Heather Graham Visits Ringling College of Art and Design, Weighs in On Sexism in Hollywood, Cult Movies, and More

Todays News

BY JOHN WITTE SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY DEC 18, 2019

Like Marilyn Monroe before her, flaxen-haired movie icon Heather Graham has received a lot of recognition for her on-screen look. But, just like Norma Jean, the sharpest tools in Graham’s toolkit are her impeccable comic timing and penchant for aesthetic experimentation. Well known for her turn as a Bond girl parody in the oft-quoted Austin Powers series, Graham spent the 1990s racking up an impressive list of cinematic accomplishments, working outside of the Hollywood mainstream with iconic independent filmmakers like Gus Van Sant, Paul Thomas Anderson, and David Lynch. Her characters often balance a sense of comic naivete and uncanny intensity that’s made her a favorite in numerous cult movies and big budget blockbusters.

In yet another boon for the Ringling College of Art and Design’s numerous film and production focused academic programs, Graham visited Sarasota on Tuesday for an “Inside the Industry” presentation and Q&A sessions.

She had good things to say about the town and its treasures. “You guys have great beaches,” she told SRQ with some relish. 

But Graham is here for more than just rest and relaxation. Meeting with students, instructors, and donors associated with the college, Graham made the rounds at the Ringling facilities, and took some time out to answer questions from the media.

“I’m a huge fan of cult movies, so I would love to be called a cult actor. I think it’s admirable to find the comedy in dark situations," She told SRQ.

She weighed in on a variety of topics, from franchise movies (she doesn’t like ‘em), Hollywood roles written for women (there’s not enough of ‘em), and sexism in the movie industry (it exists). She’s also excited for her newest project, playing Rita Blackmoor in CBS’s upcoming adaptation of Stephen King’s epic-length psychedelic classic, The Stand. Often playing lamb-in-the-woods characters, Rita Blackmoor’s cynical middle-aged socialite is something of a departure for Graham.

“It’s a lot of fun getting to play different characters. There’s an obvious way you could play her, but I hope the character is more complicated than that, and there are things about her that are dark and things about her that are sympathetic. I hope."

Graham, one of the first actresses to come forward in the movement that came to be known as #MeToo, is no stranger to the specific challenges that women face in show business. The conversation inevitably moved towards her own experiences with sexism, and Graham addressed a stark reality.

“It’s so hard to get work as an actress, and when you do get to a place where you have a successful career, you’re still mostly just taking the jobs that you’re offered. I think I’m a feminist, but you’re not always getting those jobs of the strong female character.”

Photo by Wyatt Kostygan

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