Heather Graham's Parents Say Her "Boogie Nights" Role "Destroyed Their Relationship"
"Up until Boogie Nights we were a close, happy family," Jim Graham once said.
Twenty-six years ago, Heather Graham starred in Boogie Nights as Rollergirl, an adult film actor who is almost always wearing roller skates. At the time that the film was released, Heather had been acting for years, including in episodes of Twin Peaks and Growing Pains, and in the movies License to Drive and Drugstore Cowboy. But while the 1997 Paul Thomas Anderson movie brought her more fame, it also marked a division in her relationship with her parents, Joan and Jim Graham.
Both Heather and her parents have spoken out about their rocky relationship over the years. In past interviews, the actor hasn't gone much further than acknowledging their estrangement, but her parents have been a bit more vocal. Read on to find out more about the rift and to find out how Boogie Nights may have played a role.
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It was rumored that her parents were unhappy with her Boogie Nights role.
Boogie Nights is about the adult film industry in the 1970s. It was acclaimed by critics and nominated for three Oscars. Heather, who was 27 at the time, plays a performer and appears partially undressed in the movie. It has been reported that the tension between Heather and her parents stemmed from their disapproval of the film due to their Catholic beliefs.
The older Grahams gave an interview to The Sun in 2013 about the rift. "Joan and I have endured many sleepless nights questioning how and why it all went wrong," Jim said (via the Daily Star). "To this day, we honestly don't know… Every time we read these supposed reasons for why we are not part of Heather's life, it gets more and more frustrating as they are simply not true."
He continued, "We did go to the movies to see [Boogie Nights] and no, it wasn't our thing, but we were proud of the part she played, as we are with all of her films … Time and time again we read in anything written about Heather that she was brought up in this 'strict Catholic home' and that's just wrong… We've even seen writers claim we wanted Heather to be a nun. It's just not true; we didn't even send the girls to a Catholic school!"
They blame the movie for "destroying" their relationship with Heather.
While Jim and Joan said that they were still proud of their daughter for her work, they do blame the movie for ruining their relationship, since they see it as a turning point.
"Up until Boogie Nights we were a close, happy family," Jim said. "Then the movie came out and everything changed. It is safe to say that movie destroyed our relationship—that film is the anniversary of when Heather decided to take a break from us."
He also explained that they blame the industry in general. "The Hollywood scene is so treacherous—it has ruined our family," Jim said.
As for Heather's mother, she added, "I can't believe Heather is 43 now and we have had no place in her life for a long time. It is desperately sad."
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Heather said she couldn't see herself reconciling with her parents.
In 1999, USA Weekend asked Heather if she ever saw her relationship with her parents being mended. "I don't see it, but maybe it's possible," she said. "Either they would have to recognize certain things or I would have to move beyond the stage of caring about it."
Of her Catholic background and parents' ongoing belief, the actor commented, "Isn't it bizarre that people have been embracing that religion and all the strict rules for, like, centuries? Everyone's got their struggles in life. That's mine."
Her parents provided a comment for the piece, which was similar to what they later told The Sun: They were proud of their daughter and wished her well.
Presented with their comment, Heather took it differently. "It's like saying if what they did didn't hurt me, I could have a relationship with them," she said. "But I have to respect my feelings."
She doesn't like talking about them in public.
In an interview in 2007, Heather opened up about having different views from her parents. "I think that my parents were definitely more conservative than I am. I think I'm definitely more liberal-minded, so yeah, I guess it is a learning experience to grow up with people who think differently than you," she told Groucho Reviews in 2007.
More recently, in 2016, the Austin Powers star touched on her early life during a Q&A-style interview for The Guardian. When she got to the question, "What do you owe your parents?" Graham responded, "I am very grateful that they supported me in becoming an actor."
There's a reason she likes to keep answers to questions about her family brief. In an interview from 2001 (via Cinema.com), Graham was asked if her parents had seen her movies. "I don't really like to talk about my parents," she replied. "Because I just feel that it gets misinterpreted in the press, and stuff…"