TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)
Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY
Ever since her breakthrough performance as a wide-eyed drug addict in "Drugstore Cowboy" (1989), actress Heather Graham had a hit-or-miss career that was punctuated with several winning performances amidst an equal amount of duds. She spent nearly the next 10 years looking to fulfill the early promise of "Drugstore." But instead, she lagged in better-forgotten films like "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" (1992) - a continuation of her season two performance on the show - and "Diggstown" (1992), which was more notable for her off-screen pairing with older co-star James Woods than anything that happened on screen. She finally made good, however, with her star-making turn as a roller skating porn star in "Boogie Nights" (1997). Though co-stars Julianne Moore and Burt Reynolds received the lion's share of critical praise, Graham nonetheless managed to rise above the fray and established her credentials as well as created an iconic screen character. After "Boogie Nights," Graham was able to land roles in blockbuster films like "Lost in Space" (1998) and "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (1999). But once again, her star faded a bit, leading to a brief conversion to television that ended in disaster...
Ever since her breakthrough performance as a wide-eyed drug addict in "Drugstore Cowboy" (1989), actress Heather Graham had a hit-or-miss career that was punctuated with several winning performances amidst an equal amount of duds. She spent nearly the next 10 years looking to fulfill the early promise of "Drugstore." But instead, she lagged in better-forgotten films like "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" (1992) - a continuation of her season two performance on the show - and "Diggstown" (1992), which was more notable for her off-screen pairing with older co-star James Woods than anything that happened on screen. She finally made good, however, with her star-making turn as a roller skating porn star in "Boogie Nights" (1997). Though co-stars Julianne Moore and Burt Reynolds received the lion's share of critical praise, Graham nonetheless managed to rise above the fray and established her credentials as well as created an iconic screen character. After "Boogie Nights," Graham was able to land roles in blockbuster films like "Lost in Space" (1998) and "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (1999). But once again, her star faded a bit, leading to a brief conversion to television that ended in disaster when her own show lasted just one episode. Despite the failure, Graham continued on as a steady presence, often in broad comedies that were more suited to her strengths.
Born on Jan. 29, 1970 in Milwaukee, WI, Graham was raised in a strict Catholic home by her father, Jim, a retired FBI agent, and her mother, Joan, a teacher and author of children's poetry. When she was four, her parents moved the family - which included younger sister, Aimee - to Virginia, which was soon followed by another move to Agoura Hills, CA, where she was surrounded by monotony and conservatism. Always one to indulge in play acting as a child, Graham chased after her dream while still a student at Agoura High School, landing an agent, commercials and an episode of "Growing Pains" (ABC, 1985-1992) by the time she was 16. She next co-starred opposite O.J. Simpson prior to his acquittal for double-murder in "Student Exchange" (ABC, 1987), a two-part movie about two American high school teenagers who masquerade as chic European exchange students. Graham soon made her feature film debut with a strong performance as a drunken dream girl in the silly but extremely popular teen comedy "License to Drive" (1988), a vehicle for former teen sensations, Corey Feldman and Corey Haim.
While she was still in high school, Graham was up for a lead role in the acclaimed teen black comedy, "Heathers" (1988), but her strict parents felt that the material was inappropriate and refused to allow their daughter to do the film. It was the beginning of a strained relationship between her and her folks that eventually led to estrangement. Once on her own after graduation, she was free to make her own choices. Graham made a wise one when she went after a noted supporting role in Gus Van Sant's gripping "Drugstore Cowboy" (1989). Her performance as a young, doomed drug addict won praise and notice, as well as a Best Actress nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards. The following year saw Graham take on the recurring role of Annie, an ex-nun who becomes the love interest of Kyle MacLachlan's Agent Cooper for the second season of David Lynch's bizarre, but intriguing series, "Twin Peaks" (ABC, 1990-91). In 1991, she took on a more conventional role as a college student with parental difficulties in the unimpressive 1950s-set musical, "Shout." Graham returned to television that year with a starring role alongside Jessica Lange and David Strathairn, as the young version of Lange's character in "O Pioneers!" (CBS, 1992).
After reprising her role of Annie in the incoherent feature treatment of "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me" (1992), Graham appeared in "Diggstown" (1992) a crime comedy that starred James Woods as a con artist who teams up with a down-and-out boxer (Louis Gossett, Jr.) to score some quick cash. It was on "Diggstown" that Graham became romantically involved with Woods, one of the first in a long string of short-term, but public affairs with her fellow celebrities. Prior to Woods, she was involved with Kyle MacLachlan while working on "Twin Peaks." Back on screen, she had a co-starring role in the mediocre black comedy, "Guilty as Charged" (1992), which she followed with small parts in "Six Degrees of Separation" (1993) and "The Ballad of Little Jo" (1993). Following a lead role as a young woman who is brought together with an older man (Michael Nickles) by forces of nature in the little-seen indie "Desert Winds" (1994), Graham reunited with Gus Van Sant for his poorly received comedy, "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" (1994). Meanwhile, she had a small part in the acclaimed "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" (1994), followed by the starring role in the direct-to-video thriller, "Terrified" (1995).
Continuing her rise, Graham had a brief, but memorable turn as a swing dancing beauty that pulls a struggling, heartbroken screenwriter (Jon Favreau) out of his funk in "Swingers" (1996). Though on screen for just a short time toward the end, the role helped Graham gain some notice. But it was her next role that propelled the young actress to the next level, playing a young porn star, Rollergirl, who is never without her skates, in Paul Thomas Anderson's celebrated "Boogie Nights" (1997). Graham's energetic portrayal of Rollergirl, which stood out amongst strong performances from Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore and Burt Reynolds, conveyed a touching sense of innocence and humor, while her uncharacteristically brutal attack on a high school tormentor near the film's end served as a dramatic highlight. She followed the attention-grabbing performance with a cameo in "Scream 2" (1997), playing Drew Barrymore's character from the original in "Stab," the slasher film-within-a-slasher film. In "Two Girls and a Guy" (1997), she was the lone shining spot in an otherwise disappointing film, with her eye-flashing ferocity that she unleashed in her scenes with Robert Downey, Jr. proving that she was more than just a pretty face.
After the overt sexuality of her last two starring efforts, Graham did a 180 degree turn as Dr. Judy Robinson in "Lost in Space" (1998), spurning the advances of Matt LeBlanc and outfitted from wrist to ankle in modest gastro-jumpsuits. The following year, she gained widespread attention as 1960s CIA agent, Felicity Shagwell, in the blockbuster sequel, "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (1999). Decked out in risqué mod-meets-flower child gear and purring memorable lines such as "Shagwell by name, shag very well by reputation," Graham's sultry presence served as a perfect counterpart to Mike Myers' cheeky Austin Powers. She followed up with a role in the comedy "Bowfinger" (1999), starring alongside Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy as a young Hollywood hopeful, fresh from Ohio, who dates her way to the top, only to break the heart of her last conquest (Martin) when she leaves him to cash in on the precarious lesbian chic with a powerful Tinseltown woman. Her character's similarity to Graham's previous co-star and Martin's former love interest, Anne Heche, sparked much speculation.
In 2000, Graham starred opposite Luke Wilson as an abandoned wife on an obsessive mission to keep her vows, seeking out her husband on a whirlwind road trip in "Committed." Graham proved to be solid in the indie romantic comedy "Sidewalks of New York" (2001), opposite Ed Burns, whom she was romantically entangled with at the time. Also that year, perhaps unwisely, Graham jumped on the teen gross-out train with the gigantic flop "Say It Isn't So" (2001), a rare misstep from the Farrell Brothers. Despite the famed comedy directors being behind the wheel, the movie lacked any kind of a comic spark and signaled the beginning of the end of the repulsive comedy genre. Despite the setback, Graham's reputation remained intact. She was next cast as Whitechapel prostitute Mary Kelly in the Hughes Brothers' film adaptation of the Jack the Ripper comic book, "From Hell" (2001), opposite Johnny Deep. While certainly up to the challenge, Graham was ultimately saddled with a wavering British accent and an appearance that belied her character of an impoverished prostitute roaming the streets of 1880s London.
Graham next starred in the middling erotic thriller "Killing Me Softly" (2002), baring much of her body - all for naught - as a woman involved in a kinky affair with a mysterious man (Joseph Fiennes). In the Bollywood-esque romantic comedy "The Guru" (2003), she played an adult film star whose affections are sought by an Indian dance teacher (Jimi Mistry) seeking his fame and fortune in America. She essayed a nice, normal girl caught in a romantic triangle between Colin Firth and Minnie Driver in "Hope Springs" (2003), which she followed by an uncredited appearance as a bar patron with a surprising private side who manages to get caught up in the battle of wills between Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler in "Anger Management" (2003). Meanwhile, the game of musical chairs that was her love life continued unabated. By this time, she had gone through several more fleeting romances after leaving longtime love Ed Burns in 2000, taking up with the likes of Elijah Blue Allman - the offspring of Cher and Allman Brothers band member, Gregg Allman - as well as director Chris Weitz and actor Heath Ledger.
While her film career began to flag, Graham shifted gears to the small screen, signing on for an eight episode stint on the hit sitcom "Scrubs" (NBC/ABC, 2001- ). Appearing as the charmingly off-kilter, fast-talking psychologist Molly Clock, she reminded viewers of her willingness to do whatever it takes to sell a joke and how good her comic timing was when she chose to utilize it. After appearing in an episode of the perpetually uncertain but brilliant "Arrested Development" (Fox, 2003-06), Graham landed her own sitcom, "Emily's Reasons Why Not" (ABC, 2005-06), playing a book publisher with a string of disastrous relationships who develops a technique to determine suitable men, but is incapable of following her own advice. The network relentlessly promoted the series, running television commercials and hoisting billboard ads as if it were the only show on their slate that fall. The show was canceled after the network aired only one episode. Adding embarrassment to failure, Graham was featured in a cover of Life magazine, calling her "TV's sexiest star" and touting her new show just days after the cancellation announcement - too late to change once the magazine had already gone to print.
Turning back to film before it was too late, Graham did time in the independent world, performing admirably in mediocre films that rarely saw the light of day. After a supporting turn in Abel Ferrara's metaphysical drama "Mary" (2005), she was a receptionist working the switchboard at the time of Senator Robert F. Kennedy's assassination at the Ambassador Hotel in "Bobby" (2006), directed by Emilio Estevez. Following an appearance as a sex shop clerk in "The Oh in Ohio" (2006), Graham starred as a waitress trying to fix her past mistakes, only to confront the biggest one she ever made in the form of her dangerous ex-boyfriend, in the dreary "Broken" (2006). In the romantic comedy with a twist, "Gray Matters" (2006), she was a woman who falls in love with the bride-to-be (Bridget Moynahan) of her brother (Tom Cavanagh), which she followed with a more dramatic turn as an eye doctor who examines her life after suffering traumatic loss in "Adrift in Manhattan" (2007). Graham returned to her greatest strength, starring in two pregnancy-themed comedies, "Miss Conception" (2008) and "Baby on Board" (2009), after which she co-starred in Todd Phillips bachelor-party-gone-wrong comedy hit, "The Hangover" (2009).
Filmographyclose complete filmography
CAST: (feature film)
Milestones close milestones
Graham appeared in a commercial for a Japanese soft drink in 2001.
"There's a dichotomy with Heather. She's this innocent little thing in the middle of this dangerous town, but she manages to bob along the surface and doesn't get sucked in." --Jon Favreau to Buzz, November 1997.
"Everyone thinks I'm a bimbo because I'm pretty and blondish. If that's what they think, that's totally fine. I'm not here for the hypey bullshit Hollywood stuff. All I want out of this are good jobs." --Graham to Guy Trebay in Details, March 1998.
Graham on the type of roles she prefers: "As an actress it's fun to do rageful things. Most of the parts I read are for girlfriends who are nagging, needy and pathetic. They're all like 'Honey, stay with me! And don't endanger yourself! This movie is about all the exciting things that you're doing! I love you! Let's have a family together!' I just don't understand them. I have no idea where they're coming from." --quoted in The New York Times, April 12, 1998.
Director James Toback on Graham's reaction to his unconventional audition process for "Two Girls and a Guy": "I intentionally said a lot of things to her that were provocative. She not only picked up on it, but upped the ante several times. In fact, I began to think to myself, 'What would it take to shock her?' She seemed utterly ready to go with anything." --quoted in The New York Times, April 12, 1998.
Graham on love scenes: "Basically you are just kissing someone partially clothed. I would rather pretend to be having an orgasm than pretend someone's stabbing me 35 million times. It's a more pleasant image to conjure up." --quoted in Premiere, July 1999.
Director Gus Van Sant on Graham's strengths as an actress; "She was very good at playing dead. I think what she's best at are the specialty items --playing drunk, dead or Rollergirl. Those things are hard." --quoted in Premiere, July 1999.
Companions close complete companion listing
Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.Click here to contribute