Heather Graham @imheathergraham
Photographer Hudson Taylor @photobyhudson
Writer Madeline Rosene @madelinerosene
Creative Director Tracy Kahn @tracykahn
Wardrobe Stylist Madison Guest @madisonguest
Hair Artist Brian Magallones @brianmagallones
Makeup Artist Jessi Butterfield @jessibutterfield
Videographer Erin Collett @erincollett.dop
Location Indigo Hotel Lower East Side NY @hotelindigoles
In the “New Releases” section on a flight from New York to Los Angeles, there is a selection of movies written and directed by men, starring men: Brigsby Bear, All Saints, Baby Driver, Overdrive, and even Captain Underpants and Despicable Me. In this male-dominated majority of films, only three films tell the stories of women: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Megan Leavey, and Wonder Woman. Renowned actress and now writer and director, Heather Graham will make a significant contribution to the underrepresented world offemale storytelling. Heather’s new film, Half Magic, comes to theaters in February.
A lover of books and literature, Heather was inspired to title the movie after one of her favorite children’s books written by author, Edward Eager. Our cover star sat on a couch a few minutes after our photo shoot in the penthouse of Hotel Indigo on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The views of New York City from the penthouse are so spectacular they appear almost unrealistic. “Magic,” Heather explained, “is about being grateful and it’s about supporting other people in what they want to do. It’s kind of like, The Secret. Tell your friends, family, and the universe what you’re grateful for and what you want. If you think about those things enough, they grow.”
MR: Do you believe in magic?
HG: One of the lines in my movie is, “If you believe in magic, there is magic. If you’re looking for the magic, you’ll find it.” I love people who believe in magic and that magic exists, if you believe in it. Sometimes my friends and I will get together, light candles, and go over our “brags,” “desires,” and “gratitudes,” which is just like it sounds. We brag about something, we talk about something we want and something we’re grateful for. Maybe it’s, “I want more money,” “I want to fall in love,” or “I want to direct a movie.” Whatever it is, we find that the things we wish for come true by expressing our desires, listening, and supporting each other.
MR: If one half is magic, what is the other half?
HG: The other half is out of your control and you have to surrender to it.
MR: This is your first debut as a writer, director and actress. Have you always been a writer?
HG: I’ve always loved reading. I like books. When I went to college at UCLA, my major was English. I never thought about being a writer or director.
It just happened. My mom is a writer. She writes children’s books and she exposed me to a lot of great books as a child. But I think the inspiration to write this movie came from a mixture of feeling like I was not able to express what I wanted to express as an actress and feeling like there aren’t a lot of movies made for women that feel empowering or that I can relate to. I went through a bad breakup and I wanted to make myself laugh at the stuff in life that upsets me.
I tried to make a movie about the Triangle Fire before, which was a story about women. I also had a comedy I wanted to write. But people told me no one cares about women’s stories and they said, “If you want to write something people care about, write about a man.” It was that blunt. Think about how many super hero movies there are and how many came out before Wonder Woman was made. I have a friend who is a writer who writes women-driven stories and someone told her, “You aren’t successful because you need to write stories about men.”
MR: Who are the people that say this?
HG: It’s financiers, producers— it’s the whole machine.
MR: What’s your movie about?
HG: The movie is about three friends and their love lives. My character wants to make movies about women in Hollywood but she has a sexist, sexually harassing boss. The movie explores how to feel good about your sexuality. I grew up Catholic and I was told that I would go to hell if I had premarital sex. I always wondered if I should feel ashamed of my sexuality. Intellectually, I never thought that premarital sex resulted in eternal damnation but it’s programmed into you at such a young age and it takes a lot of courage and exploration to overcome that thinking.
Navigating sexuality is hard for women. Sex is fun but how do you have a healthy attitude about sex when there is always simultaneous pressure to be sexy and to not be sexy? Everyone has their own sexuality. You have to figure out who you are and enjoy it. It’s crazy to write a movie about sexual harassment in Hollywood and then have it explode in the news. It’s lucky that it’s coming out now when people seem to care about the subject more.
MR: Did you receive any negative feedback or criticism after you spoke out about your encounters with Harvey Weinstein?
HG: I’ve only received positive feedback. I think women are getting braver and being more supportive of other women. Out of everything I’ve done in my life, I’ve gotten some of the most positive feedback after speaking out about him. People are so excited to see men like him not get away with that kind of behavior anymore. For men to lose their jobs in this much of a significant way will hopefully change things. Men don’t want to lose their jobs. Women used to be afraid of losing their jobs and that’s why we didn’t complain about the behavior. But now the tables are turned.
MR: Were you involved with casting the film at all?
HG: I was involved to a certain extent. You have to please your financier. Thankfully, we have a great financier, Bill Sheinberg. We held some auditions and we lucked out with talented people— Thomas Lennon, Angela Kinsey, Molly Shannon. There are a lot of really funny improvisational comedians in the movie. Filming was very relaxed. We would say, “If you feel inspired, say whatever you want.” So people said the lines but they added bits and pieces. This job is fun. The hardest part was trying not to laugh.
MR: Do you think women have a hard time loving themselves? Why?
HG: Yes. That’s why I made this movie. I wanted to make a movie for myself. The movie sends the message to feel good about yourself no matter what. I wish a movie like this had existed when I was young. I want to empower women the way I want to be empowered. A lot of women watch romantic comedies in which the leading women want to get married and have children.
As women, we are taught that we need to have a husband and a family and then you can love yourself. We aren’t taught to love ourselves first. Think about fairytales—they’re always about waiting for Prince Charming and how great life is after he arrives. But that’s really bad training. You could fall in love with someone and that person could die.
MR: So there is a problem with how women are represented in our culture and media? What are your thoughts on reality television?
HG: I don’t like watching other people be humiliated or hurt and I think that’s what a lot of reality television is. I think if there was more inspiring reality TV I might enjoy it. A lot of my friends are obsessed with it. I thinkreality TV is popular because it’s stories of real people and there’s something fun about watching a real person go through something and that’s different than seeing it in a movie.
Maybe people are drawn to reality television since people aren’t making many movies about women. All I can speak about are these housewives shows. It’s a lot of drama and it’s based around a petty subject matter. I don’t think it’s celebrating the best parts of women. I think it kind of makes you want to take a shower after you watch it.
MR: Do you have advice for women to help love themselves?
HG: Don’t wait for a man to make you feel good about yourself. Just decide to feel good about yourself today. You have to be happy inside yourself to be truly free. Unfortunately, we have to unplug from the culture to learn this and practice it. The culture says, “Buy these products and you’ll be happy,” or “You need to have a certain number of kids.”
But no one I know is happy because of those things. People are happy when they’ve learned how to love themselves and be grateful for their lives. I was really into Sex and The City and in one episode, Sarah Jessica Parker says, “The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself.”