In Katherine Heigl's latest romantic comedy The Ugly Truth, a compelling case can be made for it being an umlikely attempt to bridge the gap between her previous two hit movies, the R-Rated Knocked Up, and the decidedly gentler 27 Dresses. Joined by Gerard Butler, Kevin Connolly and Cheryl Hines, Katherine plays Abby Richter a TV producer looking for love... and finding it's physical equivalent in... ahem... all the wrong places...
Director Robert Luketic and stars Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler recently sat down with Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier for a frank discussion of orgasmic entertainment, the modern progress in male and female relationships and the enduring power of brutal honesty...
EI: Katherine, is it fair to say that this is a romantic movie which is also enjoyable for men?
KH: That was the goal. I really wanted to do something that boys could go to with their girls and not walk out complaining that they had to take their girlfriends to another chick-flick. I’m 30 now. My girlfriends are 30. This is a relatable story for us. We’re all at that place in our lives where, if we haven’t met that guy, we’re wondering what the hell we’re doing wrong and where he is, and is he out there and all that kind of stuff.
I just loved the story. I loved the humor. I loved Mike Chadway and that character, and I loved Abby and thought she was so sadly ridiculous and had no idea how ridiculous she was. So all the things I love.
EI: Gerard, you have played mainly action heroes to this point, and now you’re doing a romantic comedy: Do you feel equally comfortable in both kinds of roles?
GB: I feel more comfortable wherever I’m supposed to be. I can’t honestly tell you that whether it’s doing an action movie or that it’s doing a comedy; there are things I love about each one, but I always have to move on and challenge myself and do something different in everything. It’s just like me - there are a lot of different parts to me; There is a darker part of me, there is a more fun, lighter part, there is the sexy part, there is the driven part and the depressing part… and I want to go in and explore all those areas.
I’ve done a lot of kind of deep, probing roles, and… tense. It was time to move away from that, so it was nice to go off and do a couple of comedies. But then, in saying that, I’m now doing a comedy in New York and this one here. But... I honestly don’t think any of us see this like a romantic comedy because it’s pretty hard-edged. It feels more like a sex comedy than a romantic comedy.
EI: Robert, what were you most excited to find in these two actors sitting here beside you?
RL: Wow... I found a chemistry between these two that I knew, within five minutes after they met, was going to make magic onscreen. I haven’t seen it in a long time; it’s like a Hepburn-Tracy kind of thing with this sort of antagonistic flirtation that goes on that I find incredibly sexy. It was amazing. These two guys met around Katherine’s swimming pool…
KH: ...yes, good times... Me, Gerry, Robert, Gerry’s dog, Lola…
RL: It was amazing. It became apparent that fireworks were going to ensue.
EI: Katherine, you were talking about you and your girlfriends.: What is your collective view on why it is so hard for women today to find the right guy?
KH: Women either have way too high expectations or way too low. There is no middle ground, and with my girlfriends, I spend so much time… I have two really good friends who are beautiful, who are smart, who are funny, who could have any guy they want to have, but yet they’re in that weird place where they’re just not finding the guy for them, and they think it’s their fault: Their expectations are way too low... [Laughs] So I keep lecturing them…
EI: Because you know what it takes to get Mr. Wonderful! [Smiles]
KH: I kind of do, which is why I wanted to do this movie... because it says everything. Abby comes into it thinking he’s just a total a**hole and has no respect for him, and by the end of the movie, this is the guy she wants to be with, and he actually brings out the best out in her. It wasn’t what she expected and it wasn’t what she had on her little checklist, but he was the right guy for her, and that’s what I keep trying to tell my friends. You can’t jump to conclusions about somebody and you can’t keep your expectations so high that they’re unreachable, but you also have to be open to being surprised by someone.
EI: Is there something you will never get about guys – that you will never understand?
KH: There is a lot. [Laughs] “Why do I have to repeat myself, like, 4,000 times?", "Why don’t you ever listen to me?" "Am I that boring?” [Laughs]
EI: What kind of an extra relationship challenge does a woman have whose career is also very important to her?
KH: I’ve been really lucky because my husband is super supportive and he’s got his own career and his own thing, and he recognizes that what I do and what I’m passionate about is important to me, and he would never ask me to compromise that so I could be home to make him dinner. It is 2009, after all.
RL: But you do make a good dinner, I have to say...
KH: I make an okay dinner. It’s all right! [Laughs]
RL: I like it.
KH: But as far as being a mother, I haven’t gotten there yet, and I have no idea and I’m completely terrified. So we’ll see. [Laughs]
EI: Is that something you desire really strongly?
KH: I really would like to be a mother. I’ve always wanted to have children. From the time I was old enough to understand the concept, I wanted a baby. So we will get there, but I don’t want to give up my career and I don’t want him to, and I want to be able to have it all… but what does that mean? I don’t know what it means...
RL: You'll find a way.
EI: Gerard - is there one romantic comedy that each of you you go back to every time your heart is broken?
GB: I loved When Harry Met Sally. I love Monster-in-Law and Legally Blonde. [Laughs] Definitely.
RL: Oh, f*** you!
GB: I don’t know of romantic comedies outside those...
EI: Katherine, do you want to be ranked #1 in orgasmic movies?
KH: I’d have to be entering into a new genre, wouldn’t I?
EI: Have you passed up Meg Ryan now?
KH: You know what’s funny is he says that’s one of his favorite romantic comedies; I haven’t actually seen it. It’s that one that you’re always…you know, when you’re in Blockbuster or you want to rent a DVD and you’re like, “God, what’s that one movie I haven’t seen yet but I keep wanting to see?” I always forget and I never get it and I’ve never seen it, but everyone’s heard of that scene. I’ve heard of it. I think my mother has quoted it like ten times, and I know that the point of that scene is that she’s teaching him that women can fake an orgasm and you never know. But this scene was she was having and orgasm and trying to keep it on the down-low…
RL: I have seen the movie, and I think we take it to another level because she’s really coming on screen... [Laughs]
EI: Katherine, I’m going to go back to the orgasm again. Don’t you think that’s where true power comes from — having the orgasm, faking or not – it just makes the guy work a little bit harder…?
KH: [Laughs] That’s a great idea! Why haven’t I thought of that? [Laughs] I actually have not thought of that, but it is kind of a good idea. Maybe this is too much information, but Josh insists that he can tell the difference.
EI: How many takes of the orgasm scene were necessary?
RL: Thirty-two set-ups, average of two takes… I think she came 52 times in 12 hours. That’s my estimate, which is a world record. I remember seeing Gerry…the first time we did it, Gerry was just like [shocked] He’s just looking over because, in the first take, she did like the biggest one… she just had her cup of coffee, she was ready to go…
KH: ... ready to orgasm…
RL: And it was like a breath when I yelled “cut,” and I remember extras - we had 100 extras and crew - everyone was just applauding. Everyone just went, “Woo hoo”! Applauded. Everyone just dropped what they were doing and were there watching that…and Gerry was just like “Woo!” [Laughs]
KH: He was terrified, really.
RL: It was priceless. I’ll never forget your face... I’ll never forget it.
EI: Why did you have to shoot it 32 times?
RL: There are many different perspectives at the table - there are like seven different people watching, and so you need to sort of show each perspective, and then wide shots and close-ups, and the whole thing is built from many different little things. I don’t usually do a lot of coverage, but in this instance - because we wanted it to be an opera of orgasm; I wanted it to be operatic... we covered it…
KH: A lot!
RL: Thank you! [Laughs]
GB: Also, they came to a decision behind Katie’s back that it would be really fun to watch her come. [Laughs]
EI: Katherine, I talked to some women after the screening and they all felt it wasn’t raunchy enough.
KH: It wasn’t!? Are you kidding?! Where is 'put my dick in your ass' not raunchy enough?!! [Laughs]
EI: Maybe there was more stuff that you could have done…?
GB: We talked quite a lot about orgasms - you watch an orgasm, we talk about sticking a dick in your ass, we talk about giving blow jobs, we talk about …
KH: ... balling.
GB: … f***ing, swallowing… I don’t know if you get much raunchier than that without it being in one of the hotel rooms under 'adult movie played at night'.
EI: Maybe their idea was that Gerry wasn’t raunchy enough... [smiles]
RL: Gerry, take your dick out...
KH: I guess, if this is what it takes to be more raunchy!
GB: Oh, I didn’t stick my dick in her ass, you’re right... [Laughs] I tried, but I wasn’t getting anywhere…
EI: Do you enjoy talking dirty?
GB: I don’t really talk dirty. If I’m disgusting in my own sex life, I don’t get together with the boys and talk about that. And my experience with a lot of girlfriends of mine, including the girls that I’m working with right now, the stylists and all... they have a worse potty mouth than I do. In fact, they were saying today, because I was asking, because we’re doing this press junket - and I’m going, “What is it that women say about guys?” and she said, “We call each other and we’re like, ‘Tell us about his cock and what was it…’” and I’m going, “Really?” I mean, I would never… or they talk dirty: They get pretty graphic.
KH: But don’t you think like, maybe 20 years ago, men were talking about it more but we have beaten into them that they can’t do that and it’s unacceptable, and yet now we’re on the phone with our girlfriends with kind of locker room talk?
GB: I think women always talked like that, to be honest. I think it’s just now maybe they can… maybe they feel confident enough to be able to talk about it. And by the way, I think men still also talk like that.
RL: I heard something behind the grip truck the other day before we wrapped and I was like, "Yeah, men still talk like that..."
GB: I think women check out men as much as the other way around! Here we see the movie The Ugly Truth, and it’s all supposed to be the ugly truth about men. I think the ugly truth is, this is about women as well. You were asking in your question about men and women becoming more empowered, so without doubt that empowerment goes to many different areas.
RL: Don’t be afraid to say, “Hey my name is Robert Luketic and I love your tits.” There is nothing wrong with that.
KH: You know what? I like your honesty.
EI: How else do you think the female and male role in relationships changed over the years?
GB: I think they’ve gone through many chapters - the pure males at first feeling completely dominant and then feeling completely castrated, and now we seem to be meeting somewhere in the middle. I think there is definitely more of a level of equality that men themselves, by the way, can also express themselves more, because it’s not just the women. I think, up until recently, men weren’t able and it didn’t feel right for them to express their feelings or their fears…
RL: It was a sign of weakness for men…
GB: Absolutely. And now, I think, we’re all moving it nicely into the middle, into a nice kind of middle liberal state of men being able to be more in touch with their feminine side and women growing a pair of balls, basically…
RL: That’s why I encourage you to play with our poster and take the love heart and move it around as you see fit… as you feel along the day.
GB: I always felt, in the movie, when you look at the poster, that really the ugly truth is that there is one love heart over the crotch for the male and there is the other love heart over the female in her brain, but what is nice that they meet in the middle somewhere along the movie, as it goes through, and they come together and it ends up in the heart. Really, love is in the heart at the end of the day, and that’s where we connect.
EI: But isn't there still something you will never get about women? [Laughs]
GB: That’s the whole point. Because I think one of the things that we’re saying is that men will never really get women and women will never really get men, and men will never be 100% honest with women and neither will women to men, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. That’s what’s to be celebrated - our differences - and we can still, in fact, not just in spite of but because of... love each other.
EI: How long can a man be a player, and when does he have to settle down?
GB: I’m just about the age I stopped doing that. [Laughs] Everybody is different. I don’t think you could have one specific age that applies for all, but if you were to come down to an average mean... probably early to mid-20s you’ve got to be getting out of that. But the thing is, in Scotland, that’s when most people are just getting into it. They’re like, “Now I’m working, now I’m making some money, now I’m really going to have fun.” For me, it was the opposite. I had…and it wasn’t even fun. I mean, it started off as fun, but it became a much more serious, deeper issue that I was having...
EI: Katherine, you also have a producing credit on this film. Can we end today by talking about something a little more serious: why have you segued into producing and what that means for you? And also, you’re working with your mother Nancy on this film - what is that professional relationship like?
KH: My mother and I have been working together for 20 years so it’s pretty status quo at this point. We bounce off each other really well. She’s a great partner in the sense that she can do all the things that I have a hard time doing and leaves me to do what I’m good at and what I feel comfortable doing, so it works great for both of us.
But I think the whole point of producing is, as an actor, you end up just showing up and hitting your mark and saying your lines and doing what everybody tells you to do, and you don’t have a lot of control and you don’t have a lot of say. As a producer on this, I had at least a little more say - not that they ever really listened or agreed with me, but at least I had the opportunity to say something. And I love storytelling.
I love a good story, I love to read. It’s super exciting to read that awesome book, then find out if you can buy it and turn it into a movie and be there for the whole creation of it from the get-go - not just showing up once the script is written and the thing is cast and you’ve got your director and your DP and everybody in between, but you’re there for the whole thing and it feels more like yours. You feel like you can own it a little more. So it’s been very exciting: I’m super grateful for the opportunity, for sure.
'The Ugly Truth' is in theaters now from Columbia Pictures.