Since her big-screen debut as the femme fatale Mercedes Lane in 1988's two Corey's project License to Drive, Heather Graham has had one of the most interesting careers of any actress of her generation, appearing in a host of iconic films in roles that seem to find the comedy in dark dramas and dark drama in comedies.
Now returning to the small screen reprising her Flowers in the Attic role for its sequel, Petals on the Wind (premiering May 26 on Lifetime), Graham took a look back over her great career moments in a walk down memory lane for Yahoo's Role Recall.
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
I grew up in suburbia, and this was my first experience working on an arty film, or being around people that read Bukowski and listened to Tom Waits and things like that. ... I felt like I suddenly found my people.
I was very young, so I was pretty scared, pretty scared and insecure. It was just so fun, and I had only done one movie before that, a teen movie. So, it just was so exciting to get work as an actress. I was just so pinching myself every day. I had spent a lot of time working up to that point, and I had acted in plays and stuff before, but it was funny, doing this movie about all these hard-core drug addicts. Probably at that point, I had never done any drugs ... maybe smoked pot once. But I was playing this hard-core drug addict. I researched it and I read William Burroughs and a lot of different books about it, but yeah, I've never been a big, big drug person, so I just kind of used my imagination.
For about a month before the shooting, Jon Favreau and I rehearsed swing dancing together. He used to take me to the Derby, and we would swing dance, and he's a really good swing dancer. And it was really fun. I really learned how to swing dance well, and that movie was made very low-budget. All the locations that they shot at, we — pretty much, the locations were not shut down for the shooting.
I remember doing this scene where Jon meets me at the bar, that this guy sat down next to me and starting chatting me up. And then Jon was just like, "Hey, you can't sit there," because they didn't have the money to shut down the bar. So, we just were trying to be inconspicuous, with just a very small camera crew.
Boogie Nights (1997)
It was so exciting. I was not a famous actress at that time, so it was really so exciting to be given that opportunity to work with all those people. I know the story was about porno actors and it was kind of this crazy, wild story, but I really felt that it was just this special, artistic script. [Director and writer] Paul [Anderson] was so passionate and charismatic, so it was really fun to work with him. I remember that we went to a few porno sets. He brought a lot of actors just to see what it was like.
The affect of this person that never takes off her roller skates, it's really interesting. There's something so playful and girly, and athletic, about a person who doesn't want to live in the normal world where people just walk around. She's got her roller skates on, so I think it's just a fun, sporty, rebellious thing to just say, "Yeah, this is me. I'm the roller girl." The minute I read it, I thought, "This is a great part. This is awesome. This is really cool."
See Graham hosting SNL:
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
It's funny, because when I first started out, I didn't think about wanting to do comedy, and now, I would say that I enjoy watching it more. It's weird. I really felt I wanted to do just really dark stories about the Holocaust or something really depressing. And now, I feel like I love and appreciate comedians and comedy more than ever. I think because life can be so depressing. You're like, "I think I want to watch something funny." Making this was really fun — the time period, and I got to do a little dancing, and then I got to be in the Lenny Kravitz video, kind of a whirlwind, that period in time.
It's exciting that people watched that movie and enjoyed it. I remember going on a vacation at one point, and all the little kids at the place that I was staying, they had all seen the movie, and they were all coming up to me, and it's just so wild to have that experience, where you've been in a movie that just everyone has seen, especially little kids. So many little kids love that movie.
The Hangover (2009)
I mean, when you have improv comedians who are making stuff up, it's just, you never know what's going to happen. They're always throwing stuff in there, and it was fun. It was really fun. I mean, there weren't a lot of women in the scenes that I was in. It was mainly me and the guys, so it was kind of fun being the only girl with a bunch of guys. You get a lot of attention. That's good.
Flowers in the Attic (2014)
I had never read the book, and when I read the script, I just thought, "These characters are so terrible. Why does this woman do this? This is so terrible." But I guess there was a part of me that felt this challenge of figuring out why someone would do something so terrible. It's very disturbing. It's a very disturbing story.
Eventually I figured out why I did it, and I'm just like, "What's wrong? I'm just doing the only thing I can do." At that point, I kind of was on my character's side, and I just felt like what I was doing was fine. I just thought it was a challenge as an actress to play this different kind of role, and it's such a weird book. It's weirdly effective. It's so effectively disturbing. I watched the original movie, and there's just something about it that's really provocative. It really draws you in, and really, it's so disturbing.
Watch the trailer for Petals on the Wind:
Petals on the Wind premieres Monday, May 26 at 9 p.m. on Lifetime. Flowers in the Attic is available now on DVD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.