Interview: Topher Grace
Topher Grace recently went on a mini-city tour to promote his upcoming film, Take Me Home Tonight. Look for our review on Friday. We had the opportunity to sit down with Topher and talk about the film, which is in the eighties.
Synopsis: As the summer of 1988 winds down, three friends on the verge of adulthood attend an out-of-control party in celebration of their last night of unbridled youth.
Frothygirlz: You are not a product of the eighties, so how did you come about to do a movie about the eighties? I know this was kind of your project. You helped conceptualize and produce the film, and acted in it as well.
Topher Grace: I grew up watching Dazed and Confused, which was made in the nineties, but it was about the seventies. There’s also a movie made in the seventies, which was about the fifties, it was American Graffiti. We thought, ” This generation doesn’t have that kind of movie.”
There will be another movie about the nineties in about 10 years. Right now, no one has done this for the eighties. We’ve had movies that came out closer to the eighties, like The Wedding Singer, which I love, but which makes fun of the eighties, or spoofs it.
To be honest, you couldn’t really do that movie about the nineties yet. You need about twenty years in order to look back the same way George Lucas did or Richard Linklater did with those other two movies. Right now if we tried to do a nineties one, it would probably be grunge, and those big jackets-you could figure some stuff out, but I think it would be more like The Wedding Singer. So we thought 1) That was a good letter that Richard Linklater was writing to us in the nineties about the seventies, because I didn’t know anything about the seventies. 2) There were very few fun ensemble movies for kids my age.
I looked at those other movies and thought, man, they got Harrison Ford, Ron Howard, Cindy Adams, Suzanne Somers, and Richard Dreyfuss. In Dazed and Confused, you had Ben Affleck, Renee Zellweger, Parker Posey, and Matthew McConaughey. I truly believe there are five $20M actors of the year 2020 out there, just not yet. I think these films become beacons for whoever is out there at that time.
I truly feel that way about Dan Fogler. He is like Belushi in this thing. The trailer doesn’t do his performance justice. Anna Faris is great, Demetri Martin came in and killed it; Chris Pratt is great. There are no ensembles with kids that age.
Frothygirlz: Our reviewer commented on how you absolutely nailed everything from that time. The pop top collars, all the details. Did you have someone help you? How did you get everything so authentic?
Topher Grace: We had a great team of people-Bill Arnold,who did In Good Company, kind of led that team in terms of the look. The real thing we were trying to avoid (although you have to have all those things on set for window dressing) these films are a little tricky, because they are actually about things that are happening today. The protagonist in all these films is almost always dealing with an issue.
Matt (who I play) would kind of be a beautiful swan today, but he’s a real ugly duckling in the go-go eighties. He doesn’t know what he wants to do coming out of college. I think 60% of kids coming out of college today go home and live with their folks now.
Frothygirlz: I’d say at least 60%, especially now.
Topher Grace: That was not true in 1988, and it’s why we set it there. Then when you are dealing with a real story like that or a real character juxtaposed with that time, we really wanted to avoid the temptation of having returned. It’s so much fun to have the girl with the crimped hair, you want to show all those things, but you really don’t want to show the brick cell phone, or have someone say “CD’s will never happen”, or the temptation of anything that spoofs the eighties. You just want it to be of the eighties.
The director kept saying “Could we make it like a movie that was made in the eighties, and then was just put in the vault, and then someone just happens to have blown the dust off, and had never seen it.”
The music, there are some really silly eighties songs (“Rock Me Amadeus”), and we wanted to avoid all that. The soundtrack is great. The first thing we did (when we had the idea) was to make kind of a mix-tape of our favorite songs from the eighties. The parameters were they couldn’t be songs that had grown so classic that you don’t know what time they are from. There are some U2 songs and some Journey songs that you think could be from any time.
Frothygirlz: So you wanted distinctly eighties songs?
Topher Grace: Yeah, but not so distinct, like “Walk Like a Dinosaur”, that you can’t believe how bad it is, that’s more for the spoof type films. We are kind of in the middle area, you know when the girl walks into the party, it starts playing “Bettie Davis Eyes”. There’s something really great about that song, it is very “of the eighties”. Or when we steal the car, “Straight Outta Compton” starts playing. It was great to have the songs be of the emotion that the character was playing, not just laid over the film after the fact.
Frothygirlz: As far as the cast goes, I was wondering about Michael Biehn, is that a little nod to the eighties since he was such a big star during the eighties?
Topher Grace: Sure, we wanted to have someone from the eighties play the dad, but again, the thing is we wanted someone who is still a great actor, and in tons of stuff today. It wasn’t like he was so of the eighties that he doesn’t exist today, but he made a big splash in the eighties, and he is great. He’s very funny, and he plays our dad character really well, with a lot of gravitas.
Frothygirlz: Did you have any other upcoming projects you would like to tell us about?
Topher Grace: There is a film coming out next year (The Double) with me and Richard Gere, it’s a great movie.
Frothygirlz: Just a quick question about Predators. Looking over your whole filmography, it’s very well rounded, but you tend to lean toward the lighter fare. Was it strange to be in a genre film like Predators?
Topher Grace: When I first started acting on That 70′s Show, I remember not taking any projects the first summer because they were all kind of alike. There were a lot of teen movies at that time, so the first movie I was in was Traffic. I remember thinking, “This is really great.” because I like doing everything, I want to have a passport to be able to do everything.
That perception is probably there because of That 70′s Show, because I did 180 episodes of it. I liked doing Mona Lisa Smile, that was kind of a different genre. Spiderman is kind of three different genres. I thought Predators was great, playing a psycho-killer was fun.