Sunday, June 15, 2008

Viva Heigl!

I don't watch Grey's Anatomy. I was an outspoken critic of Knocked Up. And I found 27 Dresses to be downright insufferable at times. But I have to say that I am very impressed with Katherine Heigl's willingness to be outspoken in a Hollywood that is not only run by men who want to put women in their place, but a Hollywood that functions like a mafia of sorts. Heigl is willing to wake up with a horse head in her bed, and I, for one, love it.

She is also willing to speak honestly about the work she chooses to do, and she is willing to do it with the full knowledge that even people on the outer cusp of the industry--like critics, Hollywood gossip journalists, and even AP writers and nameless radio DJs--will sling shit at her for as long as the story stays in the public eye. 

The story as it has unfolded thus far: Heigl, last year's Emmy winner for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, has withdrawn her name from Emmy contention this year. 


According to Heigl, "I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention."

Well said. Why should an actress--or an actor, writer, director, or producer--accept an award or even a nomination for a work she or he is not proud of? I would have felt a gut-level disappointment had Martin Scorsese won his first best director Oscar for Gangs of New York, his weakest film, even though the film received 10 nominations in 2003. And I imagine that Marty himself wouldn't have felt right about it, after the Weinsteins effectively produced the film into something that didn't even come close to resembling Scorsese's original intentions. He then won for The Departed, a film which faced no outside interference and seemed like the film Scorsese was destined to win for. Likewise, if Heigl feels like a win or even a nomination for sub-par material is not something she feels she deserves, then why shouldn't she do something about it? Further, why shouldn't she speak out about it?

More from the actress:"In addition, I did not want to potentially take away an opportunity from an actress who was given such materials."

Fine. Great. Why throw her under the bus? 

Well, because the media doesn't take kindly to outspoken actors. Apparently since they have already been born with silver spoons in their mouths and because they have already been given Golden Tickets, they have no right to speak...especially if they are women.

Media backlash has followed. Heigl "turned the knife in the gullet of "Grey's" Executive Producer Shonda Rhimes," wrote Lisa de Moraes of the Washington Post. "Sorry," wrote David Poland of Movie City News, a guy and a website I usually respect, "but you aren't even Kate Hudson yet, much less a diva of the proportion that you can throw Chim-Chim Cookies around like this and not seem like an arrogant mutt." And hell, at least those people write about Hollywood. Driving down the road Friday afternoon, one of the lame-brained DJs of the local radio station added his two cents, saying something to the effect of, he hates it when "actors have to open up their mouths and share their opinions." Thanks for that bon mot, Mr. About-To-Be-Replaced-By-Automation.

Of course, haters have a bit of history to fall back on. Back in December, Heigl was interviewed by Vanity Fair and said the following about Knocked Up, her first big feature film role: "It was hard for me to love [the film]." She continued by saying that Judd Apatow's film was "a little sexist," and that it "paints women as shrews, as humorless and uptight."

One could--and many have--offer that Heigl is just being a diva bitch, that she is bad-mouthing the material that made her a star. But she is telling the truth! Have you seen Knocked Up lately? It can be funny at times, and it can have its modicum of heart, but it is more than a little sexist, and certainly portrays women as humorless and uptight. In fact, much of it is downright mean. And as far as Grey's Anatomy is concerned, I cannot really add anything to the conversation, as I am not a regular viewer. But if anything TV journalists have been saying for the past several months is true, Heigl was right to say that the latest season's material was less than great. Most critics have been calling recent Grey's episodes crap for quite some time.

Look, I don't know Katherine Heigl any better than I know any of her current detractors. And as I noted before, I am not even necessarily the biggest fan of her work. But I will speak up when something strikes me as wrong, and I feel like the bashing of an outspoken actress--much less one whose claims seem pretty damn honest and accurate--is petty, unfounded, and totally unnecessary. I admire Heigl for her candor, and sincerely hope that this current flare-up doesn't set her back. She has talent and she has guts. I respect that tremendously.


Lexie said...

Why sign the contract, cash the check, only to say the project sucked later? Makes no sense to me.

J McKiernan said...

A contract is signed before filming even begins on a project. And I think it's pretty common knowledge that a film or television show can look and feel ENTIRELY different in script form.

As an actor--and not one who has made the inevitable transition into actor-slash-producer--Heigl has very little control over what the finished project will look like. She can only make judgments based on the material she sees, which often changes on the set and which is always subject to however the director chooses to interpret it on screen. For someone like Judd Apatow, that generally means lots of mean-spirited jokes at the characters' expense.

I simply appreciate Heigl's outspokenness, as well as the respectful nature with which she chose to speak out. Her straight shooting is beautiful in comparison to someone like Edward Norton, who seemingly has problems with every successive project he participates in, even though he DOES produce and even write some of the work.

On "The Incredible Hulk," for example, he signed on, then re-wrote some of the script because he wasn't happy with the content, then fought with director Louis Leterrier over the direction and editing, and now has said he will refuse to promote the film.

There is a difference, in my mind, between Heigl's openness and Norton's oturight disgust.

K McKiernan said...


Have you never worked a job and done your job but felt some part of the job could have been done better?

Do you not think it possible to do a good job but not do an award winning job? Is it not courageous and honest and bold to say you do not deserve something?

And regarding the abysmal "Knocked Up"... the script houses just the words... HOW a film comes together... the tone, the angles, what gets inferred is all up to the director. She could have signed on thinking it would be more touching, full of more heart... and, she is only there for HER scenes. She may not have had any idea how mean in nature the film was until it was too late.

Every single person has a right to speak up for what they think. Just because you sign on for a job (any job) does not preclude you from your voice.

I admire the HELL out of her. I am glad someone called Judd Apatow on his horrendous, mysogynistic shit.