A Puff of Fresh Air

Katherine Heigl and James Marsden star in this romantic comedy about a woman who, tired of being a bridesmaid, faces the prospect of watching the man she loves marry her sister. Showtimes
By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 15, 2008


She enters the room in a knit that fits, the kind of dress with a place for everything. Lipstick the color of a valentine. The doors to the balcony are thrown open and she exhales, "Great, I can smoke," and pulls one from the pack and you think, carbon monoxide might not be so bad. She was raised Mormon, but she's drinking coffee by the gallon, and for the next hour Katherine Heigl is happy to ride the buzz and talk about raunchy jokes, humorless shrews, breast size and God's infinite mysteries.

We're here because Heigl might be the new It Girl. She was just on the cover of Vanity Fair, where she continues to scandalize the town by having opinions. Hollywood is still searching for someone to call America's sweetheart, a fresh peach to replace the beloved but semi-retired Julia Roberts, the cold and calculating Reese Witherspoon, someone like Jennifer Aniston or Cameron Diaz, but shiny and new -- and not ground down to a nub by time and the tabloids.

Heigl is 29 years old and starring in "27 Dresses," which opens nationwide on Friday. It's about a plainish Jane who is forever the bridesmaid, never the bride. This is Heigl's first traditional romantic comedy, if you don't count "Knocked Up" as a traditional romantic comedy because it is filthy (it also did $148 million in domestic box office). In her spare time, Heigl is also Dr. Isobel "Izzie" Stevens, the button-nosed former goody two-shoes on the top-rated "Grey's Anatomy," a role that won Heigl an Emmy.

She's striking a lighter. "It's so stupid. I started when I was like 22 or 23, and I had my first cigarette at a bar one night, and I was like mmm." She makes a nice mmm face. "I'll try this. I can have just one. I am not gonna get addicted. Then you start bumming. I'm bumming. I don't buy my own packs. I'm not addicted."

Then you're borrowing like 10 a day.

"Then you go through something that is hard or difficult or stressful and you buy your first pack and it's all over," Heigl says. Kids -- please, pay attention. "And now it's all about how you're going to quit," she says. "I've tried everything."

She issues a throaty, delicious, pre-cancerous laugh.

"I've tried Wellbutrin," a drug also used to treat depression, "which made me really happy while I smoked. Tried the patch. Tried gum. I hate the gum. It burns my mouth. I think I have to quit the old-fashioned way."

Cold turkey. Carrot sticks. Short fuse. Etc.

She has been smoking during this whole conversation. She mentions, by the way, that her good friend T.R. Knight, who plays fellow intern George on "Grey's Anatomy," quit smoking recently. How proud she is.

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