Heather Graham stole our hearts as Annie Blackburn, she earned critical admiration for her performance in Boogie Nights, became a first-time writer-director in 2018 with her feature film debut, Half Magic, and is now the latest performer to be reviewed here on “As Seen on Twin Peaks.”
This series takes a look at the acting careers of the cast of Twin Peaks – one performer at a time. But, instead of looking A-Z through their entire filmography, I’ll be picking out one film to represent each actor, which will be followed by a 10 Questions-style discussion between myself and one of my fellow 25YL staffers about the film and various other credits. Now, the films I’ve picked to be discussed are not necessarily each actor’s most famous role, or most critically acclaimed performance, or biggest box office success. Instead, I’ll be focussing on those hidden gems, overlooked treasures and underrated masterpieces. And, to make things more interesting, each article will feature a range of different perspectives between myself and my guest. Some films will be familiar to the two of us, others might be first-time watches, and some movies will be a completely new experience for us both.
So, join Laura Stewart and I as we discuss Heather Graham, her career, Twin Peaks, From Hell and more!
1) Jon Sheasby: From Hell is an interesting movie, being as it focusses on a now legendary period in British history, yet it was brought to screen by the American brothers who directed Menace II Society and starred two big-name Hollywood actors. What’s your reaction to the film overall, Laura?
Laura Stewart: I really enjoyed it actually. It’s not the kind of thing I am usually into I must admit, but it had a kind of Bram Stoker’s Dracula feel to it, which is one of my favourite films. It was well-cast, and despite the two main actors being American, they did well with their British accents on the whole. Heather Graham’s was better than Johnny Depp’s, actually. I do like Johnny Depp very much, but in recent times he’s almost become a caricature of himself. The story was, of course, over-romanticised from real events, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – the true story is pretty damn depressing. The supporting cast who were mostly British were very well-cast – I didn’t remember that fellow Swansea girl Joanna Page was in it at all!
2) JS: I can’t complain really, as British actors are always going overseas and playing Americans, so it’s only fair that they get their chance too. How did Heather Graham do from your perspective? Did she have enough on-screen chemistry with Johnny Depp? Was she a good fit for her role?
LS: I absolutely agree about the British actors! I thought Heather Graham was pretty good. She is always very watchable and this was quite a different role from what we were used to seeing her in. Despite playing a prostitute in From Hell, she was not overtly depicted as a sex object, having played roles in Boogie Nights and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me prior to this. I didn’t feel that much chemistry between her and Johnny Depp really, and what was there seemed to be from him. However, I thought she played Mary Kelly well. She had the right amount of feistiness without being too gaudy or bawdy.
3) JS: Though it’s not a patch on the masterful Alan Moore graphic novel, there’s a lot to like about the From Hell film adaptation. It’s not perfect by any means, as it does suffer from a glammed-up, Hollywood-style sheen compared to the rough, unpolished art of Eddie Campbell. When it comes to films based on historical events such as this, do you mind the glamorised style or would you have preferred a grittier approach, more akin to the works found in the British Social Realism genre?
LS: If you had asked me that 15 years ago I would definitely have said I prefer the grittier approach, but I appear to have mellowed with age and enjoy the more glamorised, romanticised and fantastical style now. I do now tend to avoid anything too realistic for that reason, as real life is tough enough. I tend to enjoy films that give me an escape from that. 12 years working in social housing probably did that to me! However, I think From Hell gets away with not being true to events because of the passage of time. Events that took place in 1888 already feel like they have a fairy tale quality to them. Films portraying events within living memory that aren’t a true depiction tend to cheapen them.
4) JS: Thus far, Heather Graham has had a pretty diverse career, as she has this innate ability to be seen as the girl next door in one film, then in the following, she’s a complete and utter bombshell. As you said, she’s always very watchable on-screen and I always enjoy seeing her appear in any film or TV show. For you, what’s your favourite type of Heather Graham performance? Do you prefer the sweet, innocent side of Heather Graham or do you prefer her more brassy, risqué work?
LS: Well, I really love her as Annie Blackburn of course, and I do love seeing her in sweet roles like that, as it seems to suit her better. She is unbelievably beautiful and seems to become more so with age, but when she is playing a role where she is sweet it makes her more attractive. I think I liked her most in Californication funnily enough, where she was a bit of both – obviously very sexy and sassy, but also motherly and quirky. Her chemistry with David Duchovny was very apparent – they played off each other well. I think it’s her slight oddness that makes her so appealing though. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, which makes her inherently more attractive.
5) JS: I totally agree. 100%. While that season of Californication is a bit of a stinker, Heather Graham was a great addition to the cast. She’s incredibly attractive and seems totally approachable and kind of peculiar, which really makes her shine on-screen. I also agree with you on her performance as Annie Blackburn, who is a character that often divides us Twin Peaks fans. Personally, I don’t get the hate at all. She’s a sweet, caring character, who made us see Agent Cooper in a new light towards the end of Season 2. Why do you think there is such a divide between those who like Annie and those who couldn’t care less?
LS: I think it’s mostly Audrey love! Don’t get me wrong, I totally loved Audrey, but she was not the right woman for Coop. Annie was totally perfect for him – humble, sweet, blessed with a pure kind of wonder at the world, just like Coop was. They both had dark pasts in some ways, but that only made their bond stronger. And she was a newbie – it’s often the case that people don’t warm to new characters, especially towards the end of a show. There was a “Can we trust her?” thing going on. If Annie had been there from the start, she would have been loved like all the rest I’m sure. We had watched Audrey develop from the beginning, grown with her, and Annie just stormed (more like floated in on the breeze) in there and stole our heroes heart in five minutes flat. Perhaps that’s why I like her so much – she was innocent, and she didn’t set about to cause any trouble. Who could blame her for falling for him, really? Besides, Audrey wouldn’t have fallen into the arms of John Justice Wheeler if she had ended up with Coop. And that would’ve ruined the whole show!
6) JS: In my previous conversation with Ashley, I mentioned how disappointed I was with the lack of Ray Wise/Leland Palmer in The Return. Likewise, I’m still pretty annoyed that Heather Graham didn’t show up at all as Annie. I mean, people were literally clinging onto the “How’s Annie?” question for 26 years, and I think it’s a bit of a cop-out to have it answered in Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier. How do you feel about Mark Frost and David Lynch’s decision to have Annie remain off-screen in The Return?
LS: Oh yeah, I was totally gutted – just hearing her mentioned by Hawk was a thrill! I really hoped she was going to be a surprise turn up in some form or another. After reading The Secret History of Twin Peaks and her being omitted from that entirely, I did wonder but thought that could’ve been part of a bigger plan. I’m glad that Frost didn’t avoid the topic entirely with The Final Dossier, but her story is just so sad – I want to know so much more! But I guess keeping the mystery alive is all part of the fun.
7) JS: Speaking of The Final Dossier, what was your reaction to the little information we did get about Annie post-Twin Peaks? Was her entry a worthwhile addition to the book or did she deserve better than what was written?
LS: Actually, yes, I think it was worthwhile – her entry is one of the most mysterious. I’m still very intrigued to know where she is – obviously she is in a psychiatric facility – but her mind is elsewhere, still stuck in the Lodge maybe? Passing messages to Laura in the future/past? There are still so many questions unanswered, like why did she try to kill herself? How is she not ageing? That kind of seems tongue-in-cheek, as it appears Heather Graham herself doesn’t age at all either. I’m glad that she wasn’t killed off, and that much of the mystery of Twin Peaks still remains with her after all these years. That we went through 18 hours and still didn’t really get an answer, as she’s clearly not fine wherever she is. It leaves just a tiny iota of hope for more.
8) JS: Now that we’ve established that Annie is indeed a damn fine character, do you have a favourite moment from her brief time in Twin Peaks?
LS: Ooh, there are a few! The top and probably most obvious one is her and Coop flirting in the RR Diner, where he tells her the penguin joke and she actually finds it funny. Ah, young love. It is in that scene she tells him that she’s not supposed to really say how she feels when people ask her how she is. She’s supposed to say, “I’m fine.” Which now, of course, brings a whole new meaning to her saying that once a year in the psychiatric facility. It’s still so creepy watching Windom Earle taking her into the circle of sycamores at Glastonbury Grove, too. How she seems stunned into submission. Very weird. Poor Annie.
9) JS: Besides Twin Peaks’ Annie, what are some of your other favourite Heather Graham characters? I don’t know if you watched the TV show, Bliss, earlier this year, but I loved it and loved her in it.
LS: I haven’t seen Bliss, no. I heard about that and totally forgot about it! Recently, I have enjoyed her in Flaked, but I remember her in Licence to Drive, way back when (I had quite the crush on Corey Haim back then). Honestly, she looks younger now! She was, of course, brilliant as Rollergirl in Boogie Nights, but it was a TV movie, Flowers in the Attic, that I saw a few years ago that I really noticed how good an actress she is. She plays an awful character – a woman keeping her children in the attic, whilst she lived the high society life. Pretty disturbing. She played the part of an evil mother extremely well and was nothing like I had seen her before.
10) JS: And finally, Laura, if you could recast any role from the history of film and TV with Heather Graham in their place, which character would you choose and why?
LS: All I can think of is Paris Hilton in The Hottie and the Nottie! OK, so I’m gonna go for Wet Hot American Summer – both the film and TV show – as she would be absolutely perfect for that. She has the ’70s and ’80s vibe down to a T, and I think she would be great alongside Paul Rudd as Lindsay (originally played by Elizabeth Banks). This is basically an excuse for me to mention Paul Rudd, as I’m a bit of a fan. But yes, Heather Graham has the sweetness, sexiness, quirkiness, the girl next door charm and the ability to laugh at herself, so she would work well in that.
I want to thank Laura for taking the time to join me for this latest edition of “As Seen on Twin Peaks.” So, you’ve read ours, but what are your thoughts on Heather Graham? Favourite roles, performances, works? Please leave a comment and let us know by following the information about our social media accounts, which can be found below. Alternatively, you can follow me on Twitter (@JonSheasby), and we’ll continue the conversation over there.