What the Hell Happened to Heather Graham?
Heather Graham has been around a lot longer than most people realize. She had an early role in a Haim/Feldman “Coreys classic”, got caught up in the craziness of James Woods and somehow clawed her way to being Hollywood’s “it” girl for a few short years in the mid 90’s. And then, she vanished into virtual obscurity. What the hell happened?
I pride myself on having an eye for talent. So when I saw Swingers in 1996, I felt like I had discovered “that funny guy” (Vince Vaughn) and “the blonde at the club” (Heather Graham). I watched their careers with interest as their stars rose. I rooted for them both to succeed and felt validated when they both became big stars.
I did not anticipate that “the big guy” (Jon Favreau) would go on to direct Iron Man. But I was happy for him too.
Over the years, you can imagine my embarrassment as I came to realize that Graham had been around for years before Swingers. Not only that, but I had actually seen a lot of her work without taking much notice.
Heather Graham’s first role was an uncredited cameo in the Mel Gibson-Diane Keaton prison romance, Mrs. Soffel in 1984. She was 14 years old. That fresh face I “discovered” in 1996 had been working for 12 years by then. Ooops.
In fairness, you can’t blame a 14-year-old boy for missing a Diane Keaton movie. Especially Mrs. Soffel.
Graham’s first credited roles weren’t until 1987 when she appeared in two episodes of Growing Pains and a TV movie called Student Exchange.
Ohhh, that Mike Seaver. I wonder what he’s up to now…
Man, I did not see that coming. Anyway…
In 1988, Graham got her first significant role opposite the Coreys (Feldman and Haim) in License to Drive.
Graham was Corey Haim’s dream girl named (get this) Mercedes Lane. Because, you know, cars.
Being a 17-year-old dude, the Coreys were no more appealing to me than Diane Keaton. So I missed this one too. But the reviews were surprisingly positive for a movie starring Corey and Corey. License to Drive was a hit at the box office.
Later that year, Graham had a small but important role in the Ivan Reitman comedy, Twins.
When I read that Heather Graham was in Twins, I assumed she was one of the girls the twins met up with in their travels. But no, it turns out Graham played Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito’s mother in flashback.
Heather Graham as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito’s mom. Only in the movies.
Graham was the first choice to play Heather Chandler opposite Winona Ryder and Christian Slater in the 1988 black comedy, Heathers. But the young actress’ parents objected to the subject matter and refused to let her play the part. When Lehmann couldn’t change Graham’s mother’s mind, they cast their second choice who happened to be Slater’s girlfriend at the time.
I really wanted to cast Heather Graham, and her parents wouldn’t let her do it. She was 16 or 17. I even talked to Heather’s mother at great length to convince her we weren’t tools of Satan, and she would have nothing of it. I really tried. I mean, I begged her. Heather’s reading was just great. Then the casting director said, ‘Well, Kim Walker might be good. She doesn’t have a lot of experience, but…’
Instead, Graham played a drug addict in Gus Van Sant’s 1989 breakthrough movie, Drugstore Cowboy opposite Matt Dillon.
It was a supporting role, but the reviews were great. Drugstore Cowboy was a small movie, but it was seen by casting agents.
Next Up: Shout and Twin Peaks
Posted on September 5, 2012, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actress and tagged Austin Powers, boogie nights, Flowers in the Attic, Heather Graham, Scream, swingers, The Hangover, Twin Peaks. Bookmark the permalink. 132 Comments.