At 20, Topher Grace dropped out of USC to star on the hit TV show “That ’70s Show.” During that time he also pursued a movie career, starring in both “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!” and “In Good Company” in 2004. Since then, Grace has appeared in “Valentine’s Day,” “Spider-Man 3″ and “Predators.” Grace will come to Ackerman Grand Ballroom today to introduce the Campus Events Commission’s screening of his new movie, “Take Me Home Tonight.” The Daily Bruin’s Brittany Taylor spoke with Grace about his career trajectory, favorite ’80s movies and his new role.
Daily Bruin: In 2004, you starred in both “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!” and “In Good Company.” How big of a star did you become at that time?
Topher Grace: That movie (“Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!”) bombed, so not very big. But I liked that movie. I’m still friends with Kate Bosworth and Josh Duhamel. “In Good Company” was better. I’ve had an opportunity to work with big movie stars, huge movie stars like Dennis Quaid. It’s like a classroom for an actor to be around a much more experienced big star. But I miss working with my peer group. That’s what I liked about working with Scarlett (Johansson) in “In Good Company,” and Kate (Bosworth) and Josh (Duhamel) in “Tad Hamilton.” You get to work with people as they’re in bloom. They’re just seeing what they’re capable of for the first time. So I love that.
DB: You’ve had very few roles since those movies. Why is that?
TG: I had fun doing “Valentine’s Day.” I liked doing “Predators” last summer. I liked doing “Spider-Man.” That was not a fun movie to make. I guess I was making “Spider-man,” “Valentine’s Day,” “Predators” and this TV movie called “Too Big to Fail.” I did this movie called “The Double” with Richard Gere, which is a CIA thriller.
DB: Is your career going in the direction you want it to go?
TG: I think that’s a hard thing to say. You’re kind of a gypsy as an actor, but you know that when you sign up for the job. But there is no way to predict it or plot it, and I love it. What I love is doing the opposite of what I did the time before, meaning it was great doing this movie, and it was a fun comedy that all takes place in the ’80s. It was fun going to do a CIA thriller. It was cool getting to work with one of my favorite directors, Curtis Hanson, and work on a cool drama about banking. I don’t know anything about any of that stuff. So it’s kind of like an education each time.
DB: So you like playing different roles that are out of your character?
TG: Yeah. It’s like having a full body workout. You don’t want to work the same muscle each time.
DB: What attracted you to a movie like “Predators?”
TG: The same thing. That’s where I play a serial killer, and I’ve never done that before. So I thought, I’ve never been on an alien planet, and it really was a fun movie. And I really wanted to work with Adrien Brody, but also I thought, I’ve never done a real straight-up action film and I’ve never played a serial killer. Those were all things that were interesting.
DB: So you’ve returned to the comedy drama with “Take Me Home Tonight.” Do you see this as your comedy comeback?
TG: You’re using a lot of dangerous words. You can’t declare any of that stuff. Really you’ve got to have fun doing what you want to do. For me, fun means trying lots of different types of things, and they’re all stuff I believe in. I really love Robert Rodriquez, who did “Predators.” I love Curtis Hanson. I love a lot of the people I’ve worked with. I really love all the young actors I’ve worked with. You can’t predict any of that stuff. But you can predict you are going to have a really interesting time if you work with people you’re excited to work with and that inspire you.
DB: As you get older, do you see yourself taking on more adult roles?
TG: I hope so. This one that I did where I’m FBI and Richard Gere is CIA, I have two kids and a wife. Odette Yustman plays my wife, and I thought, “Man. This is crazy.”
DB: How does it feel transitioning from “That ’70s Show” to a movie based on the ’80s?
TG: They serve very different purposes. “That ’70s Show” was my first job, and I’ve done a lot of stuff in between. Are kids in college still watching John Hughes films like “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club?”
DB: Some people still are.
TG: I grew up loving them. They’re generational things. I guess at a certain point people will stop watching them. But I really love those films. But this to us is trying to capture the spirit of those films. I wish they still made films like that.
DB: Would you play “Take Me Home Tonight” by Eddie Money on your iPod?
TG: Oh, hell yeah.
DB: Do you happen to know how it became the title of the movie?
TG: Yeah. I’m a producer of the movie. We wanted this to be the first movie that didn’t make fun of the ’80s. A lot of movies and TV shows have been taunting it, because it’s really easy to make fun of the shoulder pads and the hair. We wanted to show that there were some fun times in the ’80s, and we wanted to celebrate that. We got rid of all the lame songs like “Rock Me Amadeus.” There were hits, but they’re kind of like the “Thong Song” or “Who Let the Dogs Out” of their time. We just wanted to make a kick-ass sound track. We were thinking, “What kind of song says it all takes place in one night and is kind of sexy?” If you say “take me home tonight” to someone, it’s kind of a sexy thing to say to them.
E-mail Taylor at email@example.com.