Heather Joan Graham (born January 29, 1970) is an American actress. After starring in various commercials, her first high-profile starring role came in 1988 with the teen comedy License to Drive, followed by her breakout role in Gus Van Sant's critically acclaimed 1989 film Drugstore Cowboy.She then took a number of supporting roles in films such as Shout (1991), Six Degrees of Separation (1993), Swingers (1996) and in TV series Twin Peaks (1991) and its prequel film Fire Walk with Me (1992) before gaining critical praise as porn starlet Brandi/Rollergirl in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights (1997).In 1999, she co-starred in Bowfinger and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
In the 2000s, Graham starred in a number of films ranging from studio films to smaller indies like Committed (2000), Say It Isn't So (2001), Anger Management (2003), Mary (2005), Gray Matters (2007) and The Hangover (2009). She also had a brief stint on the TV series Scrubs in 2004, before starring as the title character in the short-lived Emily's Reasons Why Not in 2006. Widely regarded a sex symbol, she often appears in magazines' 'Most Beautiful' and 'Sexiest' lists Graham is also a public advocate for Children International., and supported the climate change campaign Global Cool in 2007.
Heather Graham was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the older of two children. Her family is of "three quarters Irish" descent, with her father's side from County Cork. Her younger sister,Aimee Graham, is also an actress and writer. Their mother, Joan (née Bransfield), is a teacher and author of children's books. Their father, James Graham, is a retired FBI agent. The girls were raised with traditional Catholic values. Her family relocated repeatedly before settling down in Agoura Hills, California when she was nine years old. She was introduced to acting during a school production of The Wizard of Oz.
After high school, Graham enrolled in extension classes of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and studied English for two years. After two years Graham withdrew from UCLA to pursue acting full time, despite her parents' objections.
Graham's first film appearance was an uncredited cameo in Mrs. Soffel (1984). Her first credited film appearance was in the television film Student Exchange. In 1986, she appeared on a special "Teen Week" episode of the NBC-TVgame show Scrabble. Then she appeared in numerous television commercials, and an episode of the sitcom Growing Pains in 1987. Her first high-profile starring role came in the 1988 Corey Haim/Corey Feldman vehicle License to Drivewhich saw her as a popular girl named Mercedes Lane who serves as the love interest of Haim's character. Her efforts won her a Young Artist Award nomination in the Best Young Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy or Fantasycategory. Her strict parents forbade her to accept a role in the black comedy Heathers (1988), which had an expletive-rich script. The same year she also had an uncredited appearance as Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger's mother in Twins (during the laboratory conception flashback). Graham auditioned for the role of Baby in Dirty Dancing (1987), which went to Jennifer Grey.
In 1989 Graham was featured in Gus Van Sant's Drugstore Cowboy as Nadine, a young drug-addicted friend of the two main characters (played by Matt Dillon and Kelly Lynch). The performance earned her a nomination for theIndependent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress. She also rejected a steady role in a TV soap opera a three-picture deal with a major studio because she thought it would be too restrictive. After Drugstore Cowboy she appeared in Lawrence Kasdan's dark comedy I Love You to Death (1990), alongside William Hurt and Keanu Reeves and the rock-and-roll coming-of-age film Shout (1991), for which she received her a nomination for the Young Artist Award for Best Actress Starring in a Motion Picture.
After co-starring with Benicio Del Toro in a Calvin Klein commercial directed by David Lynch, the director cast her as former nun Annie Blackburn in his television series Twin Peaks. Following the cancellation of the series, Graham reprised the role of Blackburn in the 1992 prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. Regarding her casting process she said: "He's just one of those people—he doesn't really make you audition. He just meets you, and he just thinks you're interesting, and he just sticks you in there [...] I remember him telling me that he was doing this art project in his backyard. And that he was putting turkey, and laying it out and having ants crawling on it, and then he was going to, like, I don't know, I think take pictures of it", and stated she was "very excited" to work with Lynch.
She was also cast in Scorchers (1991), but was ultimately fired. Later on she went to be featured in Diggstown (1992), alongside James Woods; the well-received Six Degrees of Separation (1993), alongside Will Smith and The Ballad of Little Jo (1993), alongside Ian McKellen before re-teaming with Gus Van Sant for the critically panned film adaption of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, alongside Uma Thurman. The same year she co-starred as Mary Kennedy Parker in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle. In 1995 she starred as Jackie in the poorly received Desert Winds and guest-starred in an episode of the television series Fallen Angels. She had a small but important role in Swingers(1996), where she played Lorraine, Jon Favreau's love interest. A popular rumor is that Graham received the role of Lorraine after Favreau took her swing dancing.
Graham's popularity significantly increased after she appeared as a young porn star named Brandi, nicknamed Rollergirl because she never takes her rollerskates off, in Paul Thomas Anderson's critically acclaimed, award-winning Boogie Nights (1997). She had initially auditioned for the role of Maggie/Amber Waves, which went to Julianne Moore. The cast received a nomination for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. The same year she also starred in the Gregg Araki film Nowhere, and had a cameo in the horror hit Scream 2, too. She was subsequently cast in Two Girls and a Guy (1998), a film mainly based upon dialogue between the characters which was shot in 11 days, which co-starred Robert Downey Jr. and Natasha Gregson; and the sci-fi film Lost in Space, which was met with mostly negative reviews and bombed at the box-office, making only $69,117,629 when its production budget was of $80 million. The cast was signed on for sequels that as of December 2012 have not yet been made.
Her first starring role was as Felicity Shagwell in the 1999 sequel Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which was a box-office hit. Shagwell is one of her best-known roles and became a fan favorite. Her turn as Shagwell also earned her a nomination for the Saturn Award for Best Actress. She appeared in the music video for Lenny Kravitz's cover of "American Woman". Also in 1999, Graham co-starred as Daisy in the movie Bowfinger opposite Steve Martinand Eddie Murphy. Regarding the film, she commented: "it’s about these losers in Hollywood who want to make a movie, and I’m this naive, innocent girl who wants to be an actress. I’m willing to stop at nothing".
The 2000 film Committed was her first star vehicle. She played Joline, devoted-beyond-reason young wife looking for the husband who left her. While the film itself received mixed-to-negative reviews, critics felt that "Graham shows she can play a central character" but noted "she's not enough to make Committed successful". The following year she co-starred as Annie Matthews, an unhappily married woman, in Edward Burns' Sidewalks of New York In 2003 she starred opposite Joseph Fiennes in Chen Kaige's English-language debut film Killing Me Softly, which received overwhelmingly negative response from critics and a 0% at Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus being: "Respected director Chen Kaige's first English-language film is a spectacularly misguided erotic thriller, with ludicrous plot twists and cringe-worthy dialogue". In 2009, the site also rated it #12 on the countdown of the worst films over the last 10 years.
Graham's other appearances in mainstream roles include her playing Mary Kelly in the 2001 film From Hell, based on the story of Jack the Ripper, Anger Management (2003), opposite Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson, the Farrelly Brothers comedy Say It Isn't So (2001), opposite Sally Field, The Guru (2002), opposite Jimi Mistry and Hope Springs (2003) opposite Colin Firth.
She had to turn down the role of the female lead in Rounders (1998), which went to Gretchen Mol, due to scheduling conflicts. She also turned down the Teri Polo role in Meet the Parents (2000) and the Shannon Elizabeth role in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back(2001).Graham in 2007
Graham forayed into the world of independent films with Gray Matters, Broken, Adrift in Manhattan (all 2007) and Miss Conception (2008), which received negative-to-mixed reviews and most of them went mostly unnoticed at the box-office. Her 2005 film Mary holds a 63% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the first since Bowfinger. The film premiered at the 2005 Venice Film Festival where it won the Special Jury Prize as well as three smaller awards. The film also played at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival, Deauville Film Festival and San Sebastián International Film Festival and co-starred Juliette Binoche, Forest Whitaker, Marion Cotillard and Matthew Modine. In 2006 she co-starred in Bobby as Angela, and the cast was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
During this period Graham also spoke about developing a comedy film titled The Accidental Virgin which would've focused on "female sexual confusion", telling the story of a woman who hasn't had sex in a year. As of December 2012, the film wasn't made yet. She also stated she would be interested in directing in the future if there is "something that, its burning in my mind that I need to do".
On television, Graham played herself on one episode of the TV series Sex and the City. She was given special guest-star status on nine episodes of NBC-TV's Scrubs during its fourth season (2004–2005), and also appeared as George Michael Bluth's ethics teacher in an episode of Fox's television series, Arrested Development in 2004. She played Emily Sanders in Emily's Reasons Why Not, however, the sitcom was canceled after airing only one episode.
In 2009 Graham played the stripper-with-a-heart-of-gold Jade in The Hangover, which was released to critical and box office success. She won the role after Lindsay Lohan turned it down.]Though she did not return for the sequel The Hangover Part II, it was confirmed in 2012 she will reprise the role of Jade in the final installment of the trilogy, The Hangover Part III. On her character's story arc, she said: "Something good happens to Jade". In 2010 she starred in Boogie Woogie, followed by roles in the unsuccessful films Father of Invention, 5 Days of War, Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (all 2011) and About Cherry (2012).
Upcoming roles include Meredith Crown in At Any Price which stars Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron and was selected to compete for the Golden Lion at the 69th Venice International Film Festival, and later screened as an official selection at both the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival; Angela in Compulsion and Annette Stratton-Osborne in Behaving Badly.
In 2012 she was a member of the jury of the 15th Shanghai International Film Festival.
Besides her acting work, Graham is also an activist who serves as a public advocate for Children International.She stated that what she likes about Children International is that "you are helping a child have a better life. It's great for that child to know that someone who lives in another country cares about them". Graham works with the Cambodian Children's Fund which provides supplies, education and campaigns to stop slavery. She commented on the situation in Cambodia and the Children's Fund saying: "There's a lot of human trafficking in Cambodia. Women are dying because they don't have $15 to give birth in a hospital. The fund provides free education, clean water and healthcare for communities. The idea is that we're creating future leaders who will be able to help themselves". In 2007 she supported the climate change campaign Global Cool and appeared in Shekhar Kapur's short film Global Cool alongside Sienna Miller.
Graham is considered a modern day sex symbol. She was ranked at n°40 in FHM's 100 Sexiest Women in the World list in 2000, n° 95 in 2001 list, n° 97 in the 2002 list, n° #74 in the 2005 list and at n° #98 in 2006 list. In 2001 she was named one of the 50 Most Beautiful People by People Magazine. In 2003, she also posed for a photoshoot by photographer Sam Jones, during which she was levitated several feet into the air by a magician, who later also sawed her in half. Also in 2003, Graham appeared on the cover of Time magazine for an article titled "The Science of Meditation". To promote Emily's Reasons Why Not, she had posed for a Life Magazine cover story, printed weeks in advance of the assumed series schedule, referring to her as "TV's sexiest star" which appeared in the January 27, 2006 issue.
Graham is often cast in sexual roles including those of Felicity Shagwell (Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me), porn stars Rollergirl (Boogie Nights) and Sharonna (The Guru), Irish prostitute and Jack the Ripper victim Mary Kelly (From Hell), porn director Margaret (About Cherry) and stripper Jade (The Hangover and The Hangover, Part III). She stated she finds these types of roles and the issue of sexuality fascinating, and believes that "our culture sends out mixed messages to women about sex. Are women supposed to be sexually alive people, or are we supposed to be 'good' mothers who would never do those things?" and that she likes "the fact some of my roles maybe help people open their minds about the way they think about sex". Due to her portrayals of sexual characters and nudity in films she has been described "completely up for it".
In 2005, Graham became the spokeswoman and TV model for the Garnier brand of hair care products.