The actress talks about her new film, British accents, future projects and more
What can I say about Heather Graham that we don't already know. The talented actress was stealing scenes in such classics as License to Drive and Swingers which led up to her astonishing breakthrough performance in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights. Her new film is the unique comedy Miss Conception which revolves around a desperate woman's attempt to bear a child, before it is literally too late (CLICK HERE to read my review of the film). I was lucky enough to be invited to a roundtable interview session with the actress, where she discussed her new movie and much more. Here's what she had to say.
I was amazed at how you nailed the English accent. I wanted to know how you and Mia (Kirschner) got yourself into that accent. Did you study with someone?
Heather Graham: We had a coach. He was amazing, this guy named Brendan Gunn. He's done a lot of movies and, thank God for him, because we were very scared. He helped us feel confident.
What attracted you to the film?
Heather Graham: I thought it was funny. Just the idea of this girl trying to get these random strangers to impregnate her, I thought would be fun. The scene where I start yelling at the guy to get his pants off, I thought that would be fun. I had never been to Belfast before, but I've been to London a bunch of times.
When you immerse yourself in a character for so long, how does your attitude towards babies change in a role like this?
Heather Graham: Over the past few years, I've definitely been more excited about having a baby, because I was never someone who was really wanting one. Recently, I have started to think that it would be fun. I don't want to get desperate about it, like my character in the film, I just think it's something that , if it's meant to happen, it's meant to be. I do respect women who really know what they want. They're like, 'I really want to have this kid, and I'm going to go to the sperm bank, and...' I respect that. If someone really knows that they were meant to have a kid and they just follow through on that.
Did this change your views about women who wait too long?
Heather Graham: No, I just have compassion for people, hoping they get what they want. I don't think that, 'Oh, they waited too long. This is your fault.' I just think it's cool that there are so many advances in science that people can have kids. To be honest, I feel for myself that I'd be a much better parent now than when I was 20. It's ironic that right at the moment when we're probably better at taking care of another person, it's biologically harder.
You had some really nice chemistry with Mia Kirshner here. Did you guys just click right away on the set?
Heather Graham: She is really great. We actually dated the same guy, so we could relate on that (Laughs).
How important was it for you to get that English accent down? You never want to be criticized for having the wrong dialect.
Heather Graham: Yeah, it was funny because I think the producer had the situation where it was like, 'OK, the dialogue coach is only going to be on for the first two weeks and in those two weeks, you're going to figure it out and then he's going to be gone.' Mia and I both went to the producer and went, 'We need this dialogue coach the whole time.' We definitely fought for that. Brendan has been a coach for so long. I think his first movie was Mickey Rourke and... what was that Irish movie that he did... A Prayer for the Dying. Then he did In the Name of the Father, he's just really amazing. He just loves dialects and it was just really nice to be around him and also he made us feel relaxed. He wasn't like, 'That was wrong,' he just gave you confidence so I was just really lucky to work with a good coach.
How long did it take you to pick all of that up, because it sounded great.
Heather Graham: Thanks. I started just talking in the accent all day. From the moment I took the job, there wasn't a whole lot of time to work on it, so we just talked in the accent. We'd go out to lunch and we'd talk in it and every now and then he'd correct us. Luckily he was on the set so when we'd do a take he'd be like, 'Oh, try this word again.'
Do you like doing these kinds of comedies
Heather Graham: I love doing comedies. It's just fun to be silly and just do something that's fun and light-hearted. Maybe it could be about something that could be deep or there's emotional aspects to it, but it's for fun's sake.
You've mentioned that a lot of the movies that are out there for women, you didn't like them or like the way they ended or the message they perceived. What did you mean there?
Heather Graham: Well, there are a lot of movies that I like, but I think there's not a lot of female perspective in cinema and TV, which I think is one of the reasons why Sex and the City: The Movie did so well, is because there's not a lot out there for women. It's something we can relate to. Personally, I find that in Sex and the City: The Movie, I can relate to that, but there are a lot of movies where I don't. It's nice when something is more relatable.
So what are you working on in Texas?
Heather Graham: Oh, I just worked in Texas on a movie with Jennifer Coolidge. She's really funny. It's called Ex-Terminators. It's about a bunch of women in an anger group that kill men (Laughs). It's like an angry movie but it's a comedy. It's sort of silly. It's not serious... I mean, it's kind of serious but it's like a dark comedy.
What kinds of scripts are you getting sent now, compared to when you were younger?
Heather Graham: To be honest, I've kind of gotten into producing, because I feel like I'd like to do something that I originated, a story that I wanted to tell. I have these two scripts and one is about the Triangle Factory Fire of 1911. I've actually wanted to make that for 10 years. It's just an amazing story. It's a love story, but it's about how all the immigrants worked in sweatshops, how the first strikes happen and how this building burned down and that created these laws that were put in place then that are still in place today that basically stops America from having sweatshops. It's basically about compassion, it's a female empowerment story as well because it's about how, through tragedy, this great thing happened and people were protected in the workplace. When the immigrants came, they could get your arm chopped off and they'd kick you off. It was really hard. I have another script called The Accidental Virgin and it's a sex comedy. It's kind of like a crazy, funny, ridiculous story but I sort of want it to be about women and self-confidence. In this society, it's hard to be a woman. It is sort of a man's world and we have to deal with so much different input coming in on how we're supposed to be and how we're able to find our own self-esteem.
Who did you enjoy working with in this film?
Heather Graham: I really liked Orlando Seale, who played my gay best friend. He was really fun. I just loved the scene where I just try to force him to have sex with me (Laughs). He's really funny, he just makes up a lot of really funny stuff. There's this actor named Will Mellor, he plays the construction guy, and he would make up some crazy things. He was using all these colloquial expressions, because he's from Manchester, that were just so bizarre. He had one that was just so weird, all these sexual, slang expressions from Manchester. It was so weird we were all like, 'What?' Even the English people thought it was the weirdest thing they've ever heard.
You've done both indies and majors. Do you have a preference to either one?
Heather Graham: I think it all just depends on the material. I guess the greatest thing is to be able to do both, because there are definitely positives to both. As a filmgoer, I like to watch independent movies because, when they're good, I think it's more exciting. It's different and it seems more original to me. There are some great studio films too, though, not to diss that. Spike Jonze gets his movies made, studio films.
What was your favorite scene, in Miss Conception?
Heather Graham: I really liked it when I tried to force the gay guy to have sex with me. As a woman, you just never get to say, 'Take your pants off! You're getting me pregnant!' You never have to yell at a guy to have sex with you. Also, I liked the scene where I have these pads in my bra and I'm taking them out and throwing them (Laughs). It's just so silly. It's fun to not have to try to be glamorous and perfect.
So what would you say to audience members to get them to see Miss Conception?
Heather Graham: I think it's fun, it's very relatable. I know a lot of people going through this kind of thing, where they're thinking about having a kid. I think men can relate to it too. It's like, 'When do you have one? What person do you have them with? At what age are you supposed to have one?' It's definitely something that I think everybody thinks about. I know a lot of men that are like, 'I'm at this age, and I need to have one now.' Even if men don't have the biological clock, or they're more common in women than in men, I think a lot of men do.
You can watch the delightful Heather Graham when Miss Conception opens in theaters on June 6, in limited release.