Denise Di Novi: “I want ‘Unforgettable’ to be a cautionary tale for women.”

“Unforgettable” releases in theaters Friday

Denise Di Novi

Denise Di Novi had two goals when she set out to direct the dramatic thriller “Unforgettable.”

A veteran film producer with over 40 film credits that include “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” and “Focus,” she had initially planned to produce the project when the opportunity arose to make her directing debut.

“It was a story I had really connected with,” she tells Samantha Ofole-Prince.  “It just felt like the right thing to do at the right time and as terrifying as it was, it really was a thrilling opportunity to direct.”

The latest obsessive-relationship thriller to hit the big screen, the film stars Katherine Heigl (“Knocked Up”) as a jealous ex-wife who sets out to make life hell for her ex-husband’s new wife (played by Rosario Dawson of the “Sin City” films). An engaging thriller with topical overtones, it explores the complex relationship between first and second wives and how it can all spiral out of control and explores domestic abuse, internet privacy, child abuse and the cycle of toxic parenting.

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“The story intrigued me because it’s about two very different women thrown into a complicated blended family relationship. They each feel tremendous pressure—one to create the perfect life, the other to hold on to it. That pressure drives one to madness, while the other is forced to find the strength to fight for her life. I thought that would make for a very intense thriller,” Di Novi shares.

With several moments of nail-biting tension, and a brilliant melodic score by Toby Chu, Heigl stars as Tessa Connover, a woman barely coping with the end of her marriage when her ex-husband, David (Geoff Stults) finds another suitor. Despite being divorced for years, Tessa secretly believes they would someday reconcile, but that hope is dashed with the arrival of her ex’s new fiancée, Julia (Dawson), who assumes joint custody of their daughter. This enrages Tessa and she becomes determined to turn Julia’s dream union into nightmare.

An intense thriller, which is performance driven, the supporting cast includes Whitney Cummings (“The Wedding Ringer”), Robert Wisdom (TV’s “Chicago PD”) and Cheryl Ladd who plays Tessa’s domineering mother.

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With facets of “Fatal Attraction,” sprinkled with “Single White Female” and a little dose of “Misery,” this movie is effective in its portrayal of dysfunctional relationships.

“I am a fan of those movies and I am a fan of this genre,” Di Novi admits. “What I wanted to do was in a way honor some of the archetypes and the metaphors and symbols of these movies, but kind of feminize them and reinvent them and make them my own,” adds the director, who is now firmly entrenched in the director’s chair.  Although she will continue to produce films, she is slated to direct the upcoming female action movie “Highway One,” which releases in the fall.

“I want ‘Unforgettable’ to work on two levels,” she continues. “I want it to be a fun audience pleasing ride and I also want this to be a cautionary tale for women of what happens when you lose your identity and you feel like your identity is based on your desirability to a man.”

“Unforgettable” releases in theaters Friday

Pictured: (top) Denise Di Novi, (middle) Rosario Dawson and Katherine Heigl (bottom) Katherine Heigl and  Cheryl Ladd (photos courtesy of Karen Ballard/Warner Bros. Pictures)

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