Katie Holmes has barely been seated for five minutes on the patio of Butcher’s Daughter in Venice Beach, Calif., when a blushing waiter places two glasses of Champagne in front of her. He tells her he’s a big fan and Holmes graciously thanks him. As soon as he is out of earshot she leans forward, whispering, “What just happened? Did you do this?”
It’s a small gesture, but the fact Holmes can’t quite fathom why she is being served Champagne is what instantly makes her feel like a friend. That, and the fact she wants to share a plate of nachos on this sunny Friday afternoon. “They’re vegetarian, aren’t they? It’s healthy,” she says with a mischievous smile.
She may be a world-famous, statuesque woman who turns heads when she enters a room, but it’s Holmes’ girl-next-door quality that makes people feel comfortable in her presence. Whether portraying tomboy Joey Potter in Dawson’s Creek or the regal Jacqueline Kennedy in The Kennedys, Holmes has always had a knack for making every character she plays a person you would like to invite over for coffee.
The ability to gain trust is a trait Holmes now channels into her role as first-time director with the drama All We Had, in which she also stars. But to simply label her “nice” is to underestimate the multihyphenate star who has made her mark in film, television and theater. Once Holmes decided to option Annie Weatherwax’s debut novel about Rita and Ruthie—a young mother and daughter trying to escape poverty and build a home for themselves in small-town USA—she spent six months meticulously preparing for the shoot, gathering ideas for shots, pacing and tone. It’s also a job she has been inadvertently studying for since 1997, when the then-19-year-old actress made her debut in Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm.
Holmes admits the quality of the person helming the project has always been a driving factor for her taking a job. “Since Day One in this business, you’re always trying to work with great directors. That’s the goal,” she says. Doug Liman (Go), Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking), Curtis Hanson (The Wonder Boys) and Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins) are only a few of the auteurs she has been able to observe over the years. “I [recently] got to work with Steven Soderbergh [in the upcoming film Logan Lucky], and that was a dream come true,” she raves. “He’s a master. I asked him a lot of questions about directing in our first meeting. He was extremely generous. Then I watched what he did when we were working.”
When it came to her own project, Holmes was careful to choose her source material based on its scope and her understanding of subject matter. “I thought, if I’m going to do something I’ve never done before, I should pick something I feel comfortable with,” she says. “I’m from a family of five children, and I have three sisters. That female relationship is familiar to me.”