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 comedic 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 this winter for an “Inside the Industry” presentation. “I’m a huge fan of cult movies,” says Graham.
“I would love to be called a cult actor. I think it’s admirable to find the comedy in dark situations.” 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. 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, where 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.”  SRQ