Katherine Heigl Says Criticizing Knocked Up Was "Dumb" and Talks Emmys Controversy and Reputation

It's been a roller-coaster ride, career-wise, for the 37-year-old actress for almost the past decade

By Corinne Heller Apr 20, 2016 4:50 PMTags
Katherine HeiglAKM-GSI

Katherine Heigl says it was "dumb" to criticize Knocked Up the way she did eight years ago.

It's been a roller-coaster ride, career-wise, for the 37-year-old actress for almost the past decade. In 2008, months after she got a major career boost to due to the success of Judd Apatow's R-rated comedy Knocked Up, Katherine made headlines when she slammed the movie publicly.

"It was a little sexist," she told Vanity Fair. "It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. It exaggerated the characters, and I had a hard time with it, on some days. I'm playing such a bitch; why is she being such a killjoy? Why is this how you're portraying women? Ninety-eight percent of the time it was an amazing experience, but it was hard for me to love the movie."

"The rule in Hollywood is you don't criticize the movie that's coming out," Howard Stern told Katherine on The Howard Stern Show on Sirius XM satellite radio Wednesday.

"No," she said. "That was dumb."

Universal Pictures

"I liked the movie a lot. I just didn't like me, " Katherine said. "She was kind of like, she was so judgmental and kind of uptight and controlling and all these things and I really went with it while we were doing it, and a lot of it, Judd allows everyone to be very free and improvise and whatever and afterwards, I was like, 'Why is that where I went with this? What an a--hole she is!'"

"It was, again, one of those situations, it was a huge opportunity for me. I was being interviewed for Vanity Fair. Like, I was on the cover of Vanity Fair, it was a huge big deal for me," Katherine continued. "And the journalist...just said, 'You know a lot of women felt it was a little sexist' so then I felt obligated to answer that and so I tried in my very sort of ungracious way to answer why I felt that it maybe was a little."

Katherine had made similar clarifying remarks to People shortly after she was criticized over her comments, adding, "Although I stand behind my opinion, I'm disheartened that it has become the focus of my experience with the movie." 

Apatow and Katherine's Knocked Up co-star Seth Rogen had talked about the controversy in a 2009 interview on The Howard Stern Show.

"We read that and thought, 'Oh, well that's, uh, I don't know what to make of that,'" Judd said. "And then you're like, 'Well, at some point, I'm gonna get a call like, 'Sorry, I was tired'' and then the call just never comes."

"I probably should've [called them]," Katherine said on The Howard Stern Show. "But what I did was very, I did it publicly instead and kind of tried to say, look, this was not what I meant and this was an incredible experience for me and they were incredibly good to me on this movie, so I did not mean to s--t on them at all. I've thought about like, writing a note. I feel embarrassed. I don't want it to feel insincere on any level."

Rogen had said on The Howard Stern Show in 2009 that after her initial comments, he had intended to give Katherine a "piece of his mind" if he ever ran into her and that he actually did, at a restaurant, but held his tongue and remained polite.

"I ran into him at a restaurant and I didn't quite realize that it was as serious as it was...I walked up like, 'Hey, guys!'" Katherine said Wednesday. "And they were like very like...and I was like, 'Oh, you're really mad, I didn't realize that it was that bad...I get it."

Rogen appears to have let bygones be bygones, telling The Short List magazine in 2011, "I mean, you do so much press that, odds are, you're going to say something f--king stupid every once in a while...So at this point I'm much more forgiving of that kind of thing."

Later in 2008, Katherine sparked controversy again when she removed her name from Emmy consideration for her role of Izzie Stevens on Grey's Anatomy, saying she felt she wasn't "given the material to warrant a nomination." She had won an Emmy for her part the year before.

"I didn't feel good about my performance," Katherine said on The Howard Stern Show. "There was a part of me that thought, because I had won the year before, that I needed juicy, dramatic, emotional material and I just didn't have that that season."

Following the controversy, she spoke with creator Shonda Rhimes.

"I went in 'cause I was really embarrassed," Katherine told Stern. "So I went in to Shonda and said, 'I'm so sorry. That wasn't cool. I should not have said that'...I shouldn't have said anything publicly but at the time, I didn't think anybody would notice. I didn't know that journalists would see who submitted and who didn't. I just quietly didn't submit and then it became a story and then I felt I was obligated to make my statement and 'shut up, Katie.'"

"On some level it stung and on some level I was not surprised," Rhimes said on Oprah's Next Chapter in 2012. "When people show you who they are, believe them. I carry that [mantra] with me a lot. It has served me well."

Katherine had also apologized publicly about the matter, telling EW, "It was between me and the writers. I ambushed them, and it wasn't very nice or fair."

Katherine exited Grey's Anatomy in 2010 in order to spend more time with her first daughter Naleigh, who she and hubby Josh Kelley adopted just eight months prior. The two are also parents to daughter Adalaide, who they adopted in 2012.

That year, Katherine expressed interest in returning to Grey's Anatomy. She never did. 

After both controversies, Katherine went on to star in many more movies, mostly romantic comedies, although none were as successful as Knocked Up. She also starred in the short-lived TV show State of Affairs between 2014 and 2015. She is currently filming the thriller Unforgettable with Rosario Dawson and also has roles in the CBS drama pilot Doubt, alongside Orange Is the New Black's Laverne Cox, and the animated film The Nut Job 2, in which she reprises her part as Andie..

In 2014, Katherine was asked at a TCA Press Tour event for State of Affairs about rumors that she and her mother and executive producer Nancy Heigl are "difficult to work with."

 "I can only say that I certainly don't see myself as being difficult and I don't intend to be difficult," Katherine responded. "I don't think my mother sees herself as being difficult...if I have ever disappointed somebody, it was never intentional."

The actress told Stern that she sought therapy to deal with feelings about negative press and was so worried about being branded "difficult" that she wore shoes that were too small on a set because she was afraid to complain about them to a wardrobe department.

"After that, I was like, 'This is nonsense. Stop it. Get some help and own your voice,'" she said.