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 1988’s License to Drive, which featured the two Coreys (Haim and Feldman) 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, WI, on January 29, 1970. The elder of two girls (younger sister Aimee is also an actress), Graham led a fairly itinerant childhood thanks to her father’s job with the F.B.I. 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 theater 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, stardom eluded Graham, as her subsequent film roles were largely incidental. However, she did win a recurring role on the TV series 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  at one end of the spectrum and 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; in 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 underdressed, oversexed, coke-snorting young porn actress, Graham made an indelible impression on audiences everywhere. In 1997 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.
Though she appeared to be on a track toward superstardom as the a new decade and millenium unfolded, a string of duds (From Hell, The Guru, Killing Me Softly, etc.) derailed Graham’s career a bit. As many actors in her position often do, she decided to give television a try. Unfortunately, like much of her film work of the period, the ABC comedy Emily’s Reasons Why Not was met with little excitement from critics audiences alike, and the heavily hyped series was cancelled after a single episode. Her recurring role on the comedy Scrubs, however, was well received.