Topher Grace has evolved since his early days on The Seventies Show, and now, hair bleached blonde, Grace dons the Venom dark Spidey suit as he pits his unscrupulously arrogant self against Spider-Man, in the dual roles of Eddie Brock and Venom in the blockbuster adventure. A bona fide, self-confessed comic book geek, Grace talked to Paul Fischer.
Question: Was it easy to you to get the energy to jump into this without seeing the script based on purely the fact that….
Grace: Oh no I read I guess 3/4 of the script.
Question: Oh, Thomas I guess had not seen….
Grace: Yes, Thomas was cast earlier than me and I was feeling jealous when he was cast. I didn’t know there was more than one bad guy. I thought man; I’d love to do that.
Question: Was this a character that was just irresistible for you to play on so many levels?
Grace: Yeah, on so many levels. One I’m a huge fan of the first 2 films. I thought the 2nd one was better than the 1st which is so rare. It’s clear that they have this well-oiled machine and they know exactly what they’re doing. The actors and Sam. On another level I was a really big fan when I was a kid of the comic book. Literally when the character of Venom was being born, I was getting really into comic books reading Todd McFarland who was this new illustrator and was kind of blowing my mind and he was doing Amazing Spiderman and he did like his own Spiderman comic book, so I felt like I had the inside track and no one else should play it. In fact when Sam told me, he said I want you to play Venom, I kind of had to bite my tongue and say “like tell me about the character” and I hadn’t negotiated yet for money yet so.
Question: This is a pretty big departure from other characters that you’ve played.
Grace: Right. I’m a bad actor to answer this question because I know with my career I should be like yes, I had to go to such a dark place and really get into that but you know I think it’s all on the same plane all that stuff, happiness, sadness, being mean and being nice. They’re all very close to each other. But I’ll tell you my goal in my career is to kind of do movies that are both–I hate it when someone says is it a comedy or a drama? It’s like my favorite movies are kind of both, just like life is never like one day you’re not crying all day and the next day laughing all day. I like to find characters that have that kind of balance too.
Question: So you’re the 1st person I’ve talked to that really has a comic book background that thinks that….
Grace: Am I though? My favorite thing is when someone gets a role on Star Wars or something and is like I’ve never seen the films before but I rented them once I got the role. You know, I don’t know, whatever, maybe I’m the first.
Question: Everyone’s said I never read the comic after the fact.
Grace: Right. That’s what I’m saying. But I’m the geekest guy to ever be in a film like this that’s for sure in terms of when we were at Comic-Con and they showed that preview where I turn into Venom at the end. I was jumping around backstage. Someone actually came up to me and was like “hey, man you’ve got to cool it. You’re starring in these films you shouldn’t this crazy excited.” But I figured screw it. This is why you buy the bus ticket to Hollywood right?
Question: Did you take any souvenirs from the set being that you are…
Grace: Oh, man I forgot to. It was like a year long process making the film so you don’t ever know when it’s ending exactly. I think I’m going to try to get the newspaper of me getting whatever fired where they print the retraction on it and I must try to get a bust of Venom.
Question: What facet of this character could you identify with and as a Spiderman comic book geek were you able to bring in any of that knowledge into this process?
Grace: Yeah, I think there are 2 kinds of origins to Eddie Brock. There’s one where he’s more of Peter’s peer which is ultimate Spiderman and there’s one that’s a little muddled it’s kind of told in the flashback which is the original origin. So I guess what I really brought to it was kind of a fear at the beginning that I shared with Sam which is I don’t think I’m the right guy to really play this role. In the original comic book he’s like 40 and really muscle-bound and I had to work out for 6 months. I could never get to where he was in the comic book but then what Sam described to me is he wanted to take the best of both worlds approach and kind of make him this evil twin brother of Peter Parker who’s basically a case study and if someone similar, you know if they have the same job and they’re after the same girl. Even Eddie kind of has the edge even though they’re similar. He’s a better dresser and clearly has more money and kind of a better flirt. If they both received the same power and one of those 2 people didn’t have someone like Uncle Ben like a mentor to say you have to take responsibility for this power how would that turn out? Even Peter used it for personal gain originally. What’s great about Eddie is that even though he’s really slick he kind of hides a really hollow interior. Like he’s got a really great exterior, he’s got nothing inside, whereas Peter’s just the opposite. He might not have his whole act together but his core is very strong and that’s why he’s able to kind of shed this power but Eddie totally embraces it.
Question: What was the filming process for you? Did you have to film for a few weeks and then you were gone for a month or two or were you….?
Grace: Yeah, I was off and on. I’m in 1/4 of the film so I kind of able to get breaks but I had to keep working out through the film which is probably not a surprise to anyone but it was a first for me and you have to eat right too which is really a bummer of working out. The working out is not nearly as hard as eating and I’d eat aggressively because I loose weight very easily. It was always a kind of constant. I had to stay blonde for a year which is not my cup of tea. Yeah, so it was kind of a year long constant thing. The best was when we went to New York because I have an apartment in New York and I’d been missing living there and to be able to roll out of bed and get a cup of coffee and a newspaper and walk over to this blockbuster film set and when I’m finished go out to dinner somewhere. It was like great.
Question: What was it like filming on the street with the people knowing you guys were filming Spidey 3?
Grace: Oh, it was great. The extras on the set were chanting “Spiderman”, and all the people watching started chanting “Spiderman” then Spiderman zips in. I’m like where am I? People taking pictures and running up to him and interacting with him. I had one of the great New York scenes with him where all that stuff is falling off that building and I get to run up to him and kind of make fun of him. It was really….and Tobey playing that character–I’m used to that now. I was a fan of the first 2 films so like the first day for me was in L.A. We were in the Bugle and Tobey’s there and JK is like ‘Brock get in here.’ I’m in The Bugle which I’ve seen the set in the first 2 films and I’ve been saying it’s like when Universal Studios says like “come be in the movies” I’m in it. It was great and I’m just a big fan of it so it’s funny I was supposed to be mad but I was smiling like ear to ear.
Question: Can you talk about some of the more grueling physical aspects of shooting.
Grace: Oh yeah, well clearly I really didn’t love the working out. It was really strenuous and then there was 1 hour to get on the suit which is a Spiderman suit up to about here and then 4 hours to attach the prosthetic makeup. It was just a lot of patience. I couldn’t even read a newspaper. I had to stare straight ahead because they were all connected to my neck and then and they’d put in the fangs and they’d lift me up on wires a couple of stories up and I mean it’s a process. By the way, at that point I’m ready to go home. I hadn’t even started acting yet. That’s why Sam is the greatest director alive. That guy would come up to me at just the right time and say ‘hey, buddy let me show you something.’ He’d bring up the portable monitor and show me the shot. And I’d go that’s the coolest shot. If I weren’t in this that would be the coolest shot I’ve ever seen in my life and I’m the dude in it. So he was a good motivator.
Question: Have you signed on for anything else now since?
Grace: Yeah, I did a movie that I just finished called Kids in America which will be coming out next year.
Question: Which is?
Grace: It’s like a …you know American Graffiti? Kind of like an American Graffiti that takes place in the 80’s. It’s in ’88 and Ron Howard produced it so it’s very similar. He’s great and it’s just the opposite of this movie. It’s an ensemble film, lot of kids my age that I dig. Anna Ferris is in it who’s brilliant. Dan Fogler.
Question: Do you think Eddie was a tragic figure…I was curious to see what you thought about that. If you thought Eddie was tragic or was just an asshole?
Grace: Well, my personal….there’s something great is that Sam likes to find the humanity in everyone no matter how dark the story is and clearly Eddie is the darkest I think of anyone who’s been in a Spiderman movie. He’s like in a really bad way. He’s got revenge, jealousy which just consumes him, but I really admire Sam. I think this is better than what happened in the comic book. Once he’s Venom it’s a lot of fun. But beforehand like Sam really wanted to find the humanity in the character and that was a hard thing to do. Watching the film and seeing people’s reaction, there’s a moment where you really kind of—even if you don’t agree with what Eddie’s doing, you understand why he’s doing it which is more than I can say for most bad guys. I actually think that makes for scarier bad guys because it connects them to you. It’s not like they fell into a vat of acid and wanted to take over the world or something, you kind of understand their motivations and wonder if you’d have the same restraint that Peter has.
Question: In the comics Venom becomes the anti hero. If they approached you with that project would you be interested?
Grace: Yeah, yeah. It’s funny, someone was telling me about like saying people died in the franchise and like both of them that died in the first one had been in the next 2 like both of them; but in terms of playing Venom again I …whatever. Can you guys recite what every single actor says when you ask them that question? What do I say?
Question: You say if it’s a good script….
Grace: Yeah I got it.
Question: …then you’d consider it. Especially if Tobey did it.
Grace: I’d do it at that point but yeah.
Question: Would you do a solo Venom movie?
Grace: Those haven’t really worked very well have they?
Grace: I’m looking for my Electra you know what I mean?
Question: You went to Tokyo with everyone?
Grace: Yeah, it’s the first time I saw it.
Question: And how was the experience of going to Japan?
Grace: I’d never been to Asia so to be in Tokyo for the first time and then to be…fan reaction was intense. Walking down the red carpet was crazy. People were going nuts. It’s like the closest I’ll be to being like in N’Sync or one of those and then to watch the film for the first time. It was just a lot of input. But the best was Tobey hadn’t seen it either and to sit next to Tobey Maguire and watch Spiderman and we’re dueling on screen and he and I are high-fiveing and I’m going what kind of amazing experience is this? It was just great.
Question: The Japanese press conference that you did with all these hundreds of journalists must have been quite a unique experience for you as well.
Grace: It was. Yeah. Their reaction is….they’re a huge Spiderman fans and I also think Sam is a huge fan of what they’ve done with Anime and so he was talking about how he’s pulled out a lot of that for what he’s done. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
Question: What was your favorite scene in the movie?
Grace: I’m going to give you a couple because it’s going to seem self-centered but that scene where I turn into Venom kind of blew my mind. When you’re doing it it’s like Sam with a bullhorn saying like “now it’s on your left shoulder” you really feel stupid. I think even some of the crew was like laughing but you wind up….it’s weird it’s not even like acting it’s like you’re 5 years old. It’s literally like pretend like you have to go to a place of such deep just imagining everything in front of green screen so seeing that done was like incredible. The score and the camera angles it was pretty incredible. I also think it’s a cool scene. I like that Sandman thing where you think it’s boulders and that shot goes all the way around and he’s trying to get up and he falls through himself kind of and also when he sees the locket. I don’t know, I love what Sam does visually where you’re feeling….I think my favorite part of the film is when you realize that Tobey’s going to put the suit on again and he knows he shouldn’t and all this stuff is going wrong in his life and you can feel his need to put that suit on without any words and that I thought was like, I don’t know if it’s Alvin Sergeant or if it’s Sam Raimi, I think it’s both, but just ….they’ve got you in an emotional place where you understand his need to put on the suit and it’s really about substance abuse this movie. It’s about….at least that’s what the suit is about….the movie is really about forgiveness. But the suit is about….it’s like of like alcohol or cocaine. It’s something that will numb your demons and make you feel stronger but then once you take it off you’re like what have I just done. What did I do last night?
Question: Do you know what script you might be reading now or things you might be doing in the future?
Grace: Yeah, I’m going to work with Paul Weitz who directed In Good Company. Yeah, we’re going to do another film together. He’s like the greatest director and he writes and directs so it’s like so easy working with him because it comes in just one great package. And he’s a great guy, we get along really well.
Question: What kind of film is that?
Grace: That I’m not entirely….I don’t know how to classify it. It’s kind of like In Good Company in the sense that it’s not really a drama or a comedy. I think it’s more of a comeda.
Question: Is that the next one you’re going to be filming?
Grace: I don’t know what the next thing I’m going to do is. I hope it’s that. I’m pretty lazy.