When Katherine Heigl decided to tackle the character of Stephanie Plum from the blockbuster series of books by Janet Evanovich, she knew the character had legions of fans and looked forward to portraying someone so revered by so many. “There's something about her that's really endearing. You just really like her. She's a decent person with a big heart, and she's fearless and courageous but perpetually puts herself in situations where she's in over her head. But, she never takes herself very seriously,” Heigl told Movie Fanatic.
“She also doesn't take other people too seriously. She has this great perspective on life that happens to be really funny and witty and charming as well. I just like everything about Stephanie, and she's that hapless heroine that we 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.”
When Heigl, who also serves as the producer of One for the Money, was first approached for the role, she was filming The Ugly Truth. She hadn’t read the books, but as soon as she dove in, she could not put them down. “I became obsessed with them,” Heigl said and laughed.
Knowing the fans' loyalty to the series and being one herself, she felt as producer she could guarantee a bit of quality control for the Stephanie Plum nation. “I got really excited about the idea of bringing it to film. 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 -- millions of people have fallen in love with them. It was great to get to be in the room and have an opinion.”
Another appealing aspect of the One for the Money page-to-screen effort is that Heigl saw this not solely as a “chick flick,” but as a potential film series that had huge crossover appeal. “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,” Heigl said. In this first book, and now film, there is a darker edge that is frankly more of a pure detective-type movie than a fish-out-of-water flick. “That gives it 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.”
In One for the Money, Heigl portrays a woman in Plum who is at her wits' end. She is broke, having just lost her job as a lingerie saleswoman. As her car is being repossessed, she keenly is aware she needs a job immediately. She turns to her cousin, who runs a bail bond business, and takes the job as a bounty hunter. Her first job is to bring in the man who wronged her in high school, Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara). Needless to say, if you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work! Along the way she is aided by a fellow bounty hunter Ranger (Daniel Sunjata), who shows her the ropes.
The film’s cast includes an icon in Debbie Reynolds, who plays Plum’s grandmother. To say Heigl soaked up the legend’s experience is a gross understatement. In particular, Reynolds' story about working on Singin' in the Rain with Gene Kelly struck a nerve. “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,” the former Grey's Anatomy star remembered.
“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. 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 [laughs].”
Another joy in the One for the Money production was that Heigl’s Plum had to be pretty proficient at shooting weapons, something Heigl has done for years… but never has she had so much fun. “I've been yielding guns in films since I was 15, but they're fake and there's no actual bullet in them,” Heigl said. “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.”
Producers took her to a shooting range and gave her a real gun and a light bulb went off and now Heigl is dragging her husband, musician Josh Kelley, to go shooting to share in her joy of weaponry. “I really enjoyed it because it was super satisfying and cathartic on some level. And then I turned around and Jason O'Mara was shooting a gun that had fire shooting out of it. I wanted that one! I started wanting to go to the gun range regularly. Now I shoot clay pigeons with Josh. I really like to shoot things… I know, it's funny.”