Blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and posessing a certain bodacious je ne sais quoi, Heather Graham has had one of the more inspiring career trajectories of the 1990s. After debuting in the 1988 License To Drive, which featured the Two Coreys and little else, Graham worked in relative obscurity for years before hitting it big in a string of successful films, including Swingers, Boogie Nights and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
Originally hailing from the Midwest, Graham was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 29, 1970. The oldest of two girls (younger sister Aimee is also an actress), Graham led a fairly itinerant childhood thanks to her father's job with the FBI. A quiet, unpopular girl by her own account, Graham became interested in acting at a young age. She had her first role as Dorothy in a school production of The Wizard of Oz, and remained active in the theatre throughout high school, winning the title of "Most Talented" from her peers.
After high school, Graham packed up and headed to Los Angeles, where she discovered that talented as she may have been, it was no guarantee of employment. She worked a variety of odd jobs, including a stint as an usher at the Hollywood Bowl, before making her 1988 film debut in License to Drive as the object of Corey Haim's desire.
The following year, Graham's career began to travel in a more auspicious direction when she was cast as a doomed drug addict in Gus Van Sant's critically acclaimed Drugstore Cowboy. Despite winning raves for her performance, Graham eluded stardom, as her subsequent film roles were largely incidental. However, she did win a recurring role on the long-running TV miniseries Twin Peaks in 1990, and the following year starred in the widely celebrated made-for-TV movie O Pioneers!.
In 1992, Graham had a supporting role in Diggstown, the most notable effect of which was a relationship with co-star James Woods, who was twice her age. After appearing in a few more films of varying quality (Six Degrees of Separation (1993) being at one end of the spectrum, 1994's Don't Do It, which paired her with Drugstore boyfriend James LeGros at the other), the actress finally got a break with the 1996 hit Swingers, appearing in a small but memorable role as the girl of Jon Favreau's dreams. The part marked the beginning of an upswing in Graham's career: the following year she had a bit part in the movie-within-a-movie in Scream 2, which led to her inclusion on a Rolling Stone cover featuring the movie's assorted Hot Young Things, and also had her breakthrough role in Boogie Nights. As Rollergirl, an under-dressed, over-sexed coke-snorting young porn actress, Graham made an indelible impression on audiences everywhere. 1997 continued to be the best year of the actress' career thus far: she also starred in Gregg Araki's Nowhere, in which she did little except have copious amounts of sex with the similarly golden-tressed Ryan Phillippe, and Two Girls and a Guy, a critically acclaimed piece that featured her as one of the title's two girls opposite Robert Downey Jr.'s guy.
Unfortunately, Graham's first big-budget undertaking, the 1998 sci-fi film Lost in Space, was swallowed in a deep pit of critical and commercial quicksand. The actress more than rebounded the following year, however, earning top billing in two films, the Steve Martin comedy Bowfinger and the eagerly-awaited Austin Powers sequel, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. The same year Graham earned the 1999 ShoWest convention's "Female Star of Tomorrow" title, further assuring what looked like a very bright future for the young actress.
Say It Isn't So (2001)
Sidewalks of New York (2001)
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
Kiss and Tell (1999)
Two Girls and a Guy (1998)
Boogie Nights (1997)
Scream 2 (1997)
Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story (1996)
Desert Winds (1995)
Don't Do It! (1995)
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1994)
The Ballad of Little Jo (1993)
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)