One for the Money - Jason O’Mara and Katherine Heigl
Joseph Morelli (Jason O’Mara) and Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl) © 2010 Lions Gate Entertainment

Stephanie Plum, the popular heroine of Janet Evanovich’s best-selling mystery series, is coming to the big screen this week in One for the Money. Portrayed by Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up, Grey’s Anatomy, New Year’s Eve), the movie spotlights the out-of-work born-and-bred Jersey girl, who convinces her sleazy cousin to give her a job as a recovery agent at his bail bonding company.

Her first assignment is to bring in bail-jumper, ex-cop and murder suspect, Joe Morelli, played by Jason O’Mara (Terra Nova, Life on Mars, Band of Brothers), whom seduced and dumped Stephanie in high school.

Katherine and Jason spoke with us about bringing the successful franchise to life at the press day for the film.

How did this project come to you, and how did you become a producer on it?

Poster featuring Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl) © 2010 Lions Gate Entertainment

Katherine: I was approached about the project when I was doing The Ugly Truth with Lakeshore. They had wanted to turn the book into a movie and at that point I had not read the book. So I started reading them and then became obsessed with them. I got really excited about the idea of bringing it to the screen.

I really loved the producer role on this, because it was so important to me to keep the film really close to the book, because that’s what I fell in love with.

That’s what millions of people have fallen in love with in terms of the One for the Money/Stephanie Plum series, so it was great to get to be in the room and have an opinion, not that it was always necessarily listened to.

Jason: I just did this ‘one for the money!’ (he laughs) I hadn’t heard of the book franchise before I got my first audition. And even by the second audition I didn’t want to invest myself, I didn’t want to be disappointed by reading it.

So it wasn’t until after I got the offer for the job that I started reading the books and, like Katie, once I started reading them I couldn’t stop.

But I decided I would stop at book three, because the relationship between Morelli and Plum started to develop and I wanted to focus on the story of how Joe Morelli and Stephanie Plum end up back into each other’s lives, so I didn’t want to take it too far.

What was it like working together?

Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl) and Joseph Morelli (Jason O’Mara) © 2010 Lions Gate Entertainment

Jason: When I read Katie’s role, I realized she was perfect for it and she was going to really knock this one out of the park. She’s got a great sense of comic timing. The part of this I’ve really enjoyed is the comedy.

Katherine: Jason is going to be the only person people can think of from now on when they read the books. He’s brought Morelli to life in the most seamless and perfect way.

Jason Mara: I just loved this character. I love how when we meet him his world has been already flipped upside down. He’s already kind of ‘through the looking glass’ when you find him. He’s a cop who’s on the run, a fugitive, and I think that’s just a really cool character to play.

What is it about this movie that makes it more than just a chick flick?

Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl) © 2010 Lions Gate Entertainment

Katherine: What’s interesting about the books is that they all have a murder mystery tie-in with the bounty hunting aspect of it. So it’s not just all about romance, or all about comedy, especially in this movie the murder mystery storyline is kind of dark and a little edgy and gives it a vibe that is not purely chick-flickish.

What was your favorite scene in the movie to shoot?

Jason Mara: I suppose the shower scene. There’s something diabolical in me watching another actor –

Katherine: Suffer –

Jason Mara: She did spend all day suffering in a tub. But I have to say I really admire Katie for going through that, because it looks like we shot it in five minutes, but we spent pretty much all day there.

And it was not a bathroom in a house, it was a film set and it was kind of grubby and cold. (to Katherine) But you never complained, not even once.

Katherine: Oh no, I did, just probably not to you.

Jason Mara: It was a lot of fun, not just because of the nudity element, but I think Morelli and Plum’s relationship started to come alive.

I remember after a few takes we started improvising some stuff that actually made the cut of the movie. As an actor you always feel a little proud when you find something in the heat of the moment between two characters that perhaps isn’t written or isn’t planned, but ends up being there. That’s always exciting.

You reminded me a little of Mel Gibson in this, has that comparison every been made before?

Jason Mara: When people make comparisons like that it’s embarrassing, because Mel Gibson’s early career is iconic. He was a hero of mine growing up, so I wouldn’t allow such a comparison, but bless you for saying it.

What do you think it is about the Stephanie Plum character that resonates with audiences?

Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl) © 2010 Lions Gate Entertainment

Katherine: I just think there’s something about her that’s really endearing. You just like her.

She’s a decent person with a big heart and she’s fearless and courageous, but perpetually puts herself in situations where she’s just in over her head. She doesn’t take herself very seriously and doesn’t take other people too seriously.

She has this great perspective on life that happens to be really funny and witty and charming as well. I like everything about Stephanie. She’s that hapless heroine that you don’t get a lot of. You get the overly perfect heroine that you can never aspire to be like. Stephanie is an everyday girl.

One for the Money is released in theaters on Friday January 27, 2012. The film is released in the UK on February 24, 2012 and in Australia on February 16, 2012.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter. More by Judy Sloane