One-on-two: An interview with Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer; stars of the film “Take Me Home Tonight”

On Friday, Feb. 18, I sat with Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami. In this luxurious location surrounded by the bay at Brickell Key, we chatted about their latest film, “Take Me Home Tonight,” and the 80s.

JG: So, Topher, what inspired you to create the story for “Take Me Home Tonight”?

TG: I was so bummed that I missed the John Hughes era of the 80s. It was a great time for actors. I mean, I love watching all his films, but for young casts, ensembles, to be able to work with each other before they became big movie stars. I love working with huge movie stars. I also wanted to work with like, Anna Faris. I’ve known her for years. I wanted to do a scene with my contemporaries. Tes, (Teresa Palmer) I had done an audition with, and Dan (Dan Fogler) I’d seen on Broadway when he won the Tony. I thought, I want to bring one of those groups together. Plus, I just missed those movies. Then we thought, what if we did the first movie about the 80s that wasn’t a spoof, it wasn’t making fun of it. It’s very hard because it’s a very easy decade to make fun of, but there were also some really great things. But what if we did one that was, literally, like if we went back in time and shot it then, and that’s what really took place.

JG: Teresa, I just read the article about you in Esquire and it said that you had some trouble laughing in a lot of the scenes and Topher had to shoot the scenes with his back to you so you wouldn’t laugh?

TP: Yeah. I would have to sometimes deliver my lines with my back to Topher when it was his coverage because he was so funny, he was throwing in a lot of unscripted humor and it was really keeping me on my toes. He just has mastered that deadpan look (laughs). Just that awkward reaction to a girl is just amazing and so funny to watch and I was so new to it when I did this film that I wasn’t very good at controlling my laughter (laughs).

JG: Topher, did you know “Straight Outta Compton” or is that something you had to learn?

TG: No, actually, we got an assistant. I’d never had an assistant before ‘cause I’d never been a producer and acting, and I was writing a little bit. So, I said to my assistant, “Go print out all the words.”

TP: They would practice on set. They’d be off to the side like rapping to themselves in the corner. I was like, is he going crazy?

JG: What was the most difficult scene for you two to shoot?

TP: Probably the sex scene. I found that very traumatic. (embarrassed laugh) Umm, ok, I dunno. (To Topher) What would you say was the most difficult?

TG: Yeah, the sex scene, I wasn’t attracted to her so it required an intense amount of acting. (Everyone laughs) I was like, can I get somebody hot? (Laughs)

TP: But I can’t use that word ‘difficult’ to describe this film at all in any way. I had so much fun on this movie and I think I had a tough day. We ended up kind of, partying a lot on the film.

JG: This is for both of you. What do you think it is about the 80s that we love so much?

TG: I think it takes about 20 years though. I think what’s crazy is that there will be a 90s film in about 10 years, where, the filmmaker is only 18 right now, but once he’s 28, 30, he’ll have a good beat on what the 90s were about. You know, there’ll be a spoof about the 90s that comes out in a couple years that’s all about grunge and…

JG: “Saved by the Bell”

TP: “Smells like Teen Spirit”

TG: “Smells like Teen Spirit” is what that will be called (Everyone laughs), so we can probably already name that movie. But, beyond that, there’ll be a real 90s movie in about 10 years and they’ll be doing ecstasy, or whatever, and in about 30 years there’ll be a movie about this period.

JG: I know this movie was shot in 2007. It took four years for this movie to get released. Did you ever run into Anna (Faris), Dan (Fogler) or Teresa, and were they wondering when the movie was going to be released?

TG: Well, we’ve all remained really close. We’re all really good friends. What happened was, we had a really fast development, so it wasn’t four years. It was about two years ago. We screened it and it went really well. This was with our former studio that we were at, but they had a real problem with how much cocaine was in it, and how much cocaine Dan’s character was doing in it. Our feeling was, if you do a movie about prohibition, you have to show alcohol. If you have five kids in the 80s at a party in Beverly Hills, there’s cocaine there. It’s a lie not to show it. So, we didn’t know what to do. And that’s why we were lucky that I wasn’t the main producer. Ron Howard and Brian Grazer…

TP: Who are like, the best, producers of our time.

TG: Maybe in the world, yea. They were like, you know what, it’s already dated. It takes place in the 80s. You know, I mean, it’s not like it’s going to get more dated. Why don’t you chill and let us see if there’s another studio that will accept what it is. We were so nervous we’d have to cut out scenes.

TP: It wouldn’t make any sense.

TG:  So, then, they show it to Ryan Cavanaugh who owns Relativity. I have to knock wood every time I tell this story because it’s actually getting a bigger release than it would have had a two or three years ago. And he’s, unlike other studio execs, which are 60, 70. He’s only three years older than me. And he, said, ‘I think this is great.’ I mean, it’s not “Scarface.” He said it’s terrific and let’s put it out.

TP: He was very passionate about the project from the start. He really embraced it. Topher was saying before that they ended up putting things back in the movie.

TG: Yeah, a lot of times when a film gets out a lot of stuff’s been cut-out, it’s been neutered. I’m so glad that I could be doing the publicity because I was there at the inception of the idea and it is exactly what we wanted to put out.

JG: What was more fun: the film or the music video? Cause the music video that you directed was great.
TP: I think the film, only because we had more time to be with each other. We were there for eight weeks and we didn’t know each other at the start and it was so enjoyable to watch this chemistry between all of us, as a group, grow. Plus it was like summer camp because we were shooting in Arizona and so it was just us, a little group hanging out for that period.

TG: I think it’s kind of bled into the film. If you’re having a bad time, people can kind of tell. The energy is just off. If you’re having a great time and it’s supposed to be about these kids having a great time, I think it plays into the film.

JG: Thank you guys for your time.

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