Grey's Anatomy actress has been through the Hollywood ringer, and then some. Once one of the industry's most in-demand actresses, a series of now-infamous missteps and behind-the-scenes tussles landed the Emmy winner in hot water — and back on the fringes of a promising showbiz career.
Nearly 10 years since she ditched her iconic role on Grey's to pursue movie stardom — only to retreat from the spotlight shortly thereafter — an insider reveals what actually went wrong and what lies ahead for the hustling mom of three.
Heigl, 41 — who'd been acting since childhood — got her big break as Dr. Izzie Stevens on Grey's Anatomy in 2005. From there, her career began to soar: In 2007, she won an Emmy for the role and landed the leads in the hit movies Knocked Up and 27 Dresses.
But just as she was on the verge of superstardom, Heigl managed to majorly ruffle feathers in the industry — first, by declaring Knocked Up a "sexist" movie and then by withdrawing herself from contention for a 2008 Emmy, claiming she "wasn't given the material to warrant a... nomination."
The backlash was swift: Her Knocked Up costar Seth Rogen felt "betrayed," and Grey's showrunner, Shonda Rhimes, admitted the slight "stung," and ultimately went on to release Heigl from her contract early. An insider claims her series costars — people she'd described as a "family" — were fed up by the time she left the show in 2010.
Lead Ellen Pompeo "was no fan of hers," says the insider. "Katherine left in such a snit and upset everybody." Folks across the industry weren't impressed with the actress' holier-than-thou attitude. "She got a reputation for being difficult," the insider continues. "They don't call you the 'most hated in showbiz' for nothing."
And the wounds have not healed. Just recently, Grey’s co-star Isaiah Washington slammed Heigl on Twitter, more than a decade after his controversial exit from the show. Read about how he reignited their longstanding feud here.
Heigl, who admitted she spent the years after Grey's "struggling" and overcome by anxiety, "had to disappear because no one wanted to work with her," says the insider. "She had a bit of an emotional breakdown and plunged herself into therapy." She retreated to her 20-acre Utah ranch with her husband, Josh Kelley, and their adopted daughters, Naleigh, 11, and Adalaide, 8. (They welcomed son Joshua in 2016.)
Adds the insider: "She had a lot of things to figure out." But she wasn't ready to give up on Hollywood. The desire to keep succeeding in show business — the only career she'd ever known — surpassed the urge to curl up and hide.
"You have to be resilient if you want to succeed," she said. "You can decide, 'I've had enough failure, and I'm going to retire to Utah,' because that was the plan. But I just keep wanting to do this... My mom always says, 'Courage isn't about not being afraid. It's about being afraid and doing it anyway.'" Even though her movie star plans hadn't panned out — and despite her rep suffering a setback — TV roles slowly but surely materialized on State of Affairs, Suits and the upcoming Netflix series Firefly Lane.
"It's different when you're coming back to your career a second or third time," Heigl said. "You learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat them."
That's not to say that Heigl has completely put the past behind her. The insider claims she "still harbors regret over falling out with former costars, like Pompeo and Seth. She hopes that one day they can forgive her."
Still, she's managed to chart a peaceful path forward. She happily puts her off-set energy toward being a hands-on mom — a job she's said has "made me a better person" — and lives an idyllic family life on the ranch. As she's said, "You try and try, and you fail and fail — and then one day it all comes together beautifully, and you ride that wave as long as you can."