Pursuing a career in Hollywood certainly isn’t easy. Stars including Blake Lively and Milo Ventimiglia have admitted that they nearly quit acting before getting their big breaks. And even those who do “make it” face challenges. Heather Graham, for one, said in a recent interview that she thinks her looks may have prevented her from getting “smart” roles.

Explaining why she’s now decided to take on more of a role behind the scenes, the 47-year-old told Entertainment Tonight, “I want to do more things; I write and direct.” She added, “I feel like I’m really smart, but I don’t often get those parts, and I think, sometimes, it’s because of how I look. But a very smart, strong character is something I want to play more because that’s who I am in life and that’s not how I’m always seen.”

The actress has appeared in movies including Boogie Nights, Swingers, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and two of the three Hangover films, but she says she originally had goals to “be in really depressing films that will win an Academy Award.” That quickly changed, though. “I thought, ‘I don’t, really — I just want to laugh and find the humor in things.'”

These days, she’s not just finding the humor — she’s creating it. She wrote, produced, and stars in her directorial debut, Half Magic, a comedy that will focus on the actress’s own feelings toward the shame around sex that was instilled in her during her Catholic upbringing. It will also take on “what it’s like to be a woman in a business full of macho a**holes.”

Graham is getting ready to appear at the San Diego International Film Festival on October 5, when she will be awarded the Virtuoso Award for enriching culture through her past contributions to the film industry. But it sounds like she’ll be making plenty of future contributions too.

Do you think people make assumptions about you because of how you look? Let us know @BritandCo.

(Photo via Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty)