Friday, February 16, 2007

Heather Graham: Takes the Wheels Off the Roller Girl Image (Q&A)

Heather Graham's one of the few actresses who's worked with Coreys Haim and Feldman and is still acting on a regular basis. She made her first big splash on the movie scene with her role in Boogie Nights which lead to roles in films like Bowfinger and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged me and many others. I caught up with the actress last week at the Regent Beverly Wilshire where she and the cast of her latest starring vehicle, Gray Matters, were on hand to do interviews. During our session she talked about the newer film, kissing Bridget Moynahan being Roller Girl and kicking a little ass...

Q: Tom Cavanagh said that playing this role; your brother, came easy to him, what about yourself?

Heather Graham: I think I probably related it more to some friends of mine; I have a friend and, basically, we just [physically] abuse each other-- it's really fun, like I push her, I say mean things to her it's a really good way to get out your aggression. When you really love someone and you really feel-- like, someone that you can just say any mean thing you want to. Also, there's a friend of mine that does hair, I have a really good relationship with him where I just really [comfortable enough] like I can push him and hug him and yell at him...

Q: At what point did you know that you guys had this great chemistry during the shoot?

HG: I don't know, it's weird, I think it's definitely when-- I'd never met him [before the shoot]-- so when we met, I just felt like he's really easy to be around. He's really, genuinely a good person and him you just have free range to do whatever you want. Because I think one day I pushed him and I was like 'oh, I'm sorry, I hope that wasn't rude' and he was like 'do whatever you want. like punch me, hit me, whatever.' I was like, 'oh, this is fun.'

Q: He did say to ask you about Valentine's Day-- what's the wildest thing you've ever done on Valentine's Day--

HG: Oh my God, I know he told you that because this morning they asked and the both of us drew a total blank. That's why it's fun doing interviews with him because he can't stop talking, he's like 'blahblahblah' he's like a joke machine, it was really fun doing all of those interviews with him.

Q: What drew you to this material?

HG: I like, when I first read it, that I thought 'I like this story about this person who feeling confused and isn't sure if she likes who she is and at the end she goes 'I love myself and I don't care, I'm going to celebrate who I am'. And I could relate to that and I just felt like I could understand that and I think that that's a nice thing to put out there in the world-- like just be happy with who you are.

Q: I get the sense that things would've been easy for you in your career, you're always so easygoing and everything but do you feel that in the character of Gray that you had to enter some tough time in your life to get to the point of being like 'I will survive'?

HG: Well, I don't think that things have been easy in my career, I'm very lucky in a lot of ways but, to me, I feel [that] I've struggled and it was hard and I have hard moments. And I have to say I do think I am a happy person and I try to prioritize that. Because I think that sometimes you can just get so ambitious and get an idea in your head of what you think you're supposed to be...more and more now though, I just think I want to be happy and I'll just do whatever makes me happy.

Q: So you do enjoy doing comedies, then? I thought you were awesome in Bowfinger.

HG: Oh yeah? Thanks, I love Bowfinger-- oh my God that was so fun. I love Frank Oz, he's so nice. I love comedies, so, I want to do more.

Q: Comedy does seem to come naturally to you, do you find it easy to do?

HG: I guess this part does have a lot of similarities to me and I think I analyze a bit. I do do things intentionally that people think are funny, so I like that.

Q: So how did you create Gray as a character

HG: Ummm, basically I though that I should go out and just have sex with a whole lot of women. (laughs) I put out an ad in the paper to try to see what it would be like-- no, I didn't do that.It was so funny, actually, as I was saying [in another interview] earlier, I was saying something about the X-rated scene that was cut out-- between Rachel Shelley and me. And basically how that was cut out and then the [interviewer] was like 'why do you think they cut it out?' But I talked to the director's sister -- she's who the movie's based on -- and she talked to me about a lot of stuff and I have a few (gay) friends who I asked some questions. And then I just related it all to my own life- you know, certain things about myself that I felt judged about and how I learned to, eventually, like myself.

Q: You've worked with some really high-profile directors, like Paul-Thomas Anderson, etc. What was it like working with Sue Kramer, who's a first-timer in that capacity?

HG: Well, it's fun to work with someone who has passion and she had a lot of passion for this story and I thought it was a really great part. And, from the moment I met her, she was just a lot of fun and she had a lot of enthusiasm. There was a few times where we almost had the money going and then the money fell out at the last minute, so [the pre-production] took place over, probably, two years. to get this movie made. So, we finally made it [and] we were just happy to be there.

Q: You'd mentioned judgement and being judged and in the end being able to like yourself. Talk a little bit more about all of that what were you thinking then?

HG: Well, I think that I probably grew up in a more conservative way than, probably, I am right now. And I'm probably a bit more liberal and-- just even being an actor, you know, people definitely judge you and I [just learned to go] 'that's fine-- it's okay, I still like myself.' It's fine if someone judges me or someone puts me in US magazine and they say something that's not true or if they say, you know, 'your outfit's stupid'...there's always going to be people that don't like you and it's just a good place to be when you go 'I don't care.' Like, 'I think I'm great' and I feel that that's what the character get to at the end of the movie where she just says 'this is what I am.' If you have enough good people around you to support you, then, those other voices just aren't that loud.

Q: So personally, you're at a place now where you don't feel like, at the back of your mind, wanting that parental approval or anything? Do you ever wonder what they'd think or have you left all of that behind?

HG: Not completely, I still have moments where I definitely feel judgmental of myself but I feel I [now] go through that a lot faster. So whereas before I would have like a week where I'd be just like 'ohh' but now, like after an hour, I'm just like 'whatever.' And I think that at a certain point you just go, 'well, life's too short-- why am I worrying about these things?' It's just like I'm happy to be alive and I have a lucky life. I mean, I feel so lucky, there's not a war going on in our country, we have enough money to eat and I just think it's important to appreciate what you have.

Q: You're one of the few actresses who's worked with both Corey's Haim and Feldman who's still out there working. How did you pull that off?

HG: Winona Ryder, actually--

Q: -- yeah, but I said 'the few' --

HG: --yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah (laughing)...that's so funny-- that's a funny question. I don't know, to be honest, I've feel really lucky that I've survived. It's a hard business and, I don't know, I try to do things that I feel excited about and then when I do it, I want to make [the character] as real as possible because I like doing it. And I guess there's a certain aspect of luck to it, I think it's a mixture of having talent and having luck...maybe the Coreys could be doing something cool right now.

Q: You said that you had a conservative upbringing, one of the things I've read about you is that your father was in the FBI, is there any truth in that?

HG: He was, yeah.

Q: Is all of this a process of pulling away from that conservative past?

HG: No, it's not-- I'm finding myself, like in the movie, if you grow up and your parents are a certain way and I think that-- we have a lot of parents that would rather have their kids be the same way as [they are], instead of have them be different. So I kept going 'well, I guess I'm different than my parent are and that's okay. They're fine and I'm fine and it's okay that I'm not the same as them.

Q: How does the music tie into your whole creative process, Sue Kramer [the director] said that you were a fan of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."

HG: Oh my God, I love that song. I was saying in another interview [earlier] that I'd just remembered when I went through this breakup and I remember being at this party and just hearing that song and singing: 'I will survive!'ll come back to this door!' - which he never did. But it's really like I've had so many moments with that song. That "I Will Survive" is just a perfect song to listen to when you're feeling like crap and and want to feel better-- it was really exciting to meet [Gaynor on the set of the film]--

Q:-- and you got to sing with her.

HG: I know! It almost felt like a dream-- I can't believe it happened. It was so cool that I can't even believe that it happened, you know?

Q: Sue said at some point she was going to get Neil Sedaka to do a song but you were into Gloria Gaynor--

HG: -- she had a bunch of different people in mind and I was like 'there's no way that you're going to get Gloria Gaynor because to me she's like the pinnacle [performer] of that kind of song. And when she got her, I was so happy.

Q: Was your brief flirtation with series television enough to whet your appetite or do you want to do more of it?

HG: I actually think that I'd never want to do it again-- it wasn't that fun, you know. It seemed like it wasn't that much fun, that whole experience but who knows. There's some great shows out there but obviously...

Q: What lead you down that road anyway because you seemed like you had the whole movie thing going.

HG: That's true, I noticed on some TV shows that I was watching, I really like the English [version of] The Office and I really like the American [verision of] The Office and I got really obsessed with Sex in the City and I thought 'oh, if you could do a TV show that was really fun, then it would be worth it.' And then my experience wasn;'t that pleasurable but I don't know-- I've kind of gotten into working on developing movies. I want to do films and work as an actress but I also want to do my own thing. I guess I just feel like everything that happened pushed me along the way, maybe that was the signal that I need to focus on producing these movies that I want to do.

Q: So what was it like kissing Bridget Moynahan?

HG: It was very fun to kiss Bridget, she's so beautiful and I guess I was a little nervous but she's a good kisser-- a really good kisser. And she's very soft...I talked to Sue's sister [who's lesbian] and I asked her 'what was it like the first time that you kissed a girl?' And she was like 'suddenly everything felt right and it just fell into place and it was like, if you'd been in the desert and someone gave you a glass of water and you're just like oh my God but at the same time you're like 'oh no, what does this mean?' So on the one hand I was thinking this could be fun to kiss the pretty Bridget Moynahan but on the other hand I was like 'this is a big moment for my character, I better try to get this right!'

Q: What was it like to work with Paul Thomas Anderson [on Boogie Nights] and did you have a feeling that it was going to be as big as it was?

HG: I thought that it was an amazing script and when I got the part-- I hadn't been working a lot at that point-- and I was just thinking that this is a huge break. I don't think that you ever really know and I just had an amazing experience [Paul Thomas Anderson] has just got so much passion, he really makes you feel good when you're working with him and it was really fun too. It was an exciting moment just to feel like 'oh I'm this actress struggling' and then suddenly you're in this movie and you're getting offered other jobs-- so that was really cool.

Q: Did you ever get sick of being called Roller Girl?

HG: No, obviously, I think if I'm like walking down the street-- there's been a few moments when it was kind of creepy, I think I was waiting outside at this concert and these guys were like "hey Roller Girl" and I was like [ugh], you know? No but actually I like it, I think it's cool that someone remembers a part that you did. I feel flattered that anyone might've remembered it, I guess.

Q: Something that kind of trips me out and I just remembered, that bus station in Bowfinger, when your character arrives in Hollywood and gets off the bus, is totally gone now. It's been razed and now the those movie theaters are there but that Greyhound bus station is caught on that film.

HG: Oh wow, that's right, that's where the Arclight is at now...

Q: Getting back to that kiss, you say it was very difficult for your character because the light bulb goes off-- did you find that difficult to portray?

HG: What I wanted to do was to be like 'suddenly everything makes sense', like 'this feels so right, it feels so good and I feel like this is who I am; I like this', you know, like 'this is incredible'. But then after a while I was like 'I don't want to do that'. I was a part of this straight world which is probably easier to be in, especially if you're been in it your whole life, and now I'm just going to have to be a part of this other group-- so, I just tried to do that.

Q: Did working with Molly Shannon, who comes from such an improvisational background, raise the bar for you as an actress in the scenes you did with her?

HG: She's actually a really close friend of mine and we've been really good friends for about five years, so, when she agreed to be in the movie, I was so happy because I've always wanted to work with her and I think she's so talented. And, just to be honest with you, it was really fun to just watch her -- like that scene where she just rants about Oprah -- I was like 'what?' (laughs) I mean she just has so much energy. I was just loving her, I was like 'you're amazing!'

Q: So, was she free-forming all of that?

HG: Sometimes she would add things but a lot of it she was just doing-- she added a ton of things like being paranoid about people listening (in on their conversations), there's different things she would just add. All around, she's really just such an amazing person, she's so funny and she really studies [the] psychology [of her characters], she's very analytical -- the both of us-- so we'll get together and analyze our characters and we'd both be talking, talking-- we both talk so fast -- so at the end of the day we'd be exhausted from talking so fast.

Q: How difficult was the dance sequence to master?

HG: It was so hard. Sue had the idea in mind for a very complicated [dance sequence] and so she brought her friend, this choreographer, and I didn't realize that this was a five minute dance....we rehearsed it for the next net two weeks for like hours every day. We were sweaty but it was really fun and at the end of it I just felt like it was a dream come true because when you watch those old movies and the people dancing, I always wanted to do that [on screen] it was so fun.

Q: So what's coming next for you, film-wise?

HG: I did a movie called Adrift in Manhattan and I did a movie called Broken and I have these three movies that I've been developing, that I'm going to produce; two this year and one next year and I'm going to act in them as well.

Q: You have any prank stories from behind the scenes while working with Tom, since you guys got so close?

HG: Well, one day we were doing the wedding scene and Tom is like a marathon runner-- he's a really [experienced] runner; he's really athletic. And after [shooting dance scenes] he'd go to the gym and work out and then he went running again and then afterwards he'd go on long walks at night for like an hour-- it's like the guy works out six hours a day.

Q: How about you, how much do you work out?

HG: I do work out, I work out like five times a week-- for an hour, 45 minutes, it's not like how he does it. I mean he runs a marathon in like three hours.

Q; Are there any directors that you really want to work with?

HG: I really want to work with Spike Jones, that'd be really cool.

Q: What's your favorite film of his?

HG: I like Adaptation.

Q:: I hear that Adrift in Manhattan is quite a departure from this type of role. How do you compar the two projects-- was it a stretch?

HG: Well, [Gray Matters] is a very light-hearted, happy story with definitely some emotional stuff underneath it but in [Adrift in Manhattan] I'm a mother, my child dies and there's kind of this twist at the end that I don't want to give away-- it's much darker and more intense. But ultimately it's about healing and it was weird because when I was doing it, I was going through this dark moment in my life and I thought 'well, ok, maybe I can just get all of this out' but the minute I got [on the set to shoot it] I'd start having fun-- it was fun [acting] in it and it totally took me out of the dark place that I was in.

Q: How was it on the set on this film in NYC was it cold?

HG: It was really really fun and it was so beautiful to look out at the New York scene at night it was gorgeous. It's exciting when you work with actors, someone like Alan [Cumming], this really celebrated Broadway actor and he's done all of these interesting movies and he's directed-- it's just fun to think that 'oh, I'm in a movie with him'. And I really felt that way too about Sissy Spacek because, I guess, growing up and watching all of these different kinds of actresses and the roles they were playing, she was definitely somebody where I thought 'wow, she's one of the best actors there is' and she's incredible. And then when you go to work one day and she's there, you're just like 'this is crazy'-- it feels so good...She's so normal-- she's really nice -- so it wasn't like when you meet someone [that you're going to act with] and you're really so excited to work with them and then it's just a huge let down-- she was really cool.

Q: When you're going through the scripts are your agents reading them or do you read them too?

HG: They go through them and then I and I read them too...but, yeah, I guess I read them and I think scenes strike you because you feel like you're going through them or you just have a reaction to the script.

Q: You seem to be able to pick interesting characters to play, so I was just wondering if your agents around you are really loyal to you and your sensibilities.

HG: I think it's a mixture because sometimes they'll be like 'oh, you should really think about this [role] and I'm like 'I don't know' or I'll be like 'this is great' and they'll be like 'I don't know', so, it's a mixture.

Q: Being in NY for this film and working with both Tom and Alan, who both have a lot of stage experience, did you ever think about doing that?

HG: I did one play in New York and it was fun but I found it really exhausting. You know, I found that if there's an intense moment in a movie, then you have that for that one day and you know to focus on that on that one day. But in a play you have to do it every night-- I found it really hard. I really like doing film and television, I like the idea of just doing little pieces [of acting] and I like the idea of being a par of a group-- because there's all of these people around you and the [friendships] and just hanging out. And when you're doing a play, you show up and it's just really you-- I don't really like having the audience there. I like just having the camera there and you try it, you're with all of your friends and you're just doing this thing and when you're done, it's like you're not waiting for a reaction [from an audience] just feels like you're in your own bubble.

Q: Well, that's refreshing to hear.

HG: It's probably something bad [to say as an actor], I probably should want to be in theater but I don't care. (laughs)

Q: Sue said that she saw you for this role as the romantic lead, do you see yourself doing more of that sort of thing?

HG: Oh yeah, I love those movies, I've always wanted to do that. But it's kind of hard to just slot yourself into that because there really are people who do that-- there are people who only do romantic comedies. And I always liked watching them when I was a kid and I loved all of the classics, like Tootsie-- I always wanted to do romantic comedies, I'm a girl.

Q: You ever consider doing action films?

HG: Yeah, I would love to do an action film but I'd want to be the one who kicks ass. I don't be the one like 'save me!' I want to be the one who's like 'I have special powers!'

Q: I was just thinking of a David Lynch interview where he said that there's no messages in his movies. Do you think there's a message in this movie?

HG: Oh my God, David Lynch said that there's no messages in his movies?

Q: Yeah, he was like 'I just make them and let the audience take from it what they want'.

HG: Really? That's hilarious. I do, I think the message is: don't let anyone tell you not to be yourself; to just celebrate who you are and enjoy yourself-- unless you're, like, killing someone. Other than that, just feel good about who you are.

Gray Matters opens nationally on February 23rd...

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