AMAZING GRACE. The talented, humble and ridiculously funny Topher Grace chats with DA MAN on the joys and challenges of life as an actor
Ask your friends or colleagues about Topher Grace and more often than not you’ll be met with blank stares or an uncertain “Who’s that?” That is, until you mention hit TV series “That ’70s Show.” Or “Spider-Man 3.” As you go on listing movies and TV shows, you can see the gears clicking in people’s heads, and in no time they’ll start commenting on how brilliant he was in “In Good Company,” about how he really had the audience fooled in “Predators,” or his short-but-memorable appearance in Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar.”
“I almost didn’t do ‘that ’70s show’ because I never thought I’d get it and the taxi cost 50 bucks each time!”
It’s an interesting contradiction, really. A lot of people might not instantly remember his name, but jog their memory a bit and they’ll instantly recall unforgettable characters and impressive performances. His “adorkable” look certainly has a lot to do with it, as does his uncanny ability to appear in such a diverse array of movies and TV series. And we’ll be seeing plenty of both in the coming months as Grace is set to appear in several highly anticipated titles, where we’ll definitely see glimpses of his trademark self-deprecating humor as well as his remarkable ability to take on just about any role and make it his own.
Coat by Coach
“I’d be miserable if I didn’t have the chance to do good guys and bad guys, dramas and comedies, indies and blockbusters”
DA MAN: Hi Topher, thank you for having us. Let’s talk about some of your upcoming works, starting with “Truth.” Can you give us a short rundown about this movie?
Topher Grace: Absolutely. Right before [former US President George W.] Bush’s re-election in 2004, Dan Rather and his producer, Mary Mapes, aired a controversial report on “60 Minutes II” about how Bush had relied on preferential treatment in the National Guard to avoid fighting in Vietnam. “Truth” is about the research of and eventual fallout from that story. Robert Redford plays Rather and Cate Blanchett plays Mapes.
DA MAN: With “Truth” being based on a real—and more importantly, controversial—story, do you feel there’s added pressure for the movie to get things accurate?
Topher Grace: Sure, we had Mary’s book “Truth And Duty: The Press, The President And The Privilege Of Power” to read and the writer/director, James Vanderbilt, had done even more research for the script. Mary and Dan Rather actually visited the set for a few days. We all had dinner together one night and I was dying. To my left was Robert Redford and to my right was Dan Rather. I just shut up and listened. [Chuckles]
Sweater by Calvin Klein Collection
DA MAN: Most people outside the US won’t be familiar with CBS, much less Dan Rather. Do you think that “Truth” is something that a global audience can enjoy?
Topher Grace: I do. Although the film is about a specific event, it’s really about how money affects journalism. Can you tell the truth in today’s media if certain stories get better ratings?
Outfit by Armani Collezioni
DA MAN: Did you conduct any research of your own to prepare for your role?
Topher Grace: I read the book, and of course a number of the scenes in the movie you can actually watch from when they originally aired. I emailed the person I play—a researcher named Mike Smith—and apologized that he’ll be inescapably linked to me forever. [Laughs]
“I got engaged earlier this year so when I’m lucky enough to have down time, She’s my hobby”
DA MAN: Is it any fun, though, working on a movie with such a “weighty” theme?
Topher Grace: Oh, yeah. Let’s be real: Acting is a ludicrous job. We’re paid to put on makeup and pretend we’re someone else all day. Even in the photo shoot that’s accompanying this article, I dressed up in fancy clothes and made different faces while someone took my picture. It can feel silly. The best you can hope for is that once in a while you get a role that’s in service of a story that might make a difference in the way people think. A movie like this gives you that special chance.
Outfit and tie by Tom Ford
DA MAN: Speaking of movies based on nonfiction publications, you’re also going to appear in “War Machine,” playing, as some put it, the straight man to Brad Pitt’s “rock star” general. Would that be a somewhat accurate description of your role?
Topher Grace: No, my character’s pretty crazy too. I met Brad a few times when I cameoed in the “Ocean’s” movies; he’s such a wonderful guy. I’m also a huge fan of the director, David Michod, who made “Animal Kingdom” and “Rover.” I’m just happy to be in their platoon.
“Don’t take advice from Celebrities in magazine articles. I know firsthand how dumb Celebrities Are—I Am one”
DA MAN: “War Machine,” while being a black comedy and all, still deals with quite a controversial issue: the war in Afghanistan. What do you think audiences will take away from this movie?
Topher Grace:: The script is amazing. It deals with contradictions of power and the irony of forcing freedom on people. My character also deals with the journalistic aspect of things. I never intended to do two projects in a row about journalism and the military but I’m enthralled with the subject matter.
Sweater by Armani Collezioni
DA MAN: Besides “Truth” and “War Machine,” you’re also set to appear in “One Shot” and “Home.” Can you tell us more about these two titles?
Topher Grace:: Those are both great indies that I had a blast doing. “Home” is a horror film produced by Jason Blum, who is the master of those, and it stars Patricia Clarkson and Genesis Rodriguez. “One Shot” is the total opposite: A musical but it’s a hard R [rated R for Restricted]. And it’s hilarious. It has a great ensemble. Rob Riggle, Anne Heche and Taye Diggs really steal the show. I’ve been so lucky working with all these amazing actors this year.
Outfit and tie by Tom Ford
DA MAN: You’re also listed as a producer for “One Shot.” Do you think we will be seeing you take on more behind-the-camera roles in the near future?
Topher Grace: I don’t know. I certainly don’t have any aspirations to direct or anything like that. With the amazing directors I’ve had the chance to work with lately, it just emphasizes how brilliant you have to be to pull off that job.
DA MAN: It would seem, however, that you have a knack for playing boyish characters that are later on revealed to be the complete opposite, whether it’s being surprisingly mature (like in “In Good Company”) or surprisingly evil (“Predators”). Is this something that you’re simply good at, have the looks for, or is this actually something that you actively and passionately work on?
Topher Grace: Wow, that’s true. I never really thought about it that way. The only thing I’m obsessed with when I take a job is that the character is amazing. Maybe that’s why a bunch of them have good arcs.
DA MAN: Speaking of which, from looking at your filmography, there’s an incredible variety in the roles you play: from supervillain and homicidal psychopath to business prodigy and NASA scientist. What would you say is the secret to your versatility?
Topher Grace: First of all, thank you. Playing different roles is what made me so psyched to be an actor in the first place! But I’m sure my agents hate it. It’s much less confusing/more lucrative to play essentially the same character over and over again. But I don’t want to be a known commodity. I’d be miserable if I didn’t have the chance to do good guys and bad guys, dramas and comedies, indies and blockbusters.
DA MAN: Still looking back, what has been the most enjoyable role you’ve taken on so far?
Topher Grace: For me that will forever be Eric Forman on “That ’70s Show.” I was cast out of a high school play, so I’d never really acted before. I spent seven years on that show—between the age of 19 and 26—important years. Our real teen years kind-of bled into it; we were going through changes everyone goes though at that time in their life. When I catch a rerun, it’s like watching my own personal version of “Boyhood.” [Chuckles]
DA MAN: How about the most challenging?
Topher Grace: “Traffic” was my first movie and I really had to learn on the fly. I was lucky to have Steven Soderbergh as a director. It’s like freaking out because your first math class is advanced physics … but luckily, your professor is Stephen Hawking.
DA MAN: Moving even further back, what was it that first brought you to the world of acting?
Topher Grace: I was in a play at a boarding school in New Hampshire and the parents of the girl who made the set were big time producers. When I started at USC, they called and asked if I wanted to come read for “That ’70s Show.” I never thought I would try acting professionally. No joke—I almost didn’t do it because I never thought I’d get it, and the taxi cost 50 bucks each time!
DA MAN: Now, after many years in the biz, do you still have the same outlook on acting as you did when you initially started?
Topher Grace: Once I saw how hard it is to make any movie, let alone a good one, my respect has grown and grown for filmmakers. I was a huge movie nerd before I got into the business, but now I look at great films with a new reverence. Having everything lined up right—from script to cast to editing to music, etc.—a great film is like a small miracle.
DA MAN: Besides acting, what else are you naturally passionate about? A hobby or two, perhaps? A certain charity or cause? Art? All of the above?
Topher Grace: I got engaged earlier this year so when I’m lucky enough to have down time from work, she’s my hobby.
DA MAN: If you could pick one event, one moment to serve as the highlight of your life, what would it be?
Topher Grace: Wow, I really hope that moment hasn’t happened yet. Then again, when I beat “Super Mario Land” on Game Boy in seventh grade (without using any warp levels!), that was a pretty divine moment. [Chuckles]
DA MAN: One final question: If you could pick one piece of advice or one saying that you could share with your fans, what would it be?
Topher Grace: Here it is: Don’t take advice from celebrities in magazine articles. Trust me, I know firsthand how dumb they are—I am one. [Laughs]
To see more exclusive pictures of Grace Topher, get the magazine here!
Photography Mitchell Nguyen Mccormack
Styling Alexa Rangroummith Green
Styling Assistants Cynthia Ureña and Emily Siphene
Styling Agency Celestine Agency
Grooming Natalia Bruschi using Shu Uemura and Tom Ford
Photo Agency Artmix
Videography Pedro Correa
Location Quixote Studios West Hollywood (quixote.com)