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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

She says, "Here's someone who's not going to sell me down the river."

When "Knocked Up" was released, Heigl suggested that her character, Alison Scott, was the stiff, tense, overachieving shrew to Seth Rogen's bong-sucking, fun-loving boy-man. Heigl suggested it was, you know, a little sexist, maybe, that the guys get all the jokes, and the gals are always the buzz kill.

She remembers on the set of the film there "were a lot of moments where I screwed up takes because I was laughing so much. Their humor, however raunchy and base it is, really, I love that humor. But I couldn't play the girl who thought they were funny. I had to play the girl who was telling them to grow up!"

She explains: "My comedy came from the naggy, really ambitious, exaggerated female character. We all know women like that. But it's an exaggeration. I'm not that woman. I'm more the girl who wants to chill with the guys at their pad. Well, not that pad. That pad was disgusting."

The nag. "Uggg," she says. "I hate the nag. Most of my friends are funny, witty, intelligent and beautiful women, so it's not that unusual, a pretty girl being funny, is it? But for some reason in this town, they really like to compartmentalize, so you're either the character actor who is funny or you're the pretty girl in the movie."

We wonder whether they also treat Heigl like a Mormon. Apparently not. "If I were a still super-practicing strict Mormon, then people would be a little more cautious around me, but unfortunately I'm fairly vulgar, and I smoke and I drink coffee and I drink alcohol and I love to talk about religion."

Heigl's family converted to Mormonism after the death of her brother, who was killed while riding in the back of a pickup truck when Katherine was 7. "It's something that interests people because it's one of those religions that don't really fit into Hollywood," she says. "But it did a lot to save our family." How so? "What appeals to me is that love goes on and continues. It doesn't mean that after death it's the end of this person you loved and cherish. Because then you're living in a world of what the hell is the point? . . . I've always thought that there is a beautiful balance within the Mormon religion, where they believe in some very solid answers, but there is also a lot left unknown. There aren't answers in this lifetime."

Does she still go to church? "I haven't gone in really long time," Heigl says, but notes that "we still pray over our meals. I still say a prayer every night before I go to bed. I talk to God all the time. He doesn't really talk back all that much. But every once in a while I get an inkling of something. Atheists or agnostics can tell me I'm crazy and it's just my safety blanket and need to believe. I'm okay with that. I am. Why not? Why should I live my life afraid and alone if I found something that comforts me?"

Which leads Heigl, at the end of the hour, to turn to her assigned subject: weddings. Which reminds her -- she is still drinking coffee and smoking -- how when she lost a role in "Wedding Crashers" she thought her career had stalled. "I was just about to call it quits," she says. Instead she got hired for "Grey's Anatomy," which was funny "because I had never wanted to do a medical drama." She lowers her voice, "I never even watched 'ER'! " Oh, and she's also getting married herself -- to singer-songwriter Josh Kelley. (They would wed on Dec. 23 at a ski lodge outside Park City, Utah).

Now she's talking about her new romantic comedy, "27 Dresses," and mulls the question of why her character, Jane, is such a doormat.

"Jane wants to be the victim. It's much safer for her to be put upon than to actually go after what she wants and fail," she says. Then she quotes Dr. Phil in saying that "you teach people how to treat you."

Jane does everything for everyone else. "I almost felt like Jane was the villain," Heigl says, and that is an interesting idea. "It was important to me for her not to be too much of the victim. This girl had some edge. She had some reasons."

Heigl waves her arm in the air. "But it's a romantic comedy. It's a real chick flick. It's the kind of movie I love and try to go see every chance I can get. But you know," she says, and you've got to like this part, "there's not a ton of profoundness about it."

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