A film about porn garnering three Academy Award nominations? That is exactly what Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 film Boogie Nights received, starring Heather Graham, and it can now be seen on the super streamer Netflix.
Boogie Nights stars Mark Wahlberg as Eddie Adams aka Dirk Diggler, a young dishwasher who becomes a popular figure in the porn industry based on his large proportions. The movie also stars Burt Reynolds, who grabbed a Best Supporting Actor nom, Julianne Moore who received a Best Supporting Actress nomination, and Anderson, who nabbed a Best Original Screenplay nomination as well.
With a movie revolving around the porn industry, one can expect a lot of nudity and that is what Boogie Nights delivers. For Heather Graham, who stars as Brandy aka Rollergirl, this was her first time performing in the buff.
The story follows Mark Wahlberg’s Adams in the late ‘70s, when porn was considered to be going through the Golden Age of Porn, through his eventual downfall in the early ‘80s. Adams works as a dishwasher in a nightclub where he is introduced to porn filmmaker Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds). Horner is intrigued with Adams, so he offers to audition him for one of his porn movies. Adams does this by having sex with Rollergirl (Heather Graham), the porn starlet who has taken on the name based upon the fact that she is always wearing skates.
For Horner and Adams, it is a match made in heaven. Adams then becomes Dirk Diggler (whose character was based on the late porn star John Holmes) and his rise (no pun intended) to fame is fast (no pun intended there either). The success from his ample package brings fame and fortune. Diggler is able to purchase a new home, a wardrobe to die for (for the times), as well as a new Corvette sports car.
Beyond Heather Graham’s Rollergirl, Diggler spends a lot of his time with fellow porn star and pal Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly). Together they come up with new ideas for porn movies that are more action-themed than the normal skin flick. Life is big and bold for Diggler until a New Year’s Eve party bringing in 1980.
The NYE party is at Horner’s house, and it is there that Horner’s assistant director, Little Bill Thompson (William H. Macy) discovers his wife having sex with another man. Little Bill proceeds to shoot them both dead, then turn the gun on himself. This party is also the first time Dirk uses cocaine, a sign of the downfall to come.
Dirk’s heavy use of the drug begins to take its toll. He finds it more difficult to bring life to his enormous appendage, he falls into very violent mood swings, and the new “stud” Horner has hired doesn’t sit well with Diggler. A fight between Dirk and Horner ends their relationship.
Boogie Nights changes tone a few times during the film. Anderson realized that would be the case when he was penning his script but he says eventually it was the film he set out to make. “People say it’s hard to do, but if you’re on par and you’re just telling that story then it’s gonna feel okay. You can switch gears,” he says via Film School Rejects.
As for Heather Graham and her introduction to nudity on film, she was of course nervous. She also wasn’t the first actress who wanted to play the part. Drew Barrymore and Tatum O’Neil both were up for the role and presumably, it was Barrymore who was offered the part. “I auditioned for that,” Heather Graham said of Rollergirl. “I think they had offered it to some other more famous person and that person had passed. So then I got the role and it was so exciting. I really thought it was an amazing script.”
But Heather Graham also spoke about the nerves surrounding going full buff in front of all to see. “I think I was a bit nervous, but I just thought the writing was so good. As a young actress in Hollywood, you know, you get in these situations. It’s like, “Okay, are you willing to do nudity?” And I said “no” a lot. But when we got to that, I just was like, “Screw it, I’m going to do it. I think it’s really good.”
She went on to explain that as a young actress in Hollywood (she was 27 at the time) how difficult it was to not be asked time and time and time again to do nudity. She says many of the roles she was up for during her early career called for a large amount of nudity, which she passed on.
As for Boogie Nights, Heather Graham also says her main hurdle was getting past how she felt she’d look nude on film. “Of course, as a woman, even if you look good, you want to nitpick every little flaw you think you have. But there was something free about just going, “Okay, I’m just going to do it.”
The movie was a financial hit, even with its over two-and-a-half-hour running time. Anderson worked his $15 million budget into a $43 million box office take, gaining rave reviews in the process.
Apparently, Boogie Nights is all it took for Heather Graham to be comfortable taking off her clothes on camera as she has a number of times since. But Graham’s film career doesn’t solely focus her on simply shedding clothes.
The popular actress has seen plenty of action where she has remained fully clothed. One of her big starts came in the 1991 TV series Twin Peaks. She has since bounced back and forth from TV to features and back, having starred in features such as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Swingers, Lost in Space, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Bowfinger, and From Hell.
On the television side, Heather Graham has been seen in Scrubs, led the series Emily’s Reasons Why Not, Californication, Bliss, and Angie Tribeca. The 51-year-old actress has kept herself busy lately appearing in the mini-series Stephen King’s The Stand while having three more projects due to come out soon.
Heather Graham (wearing only her roller skates) and Boogie Nights can now be seen on Netflix.