A Minute With: Topher Grace on "Take Me Home Tonight"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - He’ll likely forever be known for his role in TV series “That 70s Show,” but Topher Grace has carved out a solid feature film career in movies such as “Predators,” “Valentine’s Day” and “Spider-Man 3.”

Cast member Topher Grace poses at the premiere of "Valentine's Day" in Hollywood, February 8, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

The 32 year-old actor now stars in the comedy “Take Me Home Tonight”, which is set in the 1980s. And for the first time he is producing a film through his company Sargent Hall Productions, named after his dormitory at boarding school.

The film, which also stars Anna Faris, Tony Award winner Dan Fogler and Australian actress Teresa Palmer, follows a group of recent college graduates over the course one night as they indulge in reckless behavior. Grace spoke to Reuters about his experience making the film and reflects on the TV show that made him famous.

Q: This movie was shot in 2007. Why did it take so long to get to the big screen?

A: “The original studio we did this with (Universal Pictures) had a problem with all the cocaine in the film. Our feeling was you can’t do a movie about prohibition and not show alcohol use, just as you can’t make ‘Dazed and Confused’ without people smoking joints. If you’re going to have a group of twenty-somethings partying in Beverly Hills in the 1980s, you’d be lying not to show cocaine. It’s weird when a 60- or 70-year-old studio boss tells you what kids want to see when you, yourself, feel closer to that demographic.”

Q: Four years is a long time for a movie to sit on a shelf. How did it end up at producer/distributor Relativity Media?

A: “Well, it’s not gonna get dated because it already takes place in the ‘80s! (laughs). Ryan Kavanaugh, who owns Relativity, is three years older than me. He saw it and said, ‘This is great! It’s fun and hilarious.’ He gave us more money to put stuff back in that we had been forced to take out.”

Q: For your first-ever producing effort, why choose this?

A: “My producing partner Gordon Kaywin and I were roommates in school at Brewster Academy. In the common room there was a videotape of ‘Dazed and Confused.’ You’d think it was made in the 1970s, but it was made in the ‘90s. And ‘American Graffiti’ was made in the ‘70s, about the 50s. We love the ‘80s, and missed those John Hughes films. In 10 years, someone will do a movie about the ‘90s, so this is the time for the ‘80s.”

Q: You star in the film as well. Why did you want to also act on your first time out producing?

A: “I’ve worked with Michael Douglas on ‘Traffic’ and Dennis Quaid on ‘In Good Company.’ These guys are the CEO’s of acting, but I was really craving working with a cast that was my age, my peer group. What I wanted from this film personally was to be able to say that in 2020, the five actors in this film are going to be $20 million movie stars.”

Q: Does Sargent Hall have any other films waiting?

A: “I think we’re going to wait until an idea strikes us that we are as passionate about as this one. I just finished a movie with Richard Gere, ‘The Double.’ When the director and the producer started having a conversation about budget I was like, ‘I’ll be in my trailer. Peace!’ It was nice to be able to vacation that way.”

Q: Now you know all the work that goes into it.

A: “I used to think I was working hard on a movie set. Actors are coddled a lot. And when you learn the realities of how hard everyone’s working to make these movies come together, it makes me more thankful for the ones I’m not producing.”

Q: Are you still in touch with your “That 70s Show” cast?

A: “I’m still in touch with everyone there. That specific time period was hard at the beginning because we were learning how to act and working hard to make a hit show. Most of us hadn’t acted before. Wilmer (Valderrama) could barely speak English. There were a few times we were on the verge of getting canceled. Now, Mila (Kunis) is having a great year with ‘Black Swan’ and Ashton (Kutcher) just had ‘No Strings Attached’ come out with Natalie Portman. But back then, we were all new!”

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte