Q&A: Heather Graham, Sex-Positive Feminist

The Hangover actress talks about directing her first movie, her love of Lena Dunham and tackling GMOs

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Stunning in a white cotton Oscar de la Renta dress, Heather Graham is on the verge of all kinds of changes. She’s written her first screenplay, she’s about to direct her first movie, and she may well have just made one of her most thoughtful movies in years.

At Any Price takes a hard look at the cutthroat business of farming, and genetically modified corn in particular. It’s a far cry from the roles she’s best known for – the porn star in Boogie Nights, and the stripper in The Hangover. But for Graham, such serious movies are a welcome reprieve from mainstream fare like The Hangover III coming out later this summer.

“I’m not really allowed to talk about it but John Goodman’s in it, he’s kind of the bad guy,” she confided. “Ken Jeong has stolen all this money and they have to get the money back from him.”

When she’s not working, you’ll find this Milwaukee native in a yoga class or volunteering with the Cambodian Children’s Fund. “These kids are so cute,” smiled Graham. “We threw an event for them last year where three kids flew to New York and they spoke about their lives. I was crying my eyes out.”

She sat down with us last week to talk about the double standards in Hollywood, writing her first screenplay and “sex-positive feminism.”






There’s a bit in At Any Price where you get cozy with both Zac Efron and Dennis Quaid. How do you think audiences will react to her sleeping with both father and son?

If I was a man and it was a hot mother and hot daughter, people would be like, “you go!” So I feel it’s slightly sexist. If it was a man, of course you want to have sex with a hot mother-daughter. I think it’s the sexism of society that’s so ingrained that people don’t even realize they’re doing it.

We haven’t seen you in an issue movie like this before.

It’s cool when someone makes a movie about something. After Ramin Bahrani, the director, cast me, he recommended I watch this documentary Food Inc, which was really eye opening. It’s really disturbing and makes you want to do something. So I hope that this movie will help people want to learn more about the farm industry.

You’re pretty busy these days with At Any Price, The Hangover III and guesting on the upcoming season of Californication.

In Californication I play this woman who had an affair with David Duchovny a long time ago and then I basically had his kid and never told him. And the kid wants to reconnect with his dad so he shows up and sort of wants a relationship with him but David Duchovny doesn’t even know he has a kid.

And you’re planning on stepping behind the camera for a movie you wrote?

It’s called Half Magic. It’s sort of about when you grow up having shame around your sexuality and then you learn to have a healthy attitude about sex. You get all these mixed messages as a kid: “Oh, it’s this exciting thing. Oh you’re not supposed to do it, it’s bad!” When you grow up having a sense of shame instilled in you, how do you let go of that in order to have a healthy attitude about sexuality and a healthy sex life and choose the right people? I think sometimes when you grow up thinking that sex is bad, you attract the wrong people into your life as a sex partner.

Are you shopping it to the studios, or is it an indie?

Most of the movies are green lit by men, written by men and directed by men. I feel like sometimes as a woman you get judged very harshly on the fact that you’re in this male dominated system. Almost like you are not in control fully cause you’re getting hired – so you didn’t create that system, you didn’t create that job, but you’re the one that’s to blame!

Are there people you’ve worked with that you draw from for a project like that?

I’m really inspired by Lena Dunham. Her characters are so screwed up. In movies I think they tend to make the female characters so perfect, especially in romantic comedies – the girl is so perfect that I can’t really relate to her. Either that, or the women are really bad. But I feel like to see this flawed but normal girl, it’s cool to have that out there.

Would you consider yourself a feminist?

There’s a third-wave feminism called sex-positive feminism where you’re not angry about men. You like them and you want to have sex with them, but you kind of can’t be a woman and not sometimes go, “That’s unfair!” There’s some men that are totally into women, they want women to be happy and feel good about their sexuality. So it’s not really women against men, it’s more like this thing in our culture and society that I think is an ingrained sexism from hundreds of years ago.

At Any Price comes out April 26th

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