Very few film genres manage to captivate their audience as thoroughly as a thriller. That level of suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat drama is delivered in spades in the first directorial feature of Denise Di Novi, Unforgettable, in cinemas now.
The film documents the trials and tribulations of Tessa, played by Katherine Heigl (Life As We Know It, The Nut Job). When Tessa’s world is rocked by the breakdown of her marriage and her ex-husbands subsequent relationship with an unsuspecting Julia (Rosario Dawson), things very quickly take an ugly – and ultimately violent – turn.
So what drives Tessa to demonstrate such a dramatic switch in behaviour? And how did the cast and crew react to shooting such harrowing scenes? We’ve got the lowdown on everything you need to know about this spring’s most hotly anticipated thriller.
There’s more to the characters than you might expect
Better known for her loveable performances in a string of hit romantic comedies, Katherine Heigl plays unhinged Tessa, a role that director Di Novi reveals was heavily influenced by classic thriller movies. “Katherine nails the perfect posture of the Hitchcock blonde”, she explains. “Tessa takes it to such an extreme level – and Katherine is courageous enough to really embrace that darkness”.
Perhaps the most captivating character trait of them all is Tessa’s ability to switch between an uncompromising villain and a relatable, sometimes even likeable, woman in turmoil. As Heigl herself explains, “I want there to still be some sympathy for Tessa… it’s important to me that she is not so alienating that there isn’t a team of gals on her side”.
The same could also be said for Julia, Tessa’s initially warm-hearted rival who herself soon begins to unravel under the pressure of the conflict. “It’s only when [Julia’s] backed up against a wall that she realises she has nothing left to lose and fights back”, says Dawson. Indeed, both characters go on a journey throughout the film that sees them adopt entirely different personas to those that we’re first introduced to, making Unforgettable a tense and thrilling ride from start to finish.
A desire to be perfect unites the main characters
Although they may seem as different as chalk and cheese, a shared desire to lead the perfect life bonds the pair in more ways than you may first expect. “It’s a story about how women define themselves – and what the fear of losing all of that can provoke”, explains Heigl.
As the relationship between Julia and David – played by Geoff Stults – escalates, Tessa soon feels like somebody is taking over her entire world. As Julia settles in to the family home and begins to spend time with Tessa’s daughter Lily (Isabella Rice), we see just how far each character is prepared to go in order to protect this version of the perfect family life that they both so strongly crave. “Julia is willing to fight tooth and nail” explains Dawson, “even to the point of self-sacrifice”.
Many of the stunts were performed by the actors themselves
“We have amazing stuntwomen on this film, but, as you can see, it’s almost all Katherine and Rosario”, Di Novi says. The physical prowess of the movie’s leading cast members is particularly noticeable at the climax of the film, which sees Tessa and Julia fighting nail to nail in in an intensely emotional scene. “We really go at it. It is a knockdown, drag-out fight… winner take all” says Heigl.
This commitment to the film is also mimicked in the actors’ emotional portrayal, as both Heigl and Dawson have admitted to playing on their own experiences in order to form an even stronger connection to their characters. “Everyone brings a little bit of their personal lives into their experience of this film”, concludes Di Novi. “That’s what makes it so horrifying, scary and thrilling”.