Topher Grace has an unusual name, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming widely known. Perhaps the name has helped him in that regard, but I like to think his characters have propelled him into the spotlight. He broke out in the TV sitcom hit That ‘70s Show as Eric Forman, and now he is back with a retro film all about the glorious 1980s. Take Me Home Tonight stars Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Teresa Palmer, Dan Fogler, and Chris Pratt in a wild night of drunken partying.
In advance of the March 4th release, Topher dropped by Dallas for a brief press tour in January and I got to sit down with him. Among the topics on the table was the chemistry of the cast, the delay and eventual release, the inspiration for the film, and a ‘80s movie quiz. Hit the jump for my impressions of Take Me Home Tonight, along with the full transcript and audio.
First, I want to thank Topher for taking the time to promote something he feels strongly about. Dallas isn’t a usual stop for stars, unlike LA or NY, so it was great that he came to DFW. Secondly, I have to say that the movie was a lot of fun. They went for over the top, and some of the swings miss. But when it clicks, the theater will explode in laughter. Additionally, the film is a labor of love in many ways.
Take Me Home Tonight finished shooting in 2007, but got caught in that hazy grey area that R-rated films can find themselves in. The thought of reining the film in and even dropping the cocaine use didn’t please Topher or those involved, so it sat on the shelf. Finally, Relativity Media swooped in and took on the challenge of releasing the film in tact. Oh, and if you love ‘80s music, the soundtrack will play like a greatest hits collection of the decade.
Question: I was watching an interview with you last night… Ashton Kutcher was interviewing you.
Topher Grace: That was from a long time ago.
On the set of Win A Date with Tad Hamilton. He said that your dad actually convinced you to ask your high school crush…
Grace: Oh my God. Wow.
To Winter Formal.
Grace: This is a story about a story. But yea, Ashton… Man, Ashton’s such a… joker. But you know, I love it. We just did Valentine’s Day together and we just don’t get to hang out at work like we used to. All those kids. We used to be able to just waste time… like eight hours a day together, hanging out, and having fun. So then to be able to go on a press tour with him again and just kind of hang was so great. But yea, he’s a prankster. I guess everyone knows that. Yea, my dad… this is a pathetic story but my dad convinced me. I was moping around, and he said, “Why don’t you ask whatever her name was to the dance?” And I said, “I don’t know. She’s like the most popular girl in school. I think I want to ask her out.” Then he said, “Nooo, if she’s popular and you’re scared to ask her, everyone’s scared to ask her. She’s probably going, ‘Hey, I’m the most popular girl in school. How come no one will ask me to the dance?’” And for some reason that made sense.
[Laughs] It’s good logic.
Grace: And I went up to her, and she literally… OK, here, ask me to the dance. I’ll be her.
Grace: “Oh, wait… are you serious?” I guess he knew that story and then he told it on national TV.
[Laughs] So was that an inspiration for the film? I mean, obviously that…
Grace: Oh, no, no, no.
Well, that scene plays out in the movie.
Grace: It is a little bit like that, yea. Um… yea, that’s interesting. Maybe. We have a story by credit so we came up with the characters and the ideas and that stuff, but Jackie and Jeff Filgo, who wrote on ‘70s a lot, wrote the film. I don’t know. I guess… yea, a little bit. I worked at Suncoast Video. And I certainly was probably the level of popularity that Matt was. So in that sense, yea. But I don’t think I’m as brilliant as Matt is, which is really his problem. He’s so smart that he’s over thinking having success, basically. I was working at Suncoast cuz I had to. That guy could be doing whatever he wants. I think he’s dealing with a slightly different problem. But it was fun going back to my hometown after getting a TV show. Certainly, it was very different. She would have gone with me to the dance then.
You mentioned the chemistry between everyone on set. You were talking about how Anna and Chris ended up getting married.
Grace: Well, you know, we don’t talk about our personal lives in these, but it was a very, very close cast. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to do the film. My producing partner and I sat around and thought… kind of simultaneously made the ultimate ‘80s mix because we’re friends. We thought maybe there’s something in there. Then we thought, “They haven’t done that movie for this generation of moviegoers.” They did one in the ‘70s about the ‘50s; American Graffiti. They did one, which Ron Howard is in; he’s a producer on this. They did one in the ‘90s about the ‘70s; Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, which I grew up watching and I thought, “They did The Wedding Singer, which is not 20 years past, only eight years had passed. It would be like if they made a ‘90s movie now.
It’s too close.
Grace: Yea, we’d only make fun of grunge or something. But in about 10 years from now, they will make an all-in-one-night in the ‘90s movie. And we’ll go, “Oh that is kind of what it was back then.” So we wanted to make sure that we didn’t make fun of anything. We didn’t have those giant brick cell phones and say, “How crazy is… this!?” Because no one in the ‘80s said, “How crazy is Michael Jackson with the one glove? What’s that all about?” Like, “I bet he’ll stay black forever.” No one says that. We really wanted to make it like it was made then, and I think the real test is… I think people think American Graffiti came out in the ‘50s. I think a lot of people think Dazed and Confused came out in the ‘70s. And then when we looked at those movies, to answer your earlier question, the casts were insane because it was everyone at the beginning of their career. In American Graffiti you have Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, and what’s her name from Three’s Company.
And George Lucas.
Grace: Lucas, great director. Same thing with Dazed and Confused. You have Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck, Renee Zellweger, Parker Posey. So we thought this would be a great way to have a cast where there are five $20 million dollar actors from the year 2020… in our film now. So we really wanted to make that kind of film and also have that kind of cast. And I still believe that was totally true. Watching it last night, you see Fogler’s performance and Demetri [Martin]…
Demetri was amazing.
Grace: He’s amazing in it. Anna’s already a huge star.
Grace: We did his hair up, right?
Since it was four years passed, I’m so used to seeing him now.
Grace: No, but he looks exactly the same now. What he did was he swooped his hair up. So you’ve never seen his forehead, essentially.
[Laughs] That’s right. The reason I was asking about Teresa is because, obviously that came out and Anna and Chris, so I was wondering… did Dan ever date Angie Everhart?
Grace: [Laughs] Well, obviously I can’t comment on anyone’s personal life, but I really feel like… we all still hang out. Like I was saying last night at the Q&A, we’re all buddies. I don’t mean that like some people say that about different projects. “Oh, we’re all still friends.” Legitimately, we all were just hanging out at Chris’s house and that’s why you want to do one of these. Not only work with people who are great, who are going to be… you can tell they are on the way to stardom and greatness, but also, you want to know them personally. I think you make each other better by sharing some of your secrets with each other about acting and everyone made everyone stronger in this. Everyone learned from everyone. It was like… I mean it kind of messed me up because you can never have that much fun on a film again. We shot it all at night and you wind up just… great things happen at night.
Doing press for this, four years after the fact.
Grace: Yea, we started developing it four years ago. It would have come out in 2008, now it’s going to come out now.
Do you have vivid memories of that or…
Grace: Oh sure.
Is it kind of washed over because of the party bus?
Grace: [Laughs] No, that wasn’t as bad as… it was just more fun than it was crazy. But a big thing of it is that we felt really strongly in terms of the delay that you’re talking about. And you saw it last night. That is the original cut and how it should be. The original studio we were with… were nervous about all the cocaine use. And there’s a lesson, there’s a reason… he learns something by doing that cocaine, but they said, “We’re a huge multimedia thing, and we can’t really have that.” People talk about the delay really nonchalant, but the truth is… we’re really; knock wood every time I talk about this, but we’re really lucky because the way it was bought by Relativity saved it. Normally, when things are going to be held…
Grace: Yea, neutered is the perfect word. Normally, when something’s held, it’s cut and you’re at the fifth version of a cut of someone’s idea whereas this is like… everything we wanted to do artistically–by the way, they let us put everything back in. So we were really lucky and it’s all dated anyway. I mean, it all takes place in the ‘80s anyways. So the difference is really… it’s not like we’re talking about MySpace or something.
OK, I’m getting the wrap-up signal. But, since the movie is set in the ‘80s, I decided to go ahead and… let’s test your knowledge of the ‘80s.
Grace: Ooph. Here we go.
So, this is going to be quick though. I’m going to give a phrase or word, and then you say the movie. OK?
Grace: OK, let’s do it.
We’ll start off…
Grace: Man, I really want to get this.
Mogwai. [Pause] Aw, you’re starting slow.
Grace: I know. What is that?
Mogwai, come on.
Grace: What is that? I don’t know.
Grace: What is that?
Grace: Oh, Gremlins? You know what? I never saw Gremlins. Yea. I know.
Grace: Yea… Sorry. Sorry Collider. There are two I didn’t see back then which is that and Goonies, and I actually did see Goonies when I was older and still, really enjoyed it. But I’ve never seen… man, I’m sorry about that. I already failed pretty much.
[Laughs] We’ll go ahead and go through a couple more. “Greetings, Programs.”
Grace: What is that? War Games?
Nope. Tron. Um… “Shirley you’re not serious.”
Grace: That’s Airplane.
OK. “Give me a keg of beer, and these…”
Grace: Oh man… Teen Wolf. Teen Wolf!
“You guys want to go see a dead body?”
Grace: Stand By Me?
There you go. Staypuft. That’s all I’m going to say.
Grace: Oh, well, Ghostbusters?
“It’s a trap!”
Grace: Woa… Return of the Jedi.
Grace: Die Hard.
“I feel the need, the need for speed.”
Grace: Top Gun.
Grace: Well… Karate Kid.
There you go.
Grace: I started slow but I got there. [Laughs] I really like the website, by the way. Thank you, man.
All right, thanks.
About the interview itself, I want to clear something up. The reason I even ask Topher about his relationship with Teresa was to set up my joke about Dan and Angie Everhart. Fortunately, he took it all in stride but I have to apologize for the fact that it was prying a bit. You never know how comfortable some celebrities are with issues like that. Regardless, I think the interview went great and he did extremely well on the ‘80s movie quiz after a slow start. I still can’t believe he hasn’t seen Gremlins. As I said, the film finally sees release on March 4th and I thought it was a solid homage to the ‘80s. Vulgar, raucous, and wild, Take Me Home Tonight is sometimes hit or miss but thoroughly enjoyable when it works and has a nice underlying story that isn’t afraid to reveal truths about human nature.