Katherine Heigl to star in movie starting here in July

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It's a plum role -- and series -- and Katherine Heigl has it and now, so does Pittsburgh.

Ms. Heigl is coming to Pittsburgh this summer to shoot "One for the Money," a big-screen version of the popular Janet Evanovich novel of the same name.

Published to enthusiastic reviews in 1994, "One for the Money" introduced Stephanie Plum, a laid-off lingerie buyer who blackmails her bail bondsman cousin into a job with his office. Turns out she's very good at the gig.

Since then, Ms. Evanovich has written 15 more Plum novels, with "Sizzling Sixteen" due in bookstores June 22.

"One for the Money" will mark the return to Western Pennsylvania of Lakeshore Entertainment, which made "The Mothman Prophecies" here. The movie, which will be set in the present day rather than the '90s of the series launch, will start in July and shoot into early September.

Julie Anne Robinson, who directed "The Last Song" starring Miley Cyrus and Greg Kinnear, will direct. Still to be announced are the actors who will handle the male roles of Joe Morelli and Ranger.

Pittsburgh will play Trenton, N.J., the backdrop for the books. "The cities are actually pretty similar in architecture," Richard Wright, head of production at Lakeshore, said yesterday by phone in confirming the shoot.

"They're both industrial cities that rose to prominence at a similar time in history. They were both built around heavy manufacturing, they both have a river going right through the city or right next to the city. ... It's actually a very, very good match."

Mr. Wright laughingly compared the movie to a "superhero origins story" explaining how the character came to be. Pressed to categorize it, he calls it a drama with action and comedic elements.

Stephanie has lost her job, moved back in with her parents and hit rock bottom. "She gets this opportunity to work in her cousin's bail bonds office, and it turns out she's incredible at it."

Asked if this might launch a film franchise, he said, "We should all be so lucky. Certainly if that happens, we'll be very happy."

Ms. Heigl, known for her former role on TV's "Grey's Anatomy" and in movies such as "Knocked Up" and "27 Dresses," will play the part as a brunette. In the first book, Jersey vice cop Morelli describes Stephanie as "lots of energy, not much control, sexy as hell."

As for what makes Ms. Heigl a good match for the role, Mr. Wright said, "The film is an interesting mixture of the comedic and the gritty, and Katherine is a phenomenally talented comedic actress, but this is not being played as a comedy, per se.

"It's a film that has comedic elements and it's a film that has dramatic elements, and she's also very, very interested in this character," and has been researching the role.

"The Mothman Prophecies" filmed over a three-month period of 2001 in Pittsburgh and Kittanning, Armstrong County, paved the way for "One for the Money." The experience on the Richard Gere thriller convinced Lakeshore to return.

"We considered a lot of different places but Pittsburgh is a location that we know well," Mr. Wright said.

"We had a very, very good experience on 'Mothman' there so it was kind of a no-brainer to come back. The Pittsburgh film commission is a very activist film commission and they played a big role in helping us figure the whole thing out."

Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, said yesterday, "They had a great shoot with 'Mothman,' and we know they will have a wonderful experience with this project. Lakeshore is back in the Pittsburgh area due to the successful Pennsylvania film tax credit program and because of our extremely talented local workforce."

Mr. Wright, calling Pennsylvania's incentive both attractive and effective, said tax credits are "a very important part of the decision about where you shoot a movie."

The film has hired a Pittsburgher as a production manager and Mr. Wright said, "We want to hire as many Pittsburgh locals as we possibly can. It works for everybody, it works for the community and it works for us." He also expects there to be a need for extras, but it's too early to announce that information.

Tom Rosenberg, an Oscar winner for "Million Dollar Baby," and Gary Lucchesi, both principals at Lakeshore, along with Wendy Finerman, will produce "One for the Money."

"One for the Money" is among three movies filming here this summer. "I Am Number Four," starring Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant and Kevin Durand, is under way, with "Abduction" featuring "Twilight" heartthrob Taylor Lautner set for July.

Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her Mad About the Movies blog at post-gazette.com/movies.


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