EXCLUSIVE: E Street star Marcus Graham opens up on his Hollywood heartbreak

The 59-year-old is ready for love.
Loading the player...

It’s been 34 years since handsome actor Marcus Graham burst onto our TV screens, playing wheelchair-bound Stanley “Wheels” Kovac in E Street, in a role that catapulted him to heartthrob status and propelled him to Hollywood.

Marcus was just 25 and had the world at his feet. But just as his star was rising in 1989, his private world was falling apart – because the woman he adored, Nicole Kidman, who had spent two years by his side, left him for Tom Cruise after they met and fell in love on the set of Days Of Thunder.

The actor opens up on his heartbreak.

(Image: Phillip Castleton)

“I don’t have anything bad to say about Nicole,” Marcus says in an exclusive interview with Woman’s Day.

“We were both in our early 20s and young and ambitious. A brilliant, gorgeous, talented actress meets big Hollywood movie star and he says, ‘Come with me.’ I think you say, ‘Go, are you mad?’ It must have been wonderful for her.

“I was devastated and heartbroken, but that’s the way it goes, isn’t it? Why would I want to keep her in Australia and lock her away?!

“I don’t have any bad feelings there and I understand. At the time I cried for a long time. I was really hurt and confused, but I had lots to learn about the world.”

Marcus Graham alongside fellow E Street star Kate Raison.

(Image: Supplied


Marcus, 59, has never spoken about the heartache of that break-up before, but the wounds healed long ago, and it pales compared to the pain of a miscarriage 11 years ago, and his “lonely childhood” with a famous actor dad who abandoned him, and a mum who never really wanted him.

“Sometimes I think I must have burned down a nunnery or something in a past life,” he says, shrugging, as he reveals that it’s taken him years to come to terms with a childhood lacking in love from his self-absorbed parents.

“I feel freer now. That’s the joy of getting older. Who wants to be in that state of confusion? I’d rather be heading out of it. It is really gratifying to get clarity and to accept and release somehow.”

Marcus grew up in Perth. His mum Judy was a ballerina with the West Australian Ballet Company and his dad was Ron Graham, a British-born character actor, who appeared in Gallipoli, A Country Practice and Home And Away.

“He ran off with a 19-year-old actress by the time I was two. He was gone but I would see him on television. My mum got pregnant to try and hang on to my father. I was a kid who was not wanted and I found other families to connect to.

“I was a really lonely kid. I don’t have brothers or sisters. I have a couple of really good friends I’ve known since I was five and they’re kind of like my family. It’s lovely.”

He saw his dad just a couple of times when he was a child, and after quitting school he set out at 16 to find him, not knowing what to believe about his absence, after only hearing his bitter mum’s version of what went wrong.

“I got on a bus and went from Perth to Sydney. It took me three days, and I got to his place in Balmain in the middle of the afternoon… and I knocked on the door, and he and his wife said, ‘Who is it?’ and I said Marcus, and they went, ‘Marcus who?'”

“I’m freer now. That’s the joy of getting older.”

(Image: Phillip Castleton)

His mum died after suffering dementia, and losing the ability to speak about 10 years ago when Marcus was working on Home And Away, playing Roo Stewart’s husband Harley, and his dad died in 2020 – delivering a kick in the guts from his grave.

He left a substantial estate, including a huge farm at Windsor, and bequeathed it to two ex-girlfriends, but what hurt even more was their last meeting, where Ron regaled him with stories about his life, but seemed to have edited out Marcus.

“If he’d just left me his old record player or his watch or a pair of old boots… something. I wasn’t in his heart at all. He was threatened, jealous and proud of me all at the same time. He was a really difficult person to deal with and have in your life.”

He credits a nine-year-old Sydney schoolgirl called Isabella Lombardi, who was born with cerebral palsy, for helping him fall back in love with life. He was so taken with her beautiful outlook on life that he’s made a documentary about her.

“She’s so brave, so wonderful, so bright and full of love for the world. It wasn’t a hard thing for me to connect to, given my life,” he says.

The documentary, which Marcus directed, is called Dream Big Little One and is yet to be seen in Australia but already it has collected many awards at film festivals around the world, including the Grand Jury Award at the New York International Film Awards.

It’s just one of many new projects, including two award-winning short films shot during the pandemic and a new kids’ show, McKenzie Sunshine Show, that Hollywood is fighting over, ever since Marcus formed Ai Films Studio with a partner four years ago.

“I’m more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it,” explains Marcus, who hated being typecast as a “sex symbol” after gaining fame as the smouldering Wheels on E Street all those years ago.

The actor also starred on Home and Away.

(Image: Supplied)


He also hasn’t, however, completely given up on love or becoming a dad.

“It almost happened a couple of times. I was with someone and we were all set up and there was a miscarriage and that was heartbreaking,” he reveals.

“I haven’t ruled it out and I’m a hopeless romantic, so I’ve had to really take care of myself because I can get carried away with people and get my heart broken easily.”

Marcus – who went on to date E Street co-star Melissa Tkautz after his break-up from Nicole, and also dated Rebecca Gibney and Mia Freedman – says while he’s open to finding love, he’s also happy to be single.

“I got to a point with relationships where I thought I just might be better off on my own, to be quite honest. I can be fatalistic about it and think it’s all been for the best. But I also feel like I’m kind of a different person in many ways, which makes me hopeful yet of having a relationship.”

Related stories