- - Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It’s rare to find a female-driven film in Hollywood that also boasts a female writer, director, producer and studio executive behind it, but that’s exactly what happened with the new erotic thriller “Unforgettable.”

Producer Denise Di Novi, the veteran creative force behind “Heathers,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Edward Scissorhands,” makes her directorial debut with “Unforgettable.”

“This was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Ms. Di Novi told The Washington Times at the film’s premiere.

“After making so many films as a producer, to step into the director’s role and have a more intimate relationship to the storytelling, and be a part of this female team, was really exciting,” she said.

Despite her Hollywood success as producer — and now as director — Ms. Di Novi is firm that more women need to be in positions of power in the male-centric entertainment industry.

“I think the conversation has escalated, and people are committed to the change,” she said. But “it will take a while … to catch up.”

“Unforgettable” stars Rosario Dawson as Julia, who, while dealing with the effects of a past abusive relationship, falls in love with her dream guy, a divorced father named David (Geoff Stults) with an 8-year-old girl.

What Julia doesn’t realize is that David’s ex-wife Tessa (Katherine Heigl) happens to be psychotic. From there, the thrills begin.

“The story intrigued me because it’s about two very different women thrown into a complicated, blended family relationship,” said Ms. Di Novi. “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.”

“Unforgettable” was written by Christina Hodson and David Leslie Johnson (“The Walking Dead”).

“You’re catching Julia at that ‘pinch me’ moment when she’s happy and in love,” Miss Dawson said of where her character is at the beginning of the story. “She is excited about the steps she is taking to build a new life, but because of everything she’s gone through before, it’s hard for her to trust and not wonder when the other shoe is going to drop.

“I was rooting for her because I know how that feels, and I think anyone could understand what that might be like.”

Miss Dawson said she initially turned down the film due to its violent nature, however, she said the image of Julia as a strong woman fighting for herself eventually drew her in.

While “Unforgettable” is, after all, an entertainment, the film does touch upon real-life horrors like violence against women and sexual assault.

“One in three women are raped, killed or beaten in their lifetime,” Miss Dawson said. “That’s over a billion women on the planet. So I loved that this was an opportunity to play a character who had gone through that but was a survivor — she sought help.”

While in her own life, Miss Dawson hasn’t had to deal much with unstable ex-boyfriends, she has had her share of bad breakups, saying she has written “really sad little handwritten letters that I dropped off at their house.”

“Those are the moments that I look back and think, ‘Yeah, I could have been a little bit more classier and taken that a little bit better.’”

Cheryl Ladd, known for her iconic role in “Charlie’s Angels,” plays Miss Heigl’s mother. While there remain few movies and television series featuring significant female leads, Miss Ladd believes there will be more.

“People are just now seeing the huge audience that is out there for women-led films,” she said.

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