-themed wedding. I had to wear a bathing suit with a crazy, flowered bathing cap and hold my bouquet and have pictures taken underwater. I thought 'No couple would do this' and again, they told me, yes these weddings to happen. They have seen pictures and have heard about underwater weddings."

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Q: Well, hopefully your bridesmaids' dresses will be lovely!

A; "I hope so. But can you imagine? If I thought they were beautiful and loved them but my bridesmaids were all talking about them the way I'm talking about my dresses in this film and hated them. That would be depressing."

Q: How thrilling is it for you to be considered a leading comic actress of your generation? There are comparisons to Cameron Diaz and Sandra Bullock?

A: "I'm terrified. I can't think about that sort of thing, it is pretty hard to wrap my brain around compliments like that. There are so many wonderful actresses right now who are really talented comedically. I don't feel a lot of pressure and I just enjoy it all, it is exciting. Also I have been acting for a long time. I feel like I have just been doing this forever. I am just glad I am working, because I have had times when I have not worked. I love what I do for a living. Everything about it is so familiar to me, showing up on a set, all the cables on the ground, the camera crews, the lighting, you know, the hair and makeup. It is so much a part of my world that I don't really step back at all and think, 'Wow, this is an amazing time in my life'. It just seems normal. And I don't read the reviews with those comparisons even when they are positive. Maybe I should read the reviews. I should cut them out and frame them, I guess."

Q: How do you take care of yourself?

A: "In the last year, I got really committed to a workout regime and, and diet and eating well. But I have to tell you that my trainer Harvey Pasternak keeps telling me that the program I follow is not a diet. It's just a way of eating healthily, a way of life. I follow his 5-Factor Diet. The producers introduced me to him on KNOCKED UP and he's just an unbelievably cool guy; he makes the program pretty easy. I can't do anything that's too extreme though, I would never stick to a diet. I love food. I love to go out for great dinners and I hate working out. I really hate it. So, the most I'll do is about 45 minutes in the gym, three times a week."

Q: What are your goals?

A: "I really want to get into producing. I read a lot of novels and I feel like there are so many amazing stories to tell. And I'd love to be there at the inception of a project, right from the beginning. So we'll see. I want to stay in the moment and enjoy the great things that are happening in my life and hope it continues this way. That would be nice."