Early the next morning, Heigl strides into a Providence coffee shop looking a little bleary-eyed. At 11 o'clock the night before, she was still on the set of 27 Dresses in a bathing cap and tutu, with a scuba regulator in her mouth, to shoot an underwater wedding scene. She woke up and threw her life into a bag so she can take the red-eye later tonight to Los Angeles for two days of Knocked Up press junkets and the Hollywood premiere. She'll then turn right around to Rhode Island to finish the movie before returning to Los Angeles to immediately start the fourth season of Grey's. When a grinning fan sidles up to her to tell her how much his wife loved last night's finale and how she'd just kill him if he didn't introduce himself, she gives a convincing chuckle of appreciation and signs his napkin, murmuring vaguely that she forgot to watch.
On the ride to work, she cracks her window, lights up another cigarette, and turns wistful looking at the old brick buildings and low-hanging maple trees that remind her of growing up in Connecticut. When she was 7, Heigl's teenage brother was in a car accident and died of massive head injuries. Her reeling family would soon have to stare down her mom's fight with breast cancer and her parents' eventual divorce. ''I haven't really been on the East Coast for any length of time in 10 years,'' she says. ''I never realized how much of what my family went through hangs in the air here.'' Just as her cheeks seem to be going slack, ash from her cigarette flies in from the window into her sputtering face, making her laugh.
''I just want to play happy people,'' she says, almost apologetically. ''I'm a commercial kind of gal, and yeah, I would love to do a Monster, but I don't have any grand aspirations to do my Academy Award-winning movie. I love Kate Winslet, but I know I couldn't have her career. Her choices are so fascinating and character-driven. But you gotta drag me to see Babel, you gotta drag me to see Children of Men. The Notebook is one of my all-time favorite movies.''
When Heigl gets to work, she hops out of the car and gives her driver a quick kiss on the lips ''You rock, Ronnie'' before blowing into the makeup trailer. ''Look at all those zits that I've picked at,'' she says, assessing her naked face in the mirror, before making the cramped room laugh with bawdy stories about the prosthetic vagina on Knocked Up, and her own experience helping her older sister through labor. ''I'm holding her legs, screaming at her like a fat football coach...''
When she's called to set, Heigl smoothly practices a scene where she tries on her closetful of bridesmaid dresses for a skeptical reporter played by James Marsden, and explains to him why she doesn't mind always being the girl who holds the bouquet. ''Someday,'' her character says firmly, ''God knows when, but someday it will be my day.'' She's ready. Rehearsal is over.
Additional reporting by Josh Rottenberg