Every rose has its thorn, and when it comes to Flowers In The Attic—the latest adaptation of the V.C. Andrews classic airing January 18 on Lifetime—Heather Graham is just that. As Corinne, the mother of four who moves in with her own nightmare mama (a menacing Ellen Burstyn) and slowly turns on her brood, Graham’s chillier than ever before.
DuJour spoke to the actress about recreating Andrews’ famously dark story, her friends’ surprising response to the role and the racy new project she has in the works.
Flowers in the Attic is such an important book for so many people. What was your feeling about it before you made the movie?
I had never read the book or seen the movie, so when I read the script I was thinking this is the most twisted story ever and my character is just terrible.
How did you make it through life—or at least middle school—without having read the book?
I remember the book cover, I remember everyone having it, but I guess my equivalent was a Judy Blume book.
This is a dark story: there’s betrayal and neglect and the infamous brother-sister romance. What was the mood like on set?
The really young kids were so excited about Ellen scaring them. The little boy [Maxwell Kovach] would be like, ‘Oooh, she’s gonna kick me!’ They were really into it. But I know it was hard for Ellen to play that character; she felt traumatized by being such a dark, abusive person. By the last day I was also relived to not have to think about those things anymore.
You’re active in children’s charities. It must have been tough to inhabit this sort of awful mother.
I did feel bad about it. This is one of the first projects the really young kids were doing, so I was always hugging them and trying to make them comfortable. Then one day, they looked at me and said, “You poison us!” I felt so awful. Really, I think my character turns against herself more than anything.
Why is this dark, twisted story such a beloved classic?
There’s something that resonates about child abuse that you can almost relate to. It feels really visceral. You can understand it. It’s also kind of sexy in a weird, dark, forbidden way. Some people are so excited about it. My best friend had all my lines memorized from the book; she’d tell me what I’d be saying next. And random people you wouldn’t expect love it: I have a friend who’s an Islamic scholar—he goes on TV to discuss religion—who confessed to me that he’s a huge Flowers in the Attic fan.
These kids were locked up for a long period of time and truly mistreated, but I think most kids can relate to being grounded. Did that happen to you?
In a less dramatic way than in the story. The parents here are saying to the kids, “don’t have any needs and do what I want you to do.” I can relate to that.
What would you do if you were locked up for months at a time?
I really love puttering around and doing nothing. Sometimes it’s more fun than actual activities. I just love being lazy and doing nothing and staying at home.
With Corinne and her bad vibes behind you, what’s next?
I’m on the last season of Californication, I just worked on a movie called My Dead Boyfriend and I wrote a script I want to direct. It’s about sex—but not between a brother and sister. It’s more a female point of view on sex; growing up religious and having to get rid of those hang ups to have a healthy view of sexuality.
Have you been able to figure out how to do that?
Yeah, I think I have.
Flowers in the Attic premieres on Lifetime on January 18—click here for showtimes.
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