Montreal Film Journal


There are few things more exciting in the life of a film writer than being told by a publicist that you're gonna get a call from Heather Graham to talk about her latest movie. Especially when you've loved her for years, notably as Roller Girl in "Boogie Nights", Felicity Shagwell in "The Spy Who Shagged Me" and now as Pippa McGee in "Cake". Here's the transcript of my interview with this most adorable actress.

Hey, it's Heather.
How are you?
I'm good.
So you're releasing "Cake" in Canada this week-
I think it's next week.
Oh, next week, for sure. I think you shot in Toronto, how was it?
It was very fun, we had a great time.
Have you shot in Canada before?
I have, yeah.
Many times?
Actually, yeah. I've worked in Montreal, in Vancouver, in Toronto.
Oh, I'm in Montreal, what did you shoot here?
Well, I had a very small part in this movie about Dorothy Parker, a long time ago.
Ok. You worked as executive producer on [Cake], what does that entail?
Huh, you know, it just entails, like, working on the script and casting and, you know, lots of different aspects of the film. More creative for me and less of the actual business stuff.
So did you basically cast yourself?
I did, yeah. I thought I was a good choice.
I think so too, you carry the movie very well. So you play Pippa McGee- that's a funny name, where did that come from?
I think Pippa comes from Pippi Longstocking, cause I think that [producer] Miranda [De Pencier] and [screenwriter] Tassie [Cameron] and I, we all had a big thing about Pippi Longstocking. So Pippa's a version of Pippi.

That makes sense. It's a very independent, aggressively sexual character. I find that many of you characters are kinda like that. I wanted to ask whether it was directors that saw you like that or you that picked those parts, but since you cast yourself... Is that something you can relate to?
Mmmmmmmm... I guess I can, yeah. I guess so, I wouldn't call myself 'aggressively sexual', to be honest, but I would say that... I guess I think the character is rebellious and unconventional and I would say that the character is sexual but I probably wouldn't say that she's 'aggressively' sexual. I mean, I would relate to the fact that she's sexual, but not aggressively. I think in the movie we're trying to say that she's running away from intimacy and having sex with people, you know. I'm not sure I completely relate to that 100%. But yes, I do, sorta like being a woman and trying to figure out, you know, how do you wanna be sexually? Do you wanna get married? How conservative do you want to be? Like, how sexual do you wanna be? It can be really confusing, because you're brought up to think, 'Oh, you're supposed to be demure', and then you're like 'No! you need to liberated', and it can be just very confusing trying to decide how you want to be, basically.
So do you want to get married?
Hmm, you know, I would like to in love, but I don't really care about being married so much.
Ok, 'cause I think we find out in the film that Pippa is kinda secretly romantic. Would you say you are too?
Yes, for sure! Like, I love movies about love and romance.
I do too. Not many guys will admit it, but when I watch a romantic comedy, I almost always go with it.
(laughs) That's funny.
That's the experience I had with "Cake". Even though I could see how things would turn out, I was still touched by it. I liked especially your scenes with Taye Diggs.

Oh my god, I mean, you and him in the same shot, it's like almost too much!
(laughs) Taye's so, he's very sexy. I think he has a perfect body, actually, no body fat.
Was it very intense shooting with him?
You know, he is really a lovely person, very sexy. All the women were completely dying over him. He's a really great guy, he's really funny, he's really wonderful.
I'm black myself and I loved that in the movie, race is not an issue. It's rare in Hollywood movies to see a white girl and a black guy and it not being a big thing.
Right. We wanted to be more modern. In fact, the role wasn't even written for a black guy, we just thought Taye was a great actor, so we never even addressed it.
That's awesome. My next question, well, don't answer it if you don't want to, it's a bit personal. There's the whole thing with the dad who disapproves of his daughter's choices in the film, and I've read things about how you went through kind of the same thing in real life...
Yeah, obviously I don't want to get into details, but I can relate to feeling like, you know, having problems with my family and feeling a bit like maybe your parents don't understand you. You wanna please your parents, but it doesn't seem to happen the way you want it to. I think that most people can relate to that.

Yeah, there are a lot of extra layers like that in the film, beyond the romantic comedy. Another thing I found interesting is that you character is very happy and enthusiastic, but there's kind of a sadness behind it.
God, you picked up on everything! I feel that the character's great in so many ways, like really fun and free-spirited, but underneath it, she can't open herself up to anyone because she feels that her dad rejected her so she feels she's not worthy of it. She has issues about things. Even though she's leading this fun life, there's a certain sense of sadness and emptiness that she wants to fill through... Well, I guess in the end, she falls in love.
She needed just the right guy or something
Yeah, finding the right guy, but I think it's also reaching that point in your life where you're ready to deal with the things about yourself that basically stop you from being happy, you know? It takes a while to really be able to realize why you self-sabotage. And I think she just reaches the point where she goes, 'God, I feel lonely, I want to keep the great qualities that I love about myself, but I want to learn how to grow and be more open'.
Well, congratulations, it's a fun film, I liked it a lot.
Good, well it's great to talk to you.
To conclude, I wanted to ask you about this TV show you got coming up, "Emily's Reasons Why Not". What can you tell us about it?
It's got a vibe of "Sex and the City" a little bit. It's about a girl who is a bit neurotic and is trying to date better guys and sorta trying to lead her life in a better way that she's been leading it. You're just in my mind, in sorta my crazy perspective.
I'm looking forward to it. Great talking to you. Have a nice day!
You too! Bye-bye.

CAKE opens in Montreal and across Canada on December 2nd, 2005. It should be released in the States in February 2006.