‘Unforgettable’ Director Celebrates Making Femme Villains Multi-Dimensional

Katherine Heigl Unforgettable
John Milne/SilverHub/REX/Shutterstock

Unforgettable” does not follow the garden-variety “crazy ex-girlfriend” film trope. That sentiment — and several derivatives of it — echoed through the famously lofty outdoor foyer of Hollywood Boulevard’s TCL Chinese Theater on Tuesday night, as the female-fronted cast and crew of Warner Bros. Pictures’ twisted psychological thriller celebrated the film’s world premiere.

This movie marks a directorial debut and a preliminary foray into dramatic thrillers for veteran producer Denise Di Novi, who is known for dark comedies like “Heathers,” “Edward Scissorhands,” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Di Novi, who identifies herself as a thriller aficionado and fan of the classic “Hitchcock blonde” slasher genre, was committed to the complexities of the narrative in “Unforgettable.”

“I really related to the themes of the movie,” Di Novi said. “And the opportunity to make a female psychological thriller with two female leads was just too tantalizing to me.”

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Equipped with an understanding of the niche film category’s tendency to portray relatively shallow, maniacal female villains (a character trope that has often perpetuated a misogynistic, whittled down stereotype of the female psyche), Di Novi crafted this film with a more authentic narrative in mind.

“I think having compassion and understanding the female villain is what makes this movie different for me,” Di Novi continued. “It’s amazing how much women actually relate to the Katherine Heigl character.”

Heigl carries the film as Tessa, a distraught single mother who rapidly begins to unravel when she discovers that her ex-husband is getting re-married. As Tessa spirals further into heartache and bitterness, she falls deeper into a series of convoluted ploys to punish her ex’s new fiancee.

“She’s not a monster, but she’s terrifying,” says Di Novi. “I think in other films, almost always directed by men, the ‘vengeful ex’ is this one-dimensional monster.”

Still, when confronted with the question, “Who’s the most frightening ex on film?” she firmly responds: Katherine Heigl.

Rosario Dawson, who stars alongside Heigl as the subject of Tessa’s wiling, almost turned down the opportunity to work on the film because of the heaviness of its content — which, in addition to revenge ploys, grapples with domestic violence, mental illness, and PTSD. But, she says, the impressive rolodex of high-powered female voices behind the project finally managed to persuade her.

“Denise really got to me,” Dawson said. “She’s just been such a visionary for so many other people. So, even though she was a first-time director, it felt like she was a veteran.”

And while they managed to shoot the entirety of the film in just 30 days, Dawson reiterated that the uniquely supportive and empowering energy on set was, fittingly, unforgettable.

“There was just something there that I don’t get to experience that often,” she said. “It felt really fresh and new, but it also felt incredibly grounded. It was a powerful experience.”

“Unforgettable” hits theaters for a wide release on Friday, April 21.

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