After a 30-year career playing drug-addicted teens, Austin Powers-shagging CIA agents and even appearing on the cover of Time magazine in 2003 (for a story about meditation, which she does regularly), Heather Graham, 47, is about to unveil her most challenging role to date: writer-director. Half Magic — which is being introduced to AFM buyers by Arclight Films — is a comedy about female empowerment in which Graham also stars as a member of a sisterhood (alongside Molly Shannon, Stephanie Beatriz and Angela Kinsey) that comes together to do battle against male dominance and chauvinism.
Lighthearted it may be, but the film’s subject matter couldn’t be more timely. Not only is sexism in the film industry a hot topic, but Graham herself was among the first major names to come forward following the initial reports of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein, detailing her own experience with the disgraced producer and claiming he had implied roles would be offered to her if she slept with him. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Graham discusses the women who inspired her to get behind the camera, Half Magic’s Weinstein-ish character (who is much cuter and funnier) and why she doesn’t share Mark Wahlberg’s religious issues with Boogie Nights.
You’ve worked as an actress for many years. Why did you feel that now is the right time to direct?
I was inspired by other women writing and directing, and as an moviegoer I wanted to see more women’s stories. I didn’t feel that there were enough movies being made about women and things that I could relate to, so I thought I was going to make a movie myself, to make the movie that, as an audience member, I would want to see.
Is there anyone in particular that has inspired you?
I saw Drew Barrymore producing films and Salma Hayek, Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, Tina Fey … people writing from the female point of view. It was so refreshing to see that. Also, I think when I started, I just wanted to make myself laugh about everything in my life and to see the comedy in it.
Was it a fun experience?
It was really a magical experience. I got to work with a lot of comedians and people who were really funny and came up with some great improv. It felt like everyone working on the movie was having a great time. And at the end, a lot of people told me it was the most fun job they ever worked on.
You were one of the first major names to detail your own Harvey Weinstein experience after the first stories broke. Did you anticipate the flood of allegations that would follow?
I knew that he must have sexually harassed a lot of people. I just think now is the time that women are getting braver and the time is right for women and men to say this type of behavior is unacceptable. It’s really inspiring speaking up. I was inspired by the other women speaking out, and I just thought, “I don’t want to hold this guy’s secret anymore.”
Is Weinstein the only incident you have had?
No, there’s a lot of other people. But I would say he’s the worst, He’s the most sexual predatory person I’ve ever met. But there’s definitely all different kinds of sexism from many different people. The time is right, though — people seem more open to wanting to change these things, which is very good. A lot of people who have been sexually harassed — and I felt this about my experience — you want to hide it away in a part of your brain where you don’t want to think about it. When you talk about it, it brings up sad feelings, but at the same time it’s inspiring to feel that we’re all standing up for ourselves. This guy losing his job was a great way of saying that this kind of behavior will be punished.
Is there a Weinstein figure in your movie?
There isn’t exactly a Harvey Weinstein character, but I do have a sexist boss. But he’s much cuter than Harvey Weinstein, he’s played by Chris D’Elia. He’s much funnier than Harvey as well, but he’s symbolic of the movie business being sexist.
Mark Wahlberg recently said that he hoped God would forgive him for making Boogie Nights. I hope you don’t feel the same way …
Oh no, I’m so proud of that movie! I think it’s a huge artistic achievement. I think he might have been joking. I hope he was joking.