An unsmiling Katherine Heigl, at work on a new movie in this Pittsburgh suburb in August, stepped out of a chauffeured black S.U.V. and strode onto the set. She briskly filmed her scene and decamped to her air-conditioned trailer. “I admit that I’m particular about the way I work,” she said, stopping to stare at a stuffed rabbit on the floor. She continued her thought, but not before giving the bunny a swift kick.
True? Yes. But the morning could also be accurately described like this: Relaxing in her trailer between scenes, Katherine Heigl apologized for the mess — her daughter, Naleigh, had been playing with stuffed animals. Gracious and funny, Ms. Heigl talked about her struggle to balance work with family. “I guess everything in life requires some kind of compromising,” she said.
So which is it? Cold diva or likable mom?
As Ms. Heigl has learned the hard way, Hollywood and the news media aren’t big on nuance. Stars are supposed to come packaged with neat captions: bubbly (Julia Roberts), charming (George Clooney), quirky (Johnny Depp). When they step outside those assigned boxes, either in a film role or in real life, the machinery starts pushing them back.
Ms. Heigl, 31, has been assigned the diva box. Reporters are supposed to look for the smallest signal of imperiousness. (Bunny, kicked — scribble that down.) Forget that she’s warm and genuine in person.