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GRAHAM, HEATHER: SAY IT ISN'T SO

Dating an Aussie is cool, Heather Graham tells Jenny Cooney Carrillo, and she is actually holidaying in Perth as her latest movie, Say it Isnít So, opens here.

With an angelic face and beautiful body she has no qualms about showing off, Heather Graham has been capturing the attention of movie-goers everywhere and eliciting envy in her long line of high-profile boyfriends including actor/director Ed Burns and her current beau, Australian actor Heath Ledger who at 21 is ten years her junior. From her unforgettable portrayal of Roller Girl in the acclaimed Boogie Nights to the object of Mike Myersí affection in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Graham has created roles that have left lasting impressions on her fans and defy stereotyping.

In her latest film Say It Isnít So, she plays a woman who believes she has fallen in love with her brother (Chris Klein). Typical of other Farrelly brothers movies (Dumb & Dumber, Me, Myself & Irene) this one has its fair share of gross-out humor (Klein sticks his hand up a cowís butt in one memorable scene), but this is just further proof that Graham canít be labeled.

In the movie you play a woman who is heartbroken because she cannot be with the man she loves. What have you learned from painful break-ups?
I think itís better to go through the pain and go for it and really fall in love again. That is better than avoiding the pain and dating people you donít really care about.

And when you date an Australian, you practically date a country. Have you felt that?
Actually I am going to Australia in April (is in Perth with Heath Ledger at time of going to press). I just have to say that Heath is the greatest. He is an amazing person, incredible, and so Australians must be doing something right! He is just so relaxed and I feel like Australia must be like that. I was just in England, which feels much more serious, and I like the lighthearted and relaxed feeling of what I imagine Australia to be.

What about the age difference between the two of you?
I think it is more about how you feel about the person, and being in love with that person as opposed to their age. You canít judge a person based on their age. You just have to go on what you feel towards that person. Though I think if I was a man dating someone ten years younger, no one would ask that question.

How is it as an actress to work in one of these kind of gross-out movies?
Well, itís fun to be a little irreverent, to be around people that have a good sense of humor and are really, really nice. But I was glad I didnít have to do any of the activities with the cows or their butts.

You were a pretty bad hairdresser in the film. Are you any better in real life?
Iím really bad, actually. I have cut some of my friendsí hair and now they never let me cut their hair anymore! But I have never cut anyoneís ear off like my character does in the film.

Does this film reflect your sense of humor?
There is a wide range of things that I find funny, so I do find gross humor funny and I also find more highbrow things funny, like Monty Python.

What was hard in this movie for you to do?
The cow butt scene was kind of hard. I just didnít know how to react to that. Actually the day I did the haircutting scene was after the Academy Awards and I think I had stayed up really late and both Chris (Klein) and I showed up that day bleary eyed and worn out.

Since you became famous after Boogie Nights, how has your life changed in terms of being in the public eye?
No one ever teaches you as an actor how to do interviews, how to behave when you are in the public eye. In the beginning I was really myself, wanting to talk about my family and my relationship with them, but I started to get a little worried after a while, because it starts to get to be about you as a person and not you as an actor. People are so attracted to your personal life. You run the danger of losing parts because you canít be seen in a professional way. I thought it would hurt me and I didnít want anyone to worry about what I would say about them in the press, so I have become a little more protective of my personal life. I figure less is more. For example, things like a break-up in the press is a bit worse than if it wasnít, so it makes you a little more protective of your personal life. It is nice to keep some things private.

Could you talk about your other two projects, The Sidewalks of New York and Guru of Sex?
In Sidewalks of New York I play sort of an Upper East Side demure real estate agent and Iím married to Stanley Tucci, who has been cheating on me, and I have to decide what to do about it. Guru of Sex is a story about an Indian man who comes to America and people interpret everything he does as really spiritual. In fact he is not a spiritual man, so when he meets my character and says what I say, people take this as a kind of guru-speak and so he has to keep coming to me to get information. He becomes this Deepak Chopra of sex. Itís a romantic comedy.

You never seem afraid of your sexuality on-screen. Do you worry about getting typecast in the sexy roles?
It is definitely something I think about. I want to come across as well-rounded because in real life I donít feel like I am a sex symbol. At the same time I will not turn down a part because the woman is portrayed as sexy. I mean, can you think of a movie where there is nothing about sexuality, especially for a woman? I like to mix it up a bit in terms of roles, but at the same time I donít mind doing a movie about sexuality. I think itís interesting.

Could you describe the character you play in From Hell, with Johnny Depp, and also Killing Me Softly, directed by Chen Kaige. You are a busy girl.
From Hell is from the graphic novel about Jack the Ripper and itís a theory about who he was. Itís directed by the Hughes brothers and I play Mary Kelly, an Irish prostitute living in England. Killing Me Softly is a thriller directed by Chen Kaige, who is great. The story is about two people who fall in love really quickly then become paranoid about who the person they are with really is.

Chen Kaige is a great director. Did he pursue you for this role?
What happened was this. Itís kind of strange but actually Ivan Reitmanís company produced the Chen Kaige movie and I met Ivan Reitman when I was about seventeen. I had a really small part in Twins. He was just watching my career and I think after Austin Powers came out he said he had this book he was working on and asked if I was interested. He sent me the script after theyíd written it so he kind of came to me before they even wrote the script and asked which director I wanted to work with so I chose to work with the best, and they agreed he was an excellent choice, and we went with Chen Kaige.

You have played such a variety of characters. What about you when youíre not working? What do you do?
I love to read, I just read Into Thin Air because Killing Me Softly is about a mountain climber. I also liked Memoirs of a Geisha and I am reading Harry Potter right now. I also like dancing and hanging out with my friends. I like to cook, and I like card games. I will invite my friends over, cook dinner and play card games all night. Sometimes for money, usually for the joy of winning (laughs).

Published April 12, 2001

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