A Tale of Heigl and Woe

Katherine Heigl has been called a lot of things over the years: difficult, entitled, and quite possibly, an asshole (and that’s just in The Hollywood Reporter – imagine how “colorful” the descriptions must get off the record). I bring this up not to drag her name (back) through the mud, but simply to say that I’m sure she’s developed a thick enough skin to handle the shade I’m about to throw at her.

Alright, I’m just gonna come right out and say it…

Katherine Heigl is the slowest fucking reader on the planet.

Katherine Heigl word collage (mpm)

Okay, truth be told, I’ve never actually watched her read anything, so I can’t back this up with, like, you know, empirical evidence. But what I do know is that it took her nearly three months to read a 107 page script (which works out to about a page a day for those scoring at home). I know this, because it was my script that she was reading.

It was October 2010 and my life was on a significant upswing. Not only was Miss Heigl giving serious consideration to starring in a movie I’d written, I’d also recently moved in with my beautiful girlfriend, and my beloved San Francisco Giants were marching towards their first World Series title ever. Everything — yes, everything — was coming up Maloney.

The script, a romantic comedy about a woman who attempts to play matchmaker to her boyfriend’s three older (and hard-partying) brothers, had been a labor of love. A year earlier, when it had gone out as a spec¹, it had come within one phone call of selling to a major studio. And another six months of re-writing (with the powerful Mark Gordon attached to produce) had transformed the story into the most polished and professional I’d ever written. All it needed was a star to say yes, and we’d be off to the races.

It’s easy to forget now, but at the time, Heigl was on a considerable roll (Grey’s Anatomy, Knocked Up, 27 Dresses, and even The Ugly Truth were all massive hits). So, it only made sense to give her an exclusive first look at the script. Her agent read it, loved it, and promised to “put it at the top of Katie’s pile”. The stars were starting to align…

…and then it happened. A week after “Katie” was sent the script, I was at brunch with my girlfriend, and I was grabbing us a to-go container for our leftovers. As I turned the corner, I nearly walked face-first into the woman herself. My white whale² was standing directly in front of me.

Of all the brunch places in all of LA, Katie Heigl had gone and walked into mine. Like something out of a… Well, a romantic comedy. I mean, it was too meta, too fucking kismet not to mean something. And by something, of course, I mean that not only was she going to say “yes”, but my movie was going to get made and go on to be a huge, career-altering success for the both of us. Obviously!

I floated out of the restaurant that morning convinced that I’d come face-to-face with my destiny. All I had to do now was sit back and wait for the phone call that would change my life forever.

As it turned out, I was only right about the waiting part. There would be a whole… lot… of waiting. One week turned into three, three turned into six, and before you knew it, Thanksgiving weekend had rolled around.

“Don’t worry,” her agent told the producers [who told my managers (who told me)], “she’s read the first 10 or 15 pages so far and really likes it. I’m sure she’ll finish it over the long weekend.”

She didn’t. Instead, over the weeks that followed, I had to settle for increasingly absurd fourth-hand updates. “She’s finished the first 30 pages or so…” “She’s halfway done, and she’s really enjoying it…” “I’m sure she’ll finish it over Christmas break, and we’ll have an update for you in the New Year.”ari on the phone

But (the longest) Christmas (of my life) came and went, and the New Year brought with it the same old news: “she’s almost done – another week at the most.” My managers preached patience (”stars are notorious for taking forever to read scripts,” they told me), but I was over it. So, so over it.

I didn’t even like Katherine Heigl (at least, not as much as some of the other actresses who were supposedly next in line for consideration: Anna Faris, Anne Hathaway, et al.) And by that point, I’d heard all the rumors about what a diva she could be to work with. So, even if she did say yes, I’d probably get eaten alive. Why couldn’t she just do us all a favor and say “no” already?

Finally, having reached my wit’s end, I took a friend’s suggestion and did a visualization exercise (hey, I was desperate!) I sat down with a printed copy of the script, and I read it again, trying my best to picture Heigl in each scene, as I projected the movie in my mind’s eye.

The very next morning, I got a call from my manager. The verdict was in: Katie Heigl had passed. As much as she’d liked the script, she was ready to try something different – something that showed off “a different side of her”. In other words, she didn’t want to do another romantic comedy.

My manager explained that it was just a momentary stumble; in fact, they’d already reached out to the agents for Natalie Portman and Rachel McAdams. “We’ll find our girl eventually,” he said.

But I knew better. I could feel it in my gut: this wasn’t just a pass, it was the first domino falling.

I was right. In the months that followed, there was (a lot more) waiting and (a lot more) passes. The string of rejections (along with many, many other factors) put a strain on my relationship with my girlfriend. And by September of 2011 (just a year after we’d first sent Katherine Heigl the script), both the project and my relationship were dead in the water. Life as I knew it – or at least imagined it — was over.

The part I didn’t know — that I couldn’t know (at the time) — was that it would be the best thing that ever happened to me. But more on that later


¹For the uninitiated, a spec (short for speculative) is when you try to sell a screenplay that isn’t based on any pre-existing intellectual property. In other words, the story was your idea.
²A gorgeous, impossibly tall white whale, for the record.

One thought on “A Tale of Heigl and Woe

  1. Pingback: It’s Always Darkest | Michael Patrick Maloney

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