Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
People are going to incorrectly label the new film TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT as an "'80s comedy," when in fact the 1980s is the stage and all the actors merely elements of the decade when cocaine came into its own, sportscoat sleeves were pushed up, and shoulder pads (on men and women) were a must. But TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT isn't treating the '80s as a gag; it's a setting. The wall-to-wall music choices (much like AMERICAN GRAFFITI or DAZED & CONFUSED) are crucial to the film, as is the unbelievable amount of drugs being downed, snorted and smoked. In fact, it was this rampant drug use that has kept this movie (originally titled KIDS IN AMERICA) on the shelf for the better part of four years.
Knowing that, it's kind of interesting to see Anna Faris and Chris Pratt playing a couple in the movie where they first met (they have been married about two years, to date). I saw Teresa Palmer in this film and I AM NUMBER FOUR within days of each other, and she's noticeably younger in TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT. And if this film had come out when it was supposed to, it would have been one of comic actor Demetri Martin's first on-screen roles.
The idea for TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT comes from a story by Topher Grace, who stars in the film as Matt Franklin, a video store clerk who lies to his high school crush five years after graduation to make her like him. Grace is a remarkably nice guy, who grew up on television's "That '70s Show." People often forget that Grace left the show before it went off the air because he thought the quality of the writing suffered in its final years. His first movie role was in Steven Soderbergh's TRAFFIC, and he went on to do some hysterical cameos in OCEAN'S ELEVEN and TWELVE, playing a very exaggerated version of himself (also named Topher).
His film career has been hit and miss. But I'd count WIN A DATE WITH TED HAMILTON, IN GOOD COMPANY, PREDATORS, and even SPIDER-MAN 3 (hey, the movie might have sucked but not because of Grace) as examples of some of his better roles and excellent examples of his range. He's one of those actors that makes it look easy, but I do tend to enjoy him more when he's throwing caution to the wind and stepping outside his comfort zone of comedy. Look for him in what I believe will be examples of doing just that opposite Richard Gere in THE DOUBLE later this year, and in the Curtis Hanson-directed HBO film TOO BIG TO FAIL, about the 2008 financial meltdown, which also stars Paul Giamatti, Billy Crudup, James Woods, Bill Pullman, William Hurt, and many others.
I discovered the very funny Demetri Martin in his mostly serious leading role in Ang Lee's TAKING WOODSTOCK, opposite Rainn Wilson in THE ROCKER, and eventually in his exceptional Comedy Central series "Important Things with Demetri Martin." A former writer for Conan O'Brien, Martin has a relatively small role in TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT, but I guarantee you you'll remember him fondly as Carlos. He'll next be seen in, weirdly enough, the Steven Soderbergh outbreak thriller CONTAGION, coming out in October.
I had a chance to sit down with Grace and Martin the day after we did a really lively Q&A after a screening of TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT. These two together make a great team, playing off each other and just generally being a great deal of fun to spend time with. Please enjoy this chat with Topher Grace and Demetri Martin…
Capone: Hello. Good to see you both again.
Topher Grace: Hey man, how are you? It's the morning after.
Capone: Did we all still respect ourselves this morning?
TG: We do because we didn't go home together last night. That was smart. [Last night’s screening] was fun. That was actually the most fun we’ve had in a while.
Capone: It was a blast. The crowd was good, and they loved the movie. Let’s talk about your inspiration for wanting to capture the '80s in a certain fashion, and even though you are not a child of the '80s…
TG: I kind of am, I was born in '78.
Capone: Literally a “child of the '80s.”
TG: My babysitter from 1988 just texted me, because we went on morning radio this morning here. She lives in Chicago, and I guess she called her mom who still has my mom in her hometown. She’s like, “Hey, I just heard you on the radio station you were on…” She was my babysitter in ’88, so I remember even referencing her in some of this junket stuff, because I remember hearing her listen to the radio. She would listen to like Billy Ocean or whatever, so I remember it on my periphery, but it was more that I had a love for the genre. I think it’s more of genre travel than time travel.
I grew up with DAZED AND CONFUSED, which was made in the '90s about the '70s, and then looking at it more and being a bigger fan of that, we found AMERICAN GRAFFITI was made in the '70s about the '50s. No one had done that for the '80s, and a lot of people made fun of the '80s. It’s a very easy decade to make fun of. I think it takes about 20 years to get enough distance that you don’t hate… Do you know what I mean? It’s almost like a relationship, where you go “You know what? That was a great relationship.” But it’s only after a certain amount of time that you can be cool with it.
Capone: Demetri, you are older than Topher, so you can actually fact check some of his references in the script.
Demitri Martin: Yeah. It’s funny, I think when I finally got to see the movie and got to go to a screening, I was excited and lucky that my first viewing of it was with an audience, which is really fun and really cool. By the way, I recently saw THE GRADUATE with an audience; I’ve seen THE GRADUATE so many times, but I had never seen it with an audience, but they showed it in Santa Monica at this theater.
TG: Probably just a lot of laughs…
DM: It was awesome.
TG: That hotel scene yeah, probably.
DM: Oh, it was awesome, and there were things that just come to life. You’re perception changes when you get to see a thing with an audience. There were certain little squeals Dustin Hoffman made in that movie, but on a big screen the sound was better and I could hear it.
TG: Some of [Dan] Fogler’s stuff in this movie, I’m so thrilled for him. I mean this guy kills it. Anna [Faris] kills it. Teresa [Palmer] is a huge find.
DM: Yeah, I thought Fogler was really funny.
TG: Some of Fogler’s stuff… It will be sad when we are not seeing it in front of 200 people, which is fine; it will play great on a DVD. And I wasn’t even there last night, and I know it got vocal around some of his stuff, because every screening we’ve been in, people have been laughing out loud… You know that scene were the airbag goes off?
Capone: (Laughs) Yeah.
TG: Or the thing in the bathroom with him and that girl… People go nuts.
DM: But you know what’s interesting? When I think of the '80s as a kid, I was born in ’73, so I have more memory of the '80s. It was also a time when, maybe the first time, when you could see movies on HBO, when HBO blossomed, and its the opposite of the experience I’m talking about, which is I remember just being on my family’s couch and I could watch “Oh, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF is on right now.”
TG: I haven’t seen any one of those John Hughes movies on the big screen.
TG: Yeah, they're all videotape experiences.
DM: Its interesting. I think for a lot of people who are my age, you see movies and it’s kind of a weird viewing experience where you are like, “Hey, I’ve seen this.” “Oh, I saw the second half of this, but now I’m going to see the first half.” You know what I mean? You would just be like ,“I’m watching this.” REAL GENIUS is a movie I love with Val Kilmer, it’s like one of his first movies, but those are '80s movies in that of course they are not about the '80s on purpose, but they live in the 80’s and a lot of what Topher and I have been talking about, and I think his intention with Gordon [Kaywin], his producing partner, was to capture that kind of a cinematic feeling of like “Hey, these are people living in the '80s.” It’s also great to tell a story before there were cell phones. You can see people having problems, and she can’t just text him; there’s no way to break the ice.
TG: That would ruin everything in the movie, by the way, technology.
DM: Yeah, it’s kind of nice.
Capone: And there are definitely touches that have the innocence of the John Hughes movies, but also moments that are straight out of something like LESS THAN ZERO, some of the druggier aspects of the film.
TG: Well it’s great to be able to sit down and say “Alright, this is only going to probably be able to happen once, in that there have been a lot of spoof films about the '80s. There’s probably only going to be one quintessential film that says what the '80s are. What do we have to have in there?” This was before we wrote the script. We made a super '80s music mix, and about 90 percent of it made it into the final.
What started melting away from the mix were the lame songs, and that’s what first defined it for us. “Let’s make a cool one.” “Let’s not make one with ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ or ‘Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car.' “Let’s make one with ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ and ‘Straight Outta Compton.'" Even smaller ones, like "Doot-Doot" by Freur. Songs that we just really loved from the '80s. Then we started saying as we were listening to this music like “It’s got to be when he’s chasing a girl, and he sees her when ‘Betty Davis Eyes’ comes on!” This is the extent of our writing, by the way.
Capone: Hey, you got the Story credit for a reason.
TG: Yeah, but we would say “There’s got to be a dance off,” or “There’s got to be a threesome.” “One guy has to get blasted on coke,” and similarly “One girl has to be in this relationship from high school,” and then it was about putting all of those elements together, but it was great to sit and say, “If we are not spoofing it and really doing an homage, what would that be?”
Capone: As a child of the '80s, of course when I hear all of that music, I see the videos. I see the videos for like all of those songs.
TG: Well, you’re like 80 years old…
Capone: I’m a little older than Demetri, but that was when MTV in its first hey day.
DM: Yeah, I was just talking about that. I was talking about that’s what I lament and I miss, the MTV and the promise that it offered.
TG: Someone asked us, “What’s the most underrated thing of the '80s?” And I was thinking about politics or something, and he said “It’s MTV.”
DM: The original, when it was MTV, Music Television.
TG: There was a moment where moment where like all youth went to one place. I barely remember that feeling. And there was a lot of art on the channel, it was really by kids, it wasn’t like adults trying to figure out what kids wanted.
DM: Remember when “Thriller” premiered? It was like a countdown. It was this big thing.
TG: It was all day, right? It just kept playing over and over again.
DM: Yeah, and you’re like waiting and you are like “Wow, cool.” I remember Michael Jackson, he was just so huge. He didn’t really have to do anything. He would do his shows, but he would appear on nothing, and there were no interviews. It would be on the news like, “Michael Jackson did the Moonwalk at this awards show.” I’d be watching TV and it was like “There’s no Internet, you can’t keep watching it,” so you’re waiting. “This Moonsalk, where is it? I want to see it.”
TG: It’s a different thing now with the internet, and it will serve you, instead of the…
Capone: I could go on a long time about the things I remember about MTV and my first exposure to it. But your soundtrack, there are some more avant-garde stuff going on here, more than just the hits.
TG: These movies are always a trick in that both DAZED AND CONFUSED and AMERICAN GRAFFITI are about timeless issues. They had nothing to do with a specific decade, but they're wrapped in this kind of nostalgia and mostly having a modern-day protagonist. Matt Fanklin [Grace's character] is a beautiful swan once he gets into the '90s, he’s just a real ugly ducking in the '80s. Same thing with Ron Howard’s character or Jason London’s. So, he’s dealing with a very modern problem in the '70s.
So like the trick with the soundtrack and with the movie was to drop a lot of '80s references. That’s why we started in a mall. Of course, you have to put a movie in the mall at the beginning, if it’s an 80’s movie, just because of mall culture, but also it’s great to have a Sam Goody and show all of the albums and have a Suncoast Video and show all of the videos. The music at the beginning is way more front loaded with like “Walking in L.A.” and Duran Duran and “Video Killed The Radio Star.” Then as the movie goes, it becomes more stuff that is less known and would probably be a bigger hit like “Doot-Doot” by Fruer and “Jet Fighter” [by The Three O'Clock] and “Ship Of Fools” [by World Party]. And “Live Is Life” [by Opus] at the end?
Capone: That one I literally hadn’t heard since the '80s.
TG: [laughs] That’s what I mean? We wanted to go from ones that are on '80s stations all of the time and then by the end it’s more esoteric.
Capone: There’s one line in the film, and I have to think about it for a second, but you had that one line about how “sexual harassment is treated very seriously.” I’m like “Was it then?”
TG: No, probably not.
Capone: I was thinking, “When was that Michael Crichton book DISCLOSURE come out?”
TG: I think the Anita Hill thing happened literally that year.
Capone: Was it that year? I think her testimony was in 1991.
TG: So, it was becoming a thing, but I don’t think it had happened by September 3, 1988. I might be wrong, but I do think there was more of an awareness of it. That’s what is great about how Teresa played that. She’s still really sexy, but she’s a career woman, and that was kind of a new thing, and even she is debating how much it’s a real thing for her, but it was great to be able to show up Michael Ian Black in that scene. He's the greatest.
Capone: He’s very funny in that scene.
TG: And he played it very real, man. You’ve seen him on the show "Stella," right?
Capone: Sure, many different shows.
TG: He can go big, but he really decided to be a really good antagonist, and that scene gets a lot of vocal reaction from the crowd normally, too.
Capone: I remember seeing on a website in the middle of 2007 there was like a set visit of some sort about this movie.
TG: I’m sure it was.
Capone: I think it had a different title at the time?
TG: It was originally called KIDS IN AMERICA when we shot it, which is just another '80s song title. We're very grateful to the studio that we were originally with--look, they gave us the money to make it, so we are very grateful--but when they saw the finished product, there’s a lot of cocaine use in it and some other stuff, but it was mostly kids in their early 20s using cocaine, and there was just a lot of trepidation about that, and our reaction was “Well you can’t do a movie about '80s without it.” This was our quote at the time, “You can’t do a movie about the Prohibition and not show alcohol.”
We were really lucky because we were with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. It’s good to be out on the road and saying “I produced it,” but those guys produced it, and Ron was in AMERICAN GRAFFITI, which, by the way, the same studio that shall remain unnamed hated. And Coppola--you’re into this stuff--and Zoetrope offered to literally buy it that night at the test screening. Unfortunately, our movie cost like way more than AMERICAN GRAFFITI, so no one got out their checkbook. It was a shame; you’ve got people who are way older than you, when you are closer to the demo, telling you that “Kids won't like it,” and it was really frustrating, and luckily we had Ron and Brian say “You know what? Don’t change it; it’s already dated.” That’s the good news “It’s not going to get more or less dated. We are going to keep all of the same music, and you're going to be fine, just don’t worry about it.”
We were really lucky they showed it to Ryan Kavanaugh, who owns Relativity Media and is only three years older than me, and he said, “I think this is hilarious,” and that was about a year ago. Then he said, “I want to pay for that great credit sequence at the beginning,” which was like… The guy wanted to give us more money and make it a bigger release and I think--I’ve got to knock wood every time I tell this story--it's a Hollywood record in terms of there being a positive feeling about something’s that been held. But I’m glad I’m the one who is able to be out here talking to you guys, just because I came up with the idea with my producing partner, and it is exactly the artistic thing we wanted to say, every frame of it is in there. Normally when things get held, they get trimmed and cut into a weird space. You’ve seen all of those films when they’ve been cut to pieces.
Capone: I felt especially bad for Dan, because between this and FANBOYS, he’s had stuff on the shelf for forever.
TG: Sure, but for this one what we got to do was add stuff back in, so it was the opposite of most of those experiences where the film gets kind of neutered. This is artistically exactly what we wanted to make from the get-go and whether or not, for any of the actors in the film, it was the right time for them to come out. The truth is, for this film, you’ve got to do the best thing for the film, and this is the best thing for this film. Like I said, it’s not dated, however it's completely dated.
Capone: It as dated as it was three or four years ago.
TG: Yeah and the version that would have come out before this would have been neutered somehow. The whole cast, we just did a music video together. We just had a junket together. We couldn’t be more psyched. These things just have to come out the way they come out.
Capone: I did want to talk a little bit before we run out of time about what you guys have coming up next. I know we talked about Soderbergh's CONTAGION last night, which I’m so excited about.
DM: Yeah, I’m thrilled I got a chance to be in Steven Soderbergh’s movie. I don’t know if it’s his next film, that guy shoots so fast…
Capone: I think it’s coming out in October.
DM: Is that right? Yeah, that was really cool. It was a total thrill for me to work with him. I got to play a scientist and I was relatively serious in that, and it was certainly a serious topic, it’s about a virus, I think they identify it as a virus that spreads around the world pretty quickly and people are dying. They told me that, when I was there, I worked just a couple of days, and he shot me the first day and when I came to the set the next day, he was like “I cut together what you did yesterday; it looks really good. Good work.”
TG: That’s how that guy is.
DM: It’s unbelievable, and that movie shot in Chicago, Hong Kong, London, I think in South America somewhere. If you did research on the production schedule for that movie, it’s unbelievable the places they got to shoot, and they told me that, I think it was Hong Kong, when they were leaving, they had shot this whole sequence there. And the night they before they left to come back to America, they had a party, and Soderbergh screened a cut-together version of everything they'd shot for that sequence. He’s using Red cameras and he’s able to edit on his computer. He’s got people like doing selects, and he builds the stuff. That’s real school, I think, if you are new to film, and you get to be on a set and watch this guy. It’s just really unbelievable.
TG: First of all, he did the same thing with all of these locations with TRAFFIC, and also he’s behind the camera, so it’s amazing. Sometimes the director is like in another room, yelling “Funnier!” This guy is filming, and he doesn’t even stop rolling, he will just be like “Can you do that, but pick it up?” There’s this really intimate relationship with him when you are shooting; it’s great.
DM: It’s really inspiring and I’m sure you find this with journalism when you cross paths with certain people. If you are going to make a lot of content, it’s just going to take a lot of time. It’s simply going to take a lot of work. I’m sure there are shortcuts, and you can piggy back and you can do like big block quotes and stuff, but over time, I think you find the people who are really well suited for what they are doing, because they're happy doing the amount of work that it really takes to make something that they are satisfied with. Again, Steven Soderbergh is an excellent example of someone like that. The guy makes all kinds of films and he does a lot, he operates the camera, he knows his shot list. There were no chairs on the set, in a good way.
TG: You don’t have time to sit down.
DM: There’s no video village. He’s using that money really well, and I think that’s one thing that I liked. I didn’t know Topher going into this, but it was so cool getting to work with him and his friends and get to enter that world. And it’s cool, then even seeing "That '70s Show", once you know the guy--and your character was into STAR WARS and stuff--it’s just cool that he happens to be a guy who was a skinny dude in high school who loves STAR WARS, he loves the '80s, he loves BACK TO THE FUTURE. You're begin authentic, you are putting yourself into your work, whether it’s about the '80s or whatever. Sorry, I gave a long answer.
TG: AIN’T IT COOL: THE MOVIE, by the way. Also, he’s like number four on Amazon right now and that’s my personal mission…
DM: It went to number one last night!
Capone: Your book?
TG: Forget it, I was going to help you go to number one. But mention it in your thing. I’ve read some of it, and it’s amazing.
Capone: It comes out in April?
DM: Yeah, April 25th. It’s called THIS IS A BOOK. I’m excited. I worked hard on it. It was number one last night!
TG: That’s obviously because we’ve put a lot towards it and talked it up last night. [Laughs] So let’s it to number Zero, Ain’t It Cool! Come on!
DM: I get to be number one for a day.
Capone: You’ve got to tell that story you told last night about the scene for OCEAN’S THIRTEEN that you didn’t get to shoot, because that would have been great.
TG: I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Steven a couple of times and he really is--I don’t really bandy about the word “genius,” but he really is like a genius and just so good at what he does. That was my first experience in film, TRAFFIC. I had never shot anything outdoors before, and what an awful way to start, actually, because it spoils you. I remember saying to my agents, “I don’t want to be in another movie unless it’s as good as TRAFFIC,” and they were like “Well, then kiss your career goodbye.”
Capone: Have fun sitting at home.
TG: Exactly. So in the first one, Rusty is teaching me to play cards, and I’m terrible. In the second one, I trashed a hotel room, and they call me “Topher” in it, and I kind of thought it was hilarious, because I’m pretty mild mannered as celebrities go. Then the third one, I couldn’t do because of SPIDER-MAN 3, which was a bummer, but what we had talked about on the phone. I was in New York doing SPIDER-MAN, and we would talk about what the scene would be, and it was me trying to get into the casino, and Rusty couldn’t help me out, and I’m kind of yelling to Rusty “Let me in!” But the whole time I was holding an Asian baby, and we just never talk about it. I thought it was really funny.
Capone: So, what do we see you in next?
TG: I’m in this thing called THE DOUBLE, which is me and Richard Gere. I’m FBI, and he’s CIA, and we have to work together to bring down a killer. It’s very different tonally from TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT. They sent me like a little trailer, and I was geeking out. I have a gun, and I have kids in it. I have a wife and kids. I’m starting to wear this band on my finger when I’m doing a film, but holding the baby was way weirder than holding the gun, and I had never held either before. The baby was way harder.
DM: Both can hurt you.
TG: Yeah, it was just weirding me out.
Capone: And then you’ve got that HBO film directed by Curtis Hanson. When is that airing?
TG: Right, TOO BIG TO FAIL. It comes out in May, I think.
Capone: Wow, that’s soon. Okay.
TG: That was great. Curtis Hanson, a really great director, and that cast is insane. Then, I actually did this romantic comedy called GIANT MECHANICAL MAN, with Jenna Fischer and Malin Akerman and Chris Messina. That was really great. They are all really opposite of each other, all of those movies, so it was a big gearshift each time.
Capone: Are those all coming out this year?
TG: Hopefully. Two of them are independent, so we'll see.
Capone: Okay, well guys thank you so much. It was great to meet you.
TG: Will you please say hello to Harry for me?
Capone: Actually, last night I had mentioned to him that I had seen you.
TG: I remember when I met him, it was right before AVATAR came out, and I was like “Tell me if this is going to be the real thing. Don’t let me love and get hurt again like INDIANA JONES or something.” He’s like, “No, I’ve seen it. It’s amazing,” and he was right.
DM: That’s awesome. Cool man, it was great meeting you.
Capone: Good luck with the book.
-- Capone firstname.lastname@example.org
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