By Moonah Ellison & Chesley Turner
photography Randall Slavin
Be not afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.
Katie Holmes is figuring out her life in a way that few people ever expected her to. Amidst the naysayers, the relentless paparazzi, and the cruel side effect of stardom – that everybody knows your business – Holmes is raising a daughter, nurturing a career, and taking calculated chances. She’s not the charming starlet or the bold and brazen screen queen. She’s just Katie Holmes. No apologies necessary.
In that way, she’s not all that different from one of her latest roles, Miss Meadows, in the upcoming feature film of the same name. Don’t be fooled by those Alice-in-Wonderland outfits; this film is a trip down the rabbit hole, where a delicate schoolteacher wields her handgun as the world’s nicest vigilante.
“Miss Meadows was a gem that kind of fell in my lap in a way…. I really immediately liked Miss Meadows because of her complexity but also her humor. And I had never played a character like that before.” Holmes shared her ideas about the character with director Karen Leigh Hopkins, and the whole project came together quickly. “What I enjoyed about playing Miss Meadows is that she was very true to herself and she really had a passion about what she was doing and she really felt that her work in getting rid of the bad people of the world was very, very valuable, even though it was against the law. And while I’m not supporting that kind of behavior, it was a very exciting character to play.
Just like the alarming and unconventional Miss Meadows, Ms. Holmes has remained remarkably true to herself and her values as she pursues her passions. She makes conscientious decisions about her life, even down to her latest product representation as a new ambassador for Oil of Olay. “I really like what the brand stands for. It really is a symbol of everlasting beauty and female strength and empowerment. And I think those are wonderful things to stand for.” Holmes, who hails from Ohio, still harbors that wholesome middle-Americana focus, in that she feels it’s less about the flashbulbs and more about what a person stands for.
Perhaps considering the attention Holmes gets as a single mother in show business, it’s not surprising that her directorial debut will focus on a story about a mother-daughter relationship and all the comedy and drama intrinsic in the subject. Produced by Jane Rosenthal and with a script adapted by Josh Boone, director of The Fault in Our Stars, Katie has optioned All We Had, an Annie Weatherwax novel. She’s decided to bring the story to life on screen.
“I’m equal parts excited and terrified. But I am very inspired by this book, and we have a great writer, and Josh Boon adapting it, and Jane Rosenthal is a wonderful producer who is, you know, helping me put this all together.” Katie is authentic as she talks about the project, her nerves overshadowed only by her passion. “Hopefully I can achieve it. It’s not a lot of characters. It’s hopefully something that – I keep saying “hopefully” but I feel like I can shoot it.” Ms. Holmes is highly self-critical, that much is clear. And yet, she has the drive to maintain her momentum, and that’s what makes the difference. “I’ve always been really passionate about stories, and you know, whenever I’ve acted in anything, usually it’s something that speaks to me. And so I thought that I would just keep searching and exploring all the ways to tell stories and to reach an audience.”
Holmes will also be acting in All We Have. “I’m willing to take a risk and try directing a feature but I go into it with a lot of humility and awe and I hope for the best. But I feel like it’s nice to kind of…well, it’s nice to try and flex a different creative muscle. And why not? Why not give it a shot?”
That’s the conviction of a life calling.
Holmes comes from an incredibly supportive family, although she was the only one to forge ahead into the world of acting. “I’m very grateful for my family. There’s a freedom in being the only one doing something because there’s no one to live up to; you’re the only one that’s doing it. It’s kind of satisfying in that way. But you know, you learn very quickly to create your own path and live with it. In our business, it’s a very interesting journey.”
Katie talks about how she’s selected the films in her oeuvre with the studied nonchalance that characterizes most actors when they examine their history of choices. “It’s different for every project and where you are in your life. You know, sometimes it’s the pure art of it. It’s the opportunity to work with someone you’ve always wanted to work with. Sometimes it’s a genre that you’ve always wanted to do. Sometimes it’s a story that needs to be told. And it’s very rewarding to be a part of a project that has a great message and deals with important issues and helps to change the social consciousness.”
Sometimes, even, it’s just about waiting. “You know, certain projects come into your life at times when you’re really supposed to be a part of them, when you’re ready for it. And it sounds kind of not-very-pro-active, but it actually is. You just…sometimes you just have to sort of wait for the thing that you’re really are supposed to do.”
iI’s a fickle business, but Katie says she’s learned not to get too excited or too down. “You just kind of roll with it.”
Remarkably down-to-earth, Holmes even says that of all the places she’d love to shoot a film again, Cleveland is the one she’d choose.
“Well, we filmed Miss Meadows in Cleveland, Ohio, which is close to my hometown. And it was such a wonderful crew that we had from Cleveland. It was August. It was hot. It was your all-American Midwest. It was my state. I had a wonderful time. The people in Cleveland couldn’t have been nicer…. So I would have to say I’d go back there.” Which goes to show exactly what kind of girl Katie Holmes is.
She’s also a passionate reader, recommending both Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, both of which have spent time on the New York Times best-seller list. “I love my books. I always feel really warm in a room full of books. Like everything’s going to be okay.” Furthermore, she’s passing it on. “You know, I think as a mom it’s wonderful to give books to your children; to give the joy of reading to your children.”
In most arenas, Holmes sports the quiet, reserved nature of a woman who seeks not to make an impression merely by presence, but rather by impact. It’s the kind of character that Princess Diana had, uninterested in the glitz and intimidated by the tabloids, but remarkably strong when it came down to brass tacks. And, similarly, Holmes’s motivation, particularly for non-career choices, often stems from her maternal nature and a real sense of obligation.
“As a mother, I feel a huge responsibility to preserve our environment and I am very passionate about [it]. It’s so important. And it’s not something that we can just put aside and deal with tomorrow. I mean we really have to, obviously, take it very, very seriously. It’s a huge concern.” She speaks like it’s a given; like the debate about the existence or fabrication of global warming isn’t even a question, much less one that’s being battled and debated constantly in our highest offices. And Holmes also mentions the Global Poverty Project in Central Park, led by Hugh Evans and supported by friend Jane Rosenthal, among others. “The goal is to end world poverty by 2030, and you know, Hugh works tirelessly on this important cause. And I went last year and it was an incredible experience. Anything I can do to help is, you know, that’s very important to me.
Obligation. That’s how I look at it.”