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Katie Holmes’ open roads

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes attend the Vanity Fair Oscar party in West Hollywood, Calif., on Feb. 26. (Associated Press)
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes attend the Vanity Fair Oscar party in West Hollywood, Calif., on Feb. 26. (Associated Press)

First stop: Broadway and ‘Dead Accounts’

NEW YORK – If you want to get a good idea of Katie Holmes, actress – as opposed to tabloid star – you can’t do any better than “Pieces of April,” a gem from 2003 in which she plays a ponytailed and tattooed New Yorker desperately trying to prove herself to her visiting suburban family with an improvised, downtown Thanksgiving dinner.

This was back when Holmes was transitioning out of “Dawson’s Creek,” that teenage soap of a fictional New England coastal town childhood. But Holmes had already amassed an early filmography that any young actress would envy, including “The Ice Storm,” “Go” and “Wonder Boys.”

The budget for “Pieces of April” started at $6 million, but dwindled to $300,000 and was shot over just 16 days. Writer-director Peter Hedges recalls shooting in “condemnable” buildings with paint dropping off the walls of Holmes’ makeshift dressing room.

“You learn a lot about a person’s character when you work in those conditions,” Hedges said. “What I always say about Katie is she’s a good girl, she was raised right and she knows what it’s like to have flown coach.”

But for whatever reason, Holmes’ promising start was detoured. She met Tom Cruise, gave birth to a daughter, married and, at one time, spent three years off-screen. After starring in “Batman Begins” in 2005, she pulled out of “The Dark Knight,” leaving Maggie Gyllenhaal to take her place in what became one of the biggest movies of the decade. Her work since has been sporadic and not always substantial.

Now that she’s divorcing Cruise, and their 6-year-old daughter, Suri, is school age, there are mounting expectations that Holmes, 33, could again be the actress some thought she could become.

On Thursday, producers announced Holmes will star in Theresa Rebeck’s “Dead Accounts,” a five-character comedy that will be directed by three-time Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien.

The new Rebeck play, which had its world premiere at the Cincinnati Playhouse this winter, will open on Broadway this fall at the Music Box Theatre. Dates and other casting news will be announced later.

“Dead Accounts” centers on a son who returns to his family’s home in Cincinnati flush with money, which raises red flags for his sister, who is living with their elderly parents. Holmes will play the sister role, a not-very-glamorous part for a woman who has lately landed on the cover of every tabloid.

Producers in a statement said the comedy “tackles the timely issues of corporate greed, small town values and whether or not your family will always welcome you back.”

After Holmes began dating Cruise, she took a three-year break from acting that concluded with the poorly received heist film, “Mad Money.” She followed that up with the wedding drama “The Romantics” and small roles in the comedies “The Extra Man” and Adam Sandler’s “Jack and Jill,” and the thrillers “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” and “The Son of No One.”

She tested herself onstage, co-starring in a 2008 Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.” She earned mainly good reviews for a straightforward part that nevertheless utilized her Toledo, Ohio, folksiness. It was precisely the kind of classy production that earns actors respect. And onstage, Holmes’ 5-foot-9 height only furthers her presence.

“You can see for yourself that she more than holds her own,” “All My Sons” director Simon McBurney said at the time. “She is fantastic. Ann is her role. It combines this extraordinary fresh beauty with another, much darker quality that I always felt was there, and which comes out by the end of the play, where she looks like a kind of avenging angel.”

Holmes has also increasingly turned back to the medium that brought her fame: television. Along with guest appearances on the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” and the legal drama “Eli Stone,” she played Jackie Kennedy in “The Kennedys,” the controversial miniseries that ended up at ReelzChannel after the History Channel opted not to broadcast it.

The actress also recently taped a guest appearance as a judge on “Project Runway,” presumably with an aim toward promoting her developing fashion line, Holmes & Yang (with stylist Jeanne Yang).

“It could be a brand-new beginning for Katie Holmes,” said analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “Holmes was definitely on the rise and obviously took a left turn and got into a relationship with Tom Cruise, which kind of overshadowed her career and slowed her momentum.”

But, added Dergarabedian, “Actors often make a choice to pursue family rather than career. All she needs to do is put herself in the right projects.”

Much of Holmes’ appeal has always been her naturalism. Since her “Dawson’s Creek” days, she’s been most successful as a plucky, intelligent girl-next-door. Though she’s struggled to transition to more adult roles, it’s also clear that, at the same time, her life became quite tumultuous.

“For actresses, this can be a really great period of time, where more life has happened and they’ve got more to draw from,” said Hedges. “I love her performance in ‘Pieces of April’ and as great as that performance is – and I think it’s a great performance, nuanced with a lot of substance and surprise and humor and heartbreak – I felt when that was happening: ‘This is just the tip of the iceberg.’ ”


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