Katherine Heigl has been a television sensation, rom-com leading lady and most recently a get for indie filmmakers — mostly while bringing up young children.
In the wake of Zoe Saldana‘s recent comments about studio treatment of actresses raising kids, Heigl said she was always uncomfortable with the extent of traditional star “perk packages” — except when it comes to balancing her work and family life.
“Before I had children, my lawyer would be negotiating the perk package, and I remember saying to him, ‘Are you crazy? I don’t need a a masseuse every week!’ Who has time for that?” Heigl told TheWrap during an interview to promote Entertainment One’s low-budget indie drama “Jackie & Ryan.”
“It’s crazy what the studios are willing to give you. It’s so indulgent — it’s wonderful, but when you’re doing an indie it’s like, ‘Is there a shack to house my two children and husband?’ But the beauty of doing a movie like this is that we’re there for the right reasons,” she said.
In “Jackie & Ryan,” an official selection of the 2014 Venice Film Festival, Heigl portrays a woman struggling through a divorce and custody battle who connects with a musical drifter, played by her “The Big Wedding” co-star Ben Barnes. Director Ami Canaan Mann accommodated Heigl’s family by changing locations from Georgia to Utah, where she resides.
“Originally, Ami had envisioned Atlanta or, where she’s from, Ohio. I just said, ‘Look, I know it’s a low-budget. There’s not a lot of money. I know you can’t afford to bring my children and put us all up on location, but I can’t leave my kids for four weeks,'” Heigl said. “Ami very graciously moved the location to Utah and seamlessly made it work.”
Luckily, Heigl also had her singer husband Josh Kelley on hand to help with her character, a former singing sensation who gave up the craft to raise her family. Heigl had to sing the song “Down On Penny’s Farm,” an old prairie tune that’s seen updates by the likes of Natalie Merchant.
“If I hadn’t been married to a musician for the past 10 years, and getting better at understanding music and how to sing — when to breathe and not to breathe, and all that stuff — I would never have had the courage,” Heigl said.
“I listened to the original version and thought, ‘Oh shit. I can’t sing this song. It’s not in my key.’ I took it to Josh and he reworked it for me. I don’t have a beautiful singing voice, but there are lots of really iconic musicians like Janice Joplin or Neil Diamond who don’t have traditional voices, but they are memorable and it sounds cool,” she said.
Heigl’s received critical praise for her turn in the film, as well as for “Jenny’s Wedding,” a lesbian drama co-starring Alexis Bledel that IFC will release on July 31.
But don’t count her out of the rom-com game. “I recently read a really fun ensemble romantic comedy and I thought that would be so fun to do, too. It’s been a while for me, and I don’t think anyone has been doing those over the past few years,” she said. “Hollywood is so cyclical but it comes back in waves. I hadn’t read one so right. But we’ll see — I have to get them to hire me.”
“Jackie & Ryan” is available in select cities and VOD on July 3.