Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer: The Blast Interview — Cover Story 0

With their film “Take Me Home Tonight,” a nostalgic comedy that toasts the excess of the 1980s in one wild night, stars Topher Grace (Matt Franklin) and Teresa Palmer (Tori Frederking) sat down with Blast to talk acting, the post-grad life, and why this isn’t just another 80s movie.

BLAST: It took a little while to get distributed — it was about four years ago that you put this film together and there were issues regarding the cocaine use in the film — How frustrating was that whole debacle for you, in terms of being a producer, trying to get this film out into theaters?

TOPHER GRACE: Very frustrating…the story of that is that we wanted to do the generational film that hasn’t been done yet for our generation. I remember growing up in the 90s and watching Dazed and Confused, which is about the 70s, and then getting into that movie and thinking “Man, those movies are great” and wanting to do, like…American Graffiti, which was in the 70s, about the 50s. But no one’s done it for this generation.

Look, it’s a party in Beverly Hills in the mid-80s, a bunch of kids in their 20s – it’d kind of be lying to not show that there was some cocaine use.

So we developed it really quickly, found a cast we were psyched about really quickly, and then when we tested it, it did really well with the audience, but our former studio is owned by a huge corporation and it’s frustrating: executives who are 60 or 70 years old, telling you what people in your demographic want. They had big problems with drinking and driving in [American Graffiti] when the studio saw that, they had problems in Dazed and Confused with people smoking joints, and they will have problems with the 90s movie, in ten years, when the kids are doing Ecstasy. But this is what the one in the 80s was about. It’s going to be dated. It’s already entirely dated, so you’re fine.

What they were proposing, the studio we had been with, would literally neuter the film and we felt would hurt every plot line. This is, artistically, what we wanted. I think a lot of times it gets watered down, things get cut when something’s held – this is the exact opposite. We got to put stuff back in! Mostly cocaine stuff.

I mean, it’s not Scarface. We’re thrilled with it – it’s exactly how we imagined it. You’ve got to do what’s right for the movie.

BLAST: You made the movie in 2007, but when did you make your music video?

TG: Just recently.

TERESA PALMER: We loved that whole process, and for me it was really interesting because I was born in 1986, so I wasn’t too familiar with a lot of the films that we referenced in the music video, but it was like getting the gang back together again.

TG: We all remained really close. Chris (Pratt) and Anna (Faris) got married, Dan Fogler stays at my house when he comes to L.A. …It’s rare actually. A lot of casts are lying to you when they say “we’re all really great friends.”

TP: No, we really hung out in our down time. It’s nice, because I think that camaraderie, that connection between us really bleeds into the film, and you can pick up on that.

BLAST: Can each of you talk about the time in your lives when you made the decision to be actors?

TP: For me, it wasn’t really a conscious decision. I finished high school and went through the same sort of confusion and lost feelings that these characters are going through. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and I felt this incredible pressure from my parents and my peers to figure out what I wanted to be for the rest of my life. I thought it was ridiculous that I should be expected to know that at the age of eighteen, I still didn’t know who I was.

I just dabbled in a few things – I wanted to do teaching, didn’t really like that, then I tried out journalism, that didn’t really work for me. Then acting fell into my lap and I haven’t really looked back since. It’s been snowballing and that’s what I’m doing for now, I guess.

TG: I had a similar thing to Tess where I had no idea what I wanted to do. My senior year at boarding school, this couple Bonnie and Terry Turner, who wrote Wayne’s World, Tommy Boy and 3rd Rock from the Sun, which they created, they were the parents of the girl who did the sets of this play I was in. I wasn’t even in that many plays – I just had sprained my ankle a couple times for tennis that year and decided, “I’m really going to go out for the lead in the musical.” If you heard me sing, it’s ironic…

TP: He’s really good!

TG: So they called me freshman year – I’d just been rejected from the film school, I didn’t know what I was going to do out there – they said “Do you want to come try out for this show about the 70s?” I’d never auditioned before. But I really grew to love acting, which is good because I signed a six-year contract to do it.

BLAST: Did you draw upon your experiences at Suncoast Video for this movie?

TG: That’s right, I worked at Suncoast. It’s not autobiographical, though I was about as lucky with girls in high school as Matt Franklin is. We were thinking about what stores, in the beginning, we could have in this mall that don’t exist in malls anymore. Like Sam Goody. That’s gone. I think more in the future, kids will say “What is that? What is a record store?”

BLAST: Who came up with the scene with two white guys rapping? That will always be funny.

TG: Well, that’s a classic 80s thing we wanted to have. The soundtrack – what we did when we first came up with the idea, we made kind of an 80s mix. Like the film, we didn’t want to spoof the time. You know, I love the Wedding Singer – it’s a great romantic comedy – but it was only made eight years outside of the 80s. If someone made a 90s film now, it would be very hard to not make fun of it. It’s been the right amount of time to go “You know what? There was something really amazing about that period of time.”

It’s like a relationship with an ex: at first you’re like, “Screw that person, that was horrible” – that’s probably about ’92, the reaction to the 80s in ’92, like “What were we thinking?” By ’98, you’re like, “You know, there were some good times. It was weird that I dressed that way but overall, there was some good and some bad.” Then about 20 years outside of a relationship, you’re probably like “You know, that person changed my life.” And that’s probably how people are just getting about the 80s, so we wanted to hit that moment.