As Eric Forman on That 70’s Show, Topher Grace never showed a dark side. He was always the good son and audiences responded to his character and the rest of the cast by tuning in for eight seasons. Since wrapping the show, Grace starred in Spider-Man 3 as Eddie Brock / Venom and we finally got to see a bit more of what he can do. Cut to present day, Grace is going to push what audiences expect from him as he’s one of the stars of director Nimrod Antal’s Predators.
Last December, 20th Century Fox invited a few online folks to the Austin, Texas set and we got to speak with Topher Grace about being in Predators and working with the rest of the talented cast. He talked to us about his character, how it compared to Spider-Man 3, and how a lot of the effects were in-camera. Hit the jump to read or listen to what he had to say:
Since some of you might not have seen the Predators trailer, I suggest watching it before the interview.
Like I always do…you can either listen to the interview as an audio file by clicking here or you can read the transcript below. Predators gets released July 9, 2010.
Question: Tell us a little bit about your character.
Topher Grace: I play Edwin. I’ve been singing this song from School House Rock, “One of these things is not like the other…” Edwin is very different than everyone else in it. You’re supposed to wonder why he was chosen when all these other similar types were selected. And there’s a twist. Of course. Actors live to play twists.
Sounds a little like Paul Reiser’s character from Aliens.
Grace: I had just seen the longer version – which is like an hour longer – of Aliens coincidentally when I read this script. I was dubious because I really liked the first Predator, but all the sequels haven’t been as good. Then when I read this, I thought, “What Aliens was to Alien, this is to Predator.” Because Predator never really got its due; it never really got that sequel. Nimrod’s such a huge fan of the original. It reminds me of James Cameron. He had everything that was in the original, but he wanted to go in a slightly different direction and create all this new stuff. And this is the same thing. The first one was very mano-y-mano and this one is really more of a character piece.
Were you surprised that they offered it to you?
Grace: Not when I read it. I was psyched. Mostly because I got to be in a Robert Rodriguez production. A lot of my friends have done movies down here, and I was like, “When do I get to be in that club?” It’s amazing. He has his own little Hollywood down here. Sin City and Desperado…Desperado came out when I was in high-school. And I saw El Mariachi…Well, my mom likes foreign cinema and she didn’t know it was such a kick-ass action movie. She thought we were going to see some quiet Mexican movie. I wasn’t surprised this was an awesome script, and I was pleasantly surprised that they asked me to do it. There have been a couple of scripts that are legendary in Hollywood that never got made. One of them is J.J. Abrams’ Superman script that’s supposed to be great. And you wonder why somebody doesn’t just say, “Hey, J.J., now that you’re a director, why don’t you make that movie?” And it was really smart of Fox to say, “I don’t know if this has gone in the direction we want it to go.” Robert wrote this before he wrote Desperado, and it’s great that somebody thought to go find him and let him make that film. He had a passion for it.
Will this look like a Robert Rodriguez movie, or what does Nimrod bring to it that’s his own special…
Grace: I think Nim is more a fan of in-camera stuff. But certainly there’s a lot of stuff you just can’t do in-camera. We’re in a very different kind of world. So it’s been a very happy marriage. Obviously, Robert really understands a filmmaker’s vision, and he was part of that vision in writing this.
It’s very bloody and violent. Do you work with a lot of blood and disarticulated limbs?
Grace: Yes! I actually don’t think I can talk about that last part, but yes, it does get bloody towards the end. This is a genre that I haven’t been in as much, but certainly one that I love to watch…We jumped off a waterfall in Hawaii, and I thought, “This is awful.” It was terrible. It hurt. And then you watch the playback and you think, “Oh my god, that was awesome. That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever been in.” And it’s a real Hollywood movie. This is what you dream of when you’re younger – running through the jungle, swinging on vines, killing aliens.
Do you get to fight and be a bad-ass, or are you just running from the Predator?
Grace: My character operates on a number of different levels…What’s good is that it has the kind of urgency of the first one where it takes place in this jungle over a short period of time, but it is, on top of everything, a real character piece. There are lots of ironies, I guess.
How much green screen have you done?
Grace: I’ve done zero! And that’s a great thing about how they’re shooting this, and how they shot the first one. What’s great is that because I’m obviously not military, whatever my reaction, it’s probably the closest to the audience. If the audience was thrown into the picture, this is probably how they would respond. So it’s very little acting on my part in terms of stunts. When I hit the water when we jumped off that waterfall, whatever expression I made in real-life is probably what Edwin would have made. The great thing about playing a character that’s similar to the audience, or similar to you, is that you get to have the same reaction that you would actually have to whatever’s going on. All the information that’s given to him in the first reel of the film is just too much. It starts with them parachuting onto this planet, so already, he’s apoplectic about what’s going on. So you really don’t have to go too far to ask what you’d do in that situation.
How are you on energy? Will you be glad to wrap up or sad to see this character go?
Grace: I certainly don’t have a problem letting go of a character. Though I love actors who talk about characters as if they’re other people. But I will miss the group. I’m sure you hear this all the time, but it really did become a family. Starting from Adrien, and Robert, who are really ego-less. It’s always that the best idea wins. It’s become a really tight group. We shot chronologically and that’s kind of how it works in the film. These people who are trapped together and are forced to bond. Fortunately, none of us died. Walt Goggins is a really amazing, committed actor. I was a huge fan of his on The Shield. Adrien, obviously, is an intense, really great actor. When you play with people who are better than you, your game gets better. I used to play tennis and I’d play with people who were worse than me, and I’d lose to them. When you play with someone better, it always ups your game.
How does this compare to Spider-Man?
Grace: The thing that’s really wonderful about this film is that it’s all in-camera. Everything we’ve done, we’ve done. There’s a big reliance in Spider-Man on green-screen. It’s always easier for actors when it’s there. When you’re really jumping off a waterfall there’s less acting required. You don’t have to pretend what it’d look like to jump off a waterfall. So I love that Nim and Robert made a real effort – I mean, my body doesn’t like it because I’m bruised everywhere – but it’ll add to the realness of the film.
How’s it been working with Laurence Fishburne?
Grace: Laurence is amazing. I always want to say in these interviews who’s really nice and who’s not. Because you wonder at home what that guy is really like. I’m sure they’re always really nice to you guys, but on the set, it’s usually a different story. But Laurence is the nicest…I mean, it’s Morpheus. You don’t know what to expect. He blended right in with the group. He tells us all the stories we want to hear about Apocalypse Now and The Matrix and Deep Cover. His character in this is so out-there. It’s really, really fun to just sit there and watch him do his thing.
For more Predators coverage: