Heather Graham Learns All "About Cherry"

Photo Credit: IFC Films
October 4th, 2012

Heather Graham Learns All "About Cherry"

-- Heather Graham had already been acting for more than a decade before she got her big break as porn star Rollergirl in Paul Thomas Anderson's riveting film "Boogie Nights." Though she has made dozens of film and television appearances since then, she is arguably best remembered as Rollergirl.

Graham returns to the screen in "About Cherry," another film about porn, but she plays a character very different from Rollergirl. Now 15 years older and much wiser, Graham isn't playing the young ingénue who has sex on camera for a living. Instead, Graham plays Margaret, a former porn star who has retired and stepped behind the camera to become a director.

During the film, Margaret meets the titular character, Cherry (Ashley Hinshaw), a blond waif of a girl who just turned 18. She has had a horrible life in Los Angeles, bearing the brunt of her mother's (Lili Taylor) frequent manic episodes. Her sleazy boyfriend (Jonny Weston) insists that she take nude photos of herself. Once she does, she realizes that she might have a future if she uses her body to her advantage.

Her best friend Andrew (Dev Patel) is the only man in her life she can really trust, since he doesn't hit on her and tries to look out for her as best he can. They decide to escape Los Angeles together and head north to San Francisco, where, unbeknownst to them, there is a thriving fetish porn industry.

Cherry initially takes work as a stripper, which is how she first meets lawyer Francis (James Franco), who sees potential in the blonde beauty. He convinces her to take a meeting with a porn filmmaker, who decides to cast her in an upcoming production. Even though she has been a stripper and is about to engage in filmed sex for money, Cherry somehow manages not to lose her innocence.

Francis, drunk and high off of sniffing enough cocaine to kill a small horse, gets into an accident while Cherry is in the car. Luckily, she comes out unscathed and is able to walk to a nearby bar, where she meets Margaret. The two hit it off immediately, and the attraction between them is palpable due to Graham's and Hinshaw's great chemistry.

The two quickly become lovers, and Margaret reluctantly agrees to direct Cherry's next film. Since she herself has been a porn star, she knows exactly what Cherry is up against and wants to preserve her innocence a bit longer before it is inevitably taken away by the rigor of the industry. She knows the misogyny and the catcalls Cherry will have to deal with once she becomes famous. She also doesn't like the idea of her new lover sleeping with others on camera. Despite these reservations, she wants to help Cherry and decides that casting her in one of her films is the best way to do it.

Graham says that she was initially drawn to the film because of the script by Lorelei Lee (whose life as a porn star is the basis for the film) and Stephen Elliot, which gives an unflinching look at pornography and its popularity. The script delves into the psyche of a nation in which pornography is a billion-dollar industry. Graham loved the script's fearlessness and what she called some "really out there" scenes.
She also took the role in part because of the actors who were already signed on to be in the film. She has always been a fan of James Franco, admiring his versatility as an actor in both dramas and comedies. She also loves the work of Dev Patel and Lili Taylor, who were also already cast in the film. Once she read the script, it was a no-brainer to sign on and work with these contemporaries whom she admired.
She was also drawn to the fact that Margaret is a director, since Graham aspires to one day be a director, too. She has already written multiple scripts that she hopes to direct and is actively trying to find financing for her directorial debut, so chances are good you may see it sooner rather than later.