Exclusive: Producer Denise Di Novi Talks About ‘Unforgettable,’ Her Directorial Debut

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Exclusive: Producer Denise Di Novi Talks About ‘Unforgettable,’ Her Directorial Debut
Posted by Jacqueline Coley

April 18, 2017

When you’ve been producing films for over thirty years with over forty credits to your name, you’d figure it was a carefully calculated decision that led Denise Di Novi to finally step behind the camera. When her directorial debut was announced, I was instantly questioning what circumstances made her take the plunge. When we sat down to chat with her, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there was, in fact, no master plan. Di Novi chose to direct Unforgettable, the upcoming thriller starring Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson because she was asked. That simple, frank, and quick decision-making is something I think you can also apply to her directing style, as well. From her earlier projects with long partner Tim Burton (Edward Scissor-hands, Batman Returns) to recent hits like Crazy, Stupid, Love and Will Smith’s Focus, Di Novi has always produced unique films with complicated and captivating female charters.

Though this was likely not the first time someone had suggested she direct a project, she did say that a thriller was a perfect fit for her to start with. “I am a fan of the genre and the films [from it],” Di Novi confessed. Unforgettable is part Mommy Dearest meets, Hand the Rocks The Cradle with a little Fatal Attraction on the side. Specifically Unforgettable is the story of Tessa (Heigl) an emotionally wrought new divorcee trying to cope with her ex-husband, David’s (Geoff Stults) engagement to new girlfriend Julia (Dawson). Julia, while trying to settle into her new role as a wife and a stepmother to David’s daughter, is attempting to enjoy her happier ever after, and bury the memory of her own troubled past. Tessa, raked with jealousy, will stop at nothing to turn Julia’s dream into her ultimate nightmare, and reclaim what she believes was taken from her. I have shamelessly dubbed it, ‘The Hand that Rocks the Heigl, ” and I gleefully told as much to the Di Novi. “That’s great, have you told Katie, yet?” she asked, as she giggled at my personal tagline. “Not yet,” I said. The next day I sat down with Heigl, and I can now confirm she also approves. “Hashtag it!” Heigl quipped, clearly amused, as I was ending our interview the following day. It’s a cute line, and it lets you have fun with the film, which is what the filmmakers are hoping.

After the first screening, the night before our interview went well, Di Novi was feeling pleased. “I’m so exited about the reaction the film is getting…this is the type of film where you want to scream at the screen, and I love people are doing that.” One of the benefits of being on so many sets is now that she is finally in the Director’s chair Di Novi instinctively knew what she didn’t want to do. “I have been on been on sets where there were these ‘male gaze’ sex scenes; I didn’t want that.” As producer before she signed on to direct, Di Novi committed to hire a female director and cast woman of color as the lead. Though the original parties changed throughout the production, it did not negatively affect the final film. Di Novi stated when Rosario and Katherine signed on “It got better, these women brought so much to the characters and the story.”

With a female director, you can see clear alterations in the story telling. Not giving too much away, but during a confrontation between the two female leads, there’s a moment in the height of tension when they begin speaking. I could not imagine a male director making that same choice to shift from a physical altercation to a verbal one. However, that choice gives a huge amount of realism to increasing dramatic moment. “Women talk during everything, and I love it that [people] appreciate that,” she said. As the producer of the film, she made a commitment to diversity. As the director, she illustrates how a commitment to diversity can produce authentic and entertaining story telling. Unforgettable is a fun ride with not a lot of surprises except how much fun it is to watch. Calling back to the days when a film with a female protagonist could be just another film, I think audiences can get behind this thriller. Di Novi has crafted a film where the villains are empathetic the heroines are not always heroic, and to be honest, crazy just looks good on Heigl, and that alone is worth the price of admission.

Unforgettable is in theaters April 21st

Clip – Can I Confess Something?

Clip – I’m Scared

Clip – Are You Threatening Me?

Clip – I Finally Have Proof

Clip – This is Not My Fault

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