Heather Graham has done a lot of movies in which she isn’t naked and wearing roller-skates. I can name a half dozen off the top of my head: Bowfinger, Drugstore Cowboy, Swingers, an Austin Powers sequel, and two Hangover movies, including the first “good” one; and at no point in any of these films is she naked and wearing roller-skates. She’s got a recurring role in the seventh and final season of Californication—her first episode is this Sunday, April 20th, at 9:30pm ET on Showtime (or you can watch it right now if you have a Showtime Anytime subscription)—as David Duchovny’s baby mama, a dental hygienist who at no point roller-skates in the buff. But try to interview Graham, as I did recently, and it’s almost impossible not to think about Boogie Nights. It’s the elephant in the room; the naked elephant on roller skates. The entire time I was thinking “Should I bring up Rollergirl? Or just let the subject come up organically?”
Luckily, we weren’t lacking in conversation topics. We talked about MILFS, orgasms, karate, orgasms, what it feels like to put your hands in a stranger’s mouth, and orgasms. Eventually, yes, we discussed Rollergirl. But mostly, orgasms.
My first thought when I heard you were guest-starring in the final season of Californication was, “That show’s still on the air?” Was that your first reaction too?
I’d never actually watched the show, but I have a few friends who are obsessed. They’re super big fans, so they helped me catch up.
Did you binge the first six seasons?
I kinda did. I love doing that kinda thing, especially when it’s part of my job.
They’re paying you to watch television!
How is that not awesome?
Watching the show, knowing that you had already signed on to join the cast, did it put the fear of God into you?
You know what I’m talking about, right?
I know, the show’s super crazy.
If memory serves, on the very first episode, Duchovany’s getting blown by a nun.
It’s such a guy show. It’s such a guy fantasy show.
To be fair, I have no fantasies involving getting blown by nuns.
If you say so.
At one point your character is called “a ridiculous fucking MILF.” Does that pretty much sum it up?
Sure. I choose to take it as a compliment.
So you’d describe her as a MILF?
She’s definitely an overprotective mom. I can play the M part of MILF, but the rest of it…
There’s not much I can do with that as an actor. I guess that’s for other people to decide.
You’ve been getting a lot of “sexy mother” roles lately. Like Jade in the Hangover movies. Or Corinne in Flowers in the Attic.
You thought Corinne was a MILF?
Ah, I see how it is.
I may have revealed too much.
You like the crazy ones.
Does it ever feel like you’re being typecast as a sexual stereotype? “We need a mid-40s mom with sex appeal? Let’s get Heather Graham!”
Maybe, I don’t know. I’m just glad to be working. I’m not actually a mom in real life, so it’s fun to pretend to be one. I like to approach things the same in art as in life. You can choose to look on the positive side and enjoy whatever roles you’re given. You can find the silver lining in anything.
That’s the most optimistic thing I’ve ever heard about Hollywood.
I’m not saying the movie business isn’t sexist. It’s totally sexist. If you look at all the movies being made these days, 80% of them are about men.
So you just accept that?
There’s not much I can do about it. It’s a sexist world and a sexist industry. But I’ve been very lucky as an actress, to work as much as I have and as consistently as I have. And when you don’t see the kind of stories out there that represent you, you have to make them yourself. I actually just wrote a script that I want to direct.
Is this the script you mentioned last year on Conan?
The one about sex and women?
Sex from a female point of view. But specifically women who like having sex. I feel like a lot of movies are made about women who want to get married and want to have kids. But I don’t see anything about women who want to have sex. They have characters like that on TV sometimes, but not as much on film. I don’t see myself and my friends represented in film. When do you ever get to see a movie from the point of view of a woman who’s more interested in having really great orgasms than finding a husband? I would say almost never.
So you’re going to make one?
I’m going to try. I’d like to direct it and star in it. We’re actually in the process of casting it right now. So knock on wood, hopefully we’re doing it this summer. [In a baritone movie preview narrator voice.] And you can find out more about what gets a woman off!
There’s your tagline right there. That’s how you get asses in the seats.
I hope so.
You mentioned something on Conan about a book called “Extended Massive Orgasm,” which you’d be using as research for your screenplay. At the time I thought was a joke, but it’s a real thing, a real book.
So I went and bought it.
For research. For this interview.
It’s a fascinating read.
Isn’t it? It’s really cool! To be honest, in this society, women are really nurturing and we’re brought up to take care of other people. So we sometimes forget to ask “What feels good to me?” or “What do I want?” This book looks at sex in terms of what gets a woman off, as opposed to what gets a man off. I think it’s more clear what gets a man off.
We’re not that complicated.
That’s something the culture really puts in your face.
You know what I mean?
I’m not…. sure.
But what actually gets a woman off? I think it’s worth exploring. I’m sure men really want to know. Why wouldn’t they? But it’s more mysterious. So these people wrote this book, going into depth about what’s involved.
My favorite chapter is called “Ideas For Communication,” in which they give you suggestions for dirty talk. If you don’t mind, I’d like to give you a test.
Which of the following quotes are sex talk ideas from “Extended Massive Orgasm,” and which are lyrics from Motown songs?
“You got me good.”
That has to be a Motown song.
Are you kidding me?
Oh wow, I’m not going to be good at this.
“You really got a hold on me.”
Um…. Motown song?
Excellent. That’s Smokey Robinson. Next…. “I feel so high.”
I’m going to guess the book, because we’re going one for one.
Dammit. You learned my system. Here’s another: “You’re on my spot.”
That has to be the book.
Nicely done. You’re two for three. Here’s the final one. “Great contractions.”
Great contractions? I would guess the book. That doesn’t really sound like a song.
No, that’s Marvin Gaye.
What song is that from?
Um… “Mercy, Mercy Me.”
It is? Are you sure?
No, I made that up. It’s from the book.
Thank you! I was starting to worry. Maybe I haven’t been listening to Motown songs closely enough.
What’s the weirdest research you’ve ever done for a movie role?
Did you hang out with strippers before doing Hangover? Or socialize with unwed mothers for Californication?
Well, I went to a dentist office to learn how to clean teeth. I took a full lesson on how to remove tartar from someone’s teeth.
Yeah. I play a dental hygienist and there’s a scene where I’m cleaning David (Duchovny)’s teeth. I also had to clean a producer’s teeth, because he played an extra in a scene, where he’s basically checking out my boobs while I’m cleaning his teeth. I had to do two teeth-cleaning scenes.
Did you use real dental instruments?
No. I wanted to, but the instruments are very sharp, so they gave me the plastic, soft tip version. I guess they didn’t want me to injure David or the producer.
But you could do it, right? You have the skills?
I guess so, yeah. You know what the hardest part is? It’s so personal to put your hand in someone’s mouth. It’s very strange.
Especially a stranger’s mouth.
That’s the weirdest! I was asking a dentist about it. Isn’t it weird meeting somebody and they’re a total stranger, and the next thing you know your hands are up in their mouth? He told me, “You just get used to it.” I guess after awhile, you don’t even think about it. It probably feels like an assembly line at a certain point.
But the first stranger’s mouth….
That’s the worst! It was so surreal when I was practicing. I was like, “This person is letting me put my hands inside their mouth! What is happening?”
Have you ever taken any souvenirs from a movie set? Any props that you wanted to keep?
I do have the roller skates from Boogie Nights.
Holy crap that’s awesome.
I interviewed Mark Wahlberg once, and he told me he still has his Boogie Nights penis prosthetic.
Oh yeah, that’s right. I totally remember that.
You saw him take it?
No, but I remember somebody talking about it from the film. Like, “where’s the penis?” “Oh, Mark took that home with him,” or something. I wonder where he keeps it in his house. Is it just in a drawer or something? You open a drawer and you’re like “What is that?”
I’m hoping it’s on a mantel.
That would be scary if you went on a date and you went to the guy’s house and he had a big penis on his mantel.
That’s a pretty big red flag right there.
Time to turn around.
Where do you keep the roller skates?
I used to have them in this little alcove in my house, but now they’re in my closet.
You don’t wear them?
I don’t. There was a scene in Californication where they wanted me to wear roller skates. I was like, “Noooo, I can’t do that. That makes me feel weird.” But I did go to a roller-skating party with friends a few years ago, and I wore the Rollergirl skates. I just assumed I’d remember how to skate, but I totally wiped out.
Skating’s not easy.
It’s so much harder than you think! I remember when we were shooting Boogie Nights, all of my stand-ins were wiping out all the time. I’d practice before I got to the set, but they’d just show up and put on the roller-skates, and they’d be skating over these wires and cables, so they would all fall over. It was totally dangerous.
I have this mental image of dozens of naked extras in roller-skates falling over each other like dominos.
That was kinda what it was like.
Have you tried to stay away from movie stunts since?
Not on purpose. I’d like to do something with karate. I took karate classes for a few years. Taekwondo. I’d love to do a movie role where I could do some karate.
Maybe the sex movie you’re making.
[Laughs.] What? No.
It’s a perfect combination. Massive orgasms and taekwondo.
No. I’m trying to make it a little more real, a little more based on reality.
You can’t have a massive orgasm while doing a karate chop?
No. [Pause.] Okay, maybe sometimes.
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, on Esquire.com.)