INT: Quaid & Grace
Sitting together at a recent press conference to promote IN GOOD COMPANY, Topher Grace and Dennis Quaid presented a picture of seemingly stark opposites: Grace, the rising young sitcom star with a bright future in film, and Quaid, the grizzled veteran whose career as an action hero appears to be ebbing. Then again, this is Hollywood. Grace could be forgotten soon after his run on “That 70’s Show” ends and Quaid could be making action films for another decade or so. Nevertheless, that’s kinda what it looked like at their press conference a few weeks ago. IN GOOD COMPANY opens today in New York and Los Angeles and goes nationwide on January 14th. Here are some excerpts from the press conference. Dennis, Paul Weitz (the director) said the he and the studio were a little surprised that you took this role, that it can be risky to play your age. DQ: I don’t see how that’s like a risky thing, to play your own age. And I don’t see how it’s a risky thing to take a great part with a great director and a great script. That to me is not really a dangerous, risky proposition. It was actually a really good choice. Do you think the movie is saying that as you get older, you’re kind of irrelevant? TG: Well, I think the film’s saying that there’s a perception that that’s true and that perception is wrong. My dad has this phrase: having more energy doesn’t mean you’re smarter. Topher, your character is particularly drawn to his boss’s family. What exactly is it that he’s drawn to? TG: Carter’s got everything on paper, but his parents were both absent. He’s got the job and the right car and the right wife and the right house, but I think once I go home to Dennis’s character’s house, I start to actually see something that I really want, that I don’t know how to get. I always thought that he was dating – I mean, I don’t if Paul would agree with me, but I think he’s dating Dan’s daughter as a consolation prize to actually being in the family. Like he would trade it all in just to be the fifth member of the family. DQ: I think in the film, too, what happens in the relationship between the two of us is that I think it’s by design, here I am, a guy with two daughters. You’re rooting for him to have a son, in a way, because he’s certainly surrounded by women. And he winds up in the end happily having a daughter. But he’s also gained a son, really, in the relationship with Topher’s character.
Dennis, you recently said you have to be dragged kicking and screaming into making a change. Is that still true? DQ: Well, I think that’s what most of us do in a way. We get settled in our lives; we get comfortable. That’s what I meant. We get comfortable in our lives. Things work for us and then someone comes along and says, “You know, your jeans are really out of date.” Whatever it is, I have a resistance to change in things that I feel comfortable in, that I’m used to. So that’s what I meant about being dragged kicking and screaming into… Dennis, you have a certain “everyman” quality that makes you a more relatable action star. Is that something you’re conscious of when you approach a role? DQ: I appreciate that, thank you. I don’t think it’s anything conscious with what I do. You know, I can stand up and say, “This guy’s an everyman; I’m going to play everyman.” I play a specific person when I do a part. Each actor brings a big piece of himself, always, to a role. That’s the way it is. It’s an actor’s interpretation of that. As far as keeping in touch with my roots or whatever, I just feel really grateful to still be here, doing this, rather than feeling entitlement to the position that I’m in in life. I’m really grateful and I feel blessed and that I’m still able to do it. A lot of the people that I started out with, I wonder where they are now. So I just feel like I’m lucky. Paul Weitz said that on the first day he felt intimidated by you, Dennis. DQ: Well, everyone does. He said that one of the things that you said to him is that you’re looking for a strong director. What is your definition of a strong director? And Topher, were you intimidated? DQ: My interpretation of a strong director is somebody who knows their story. Because that’s what really directors are, they’re storytellers. Cause they’re directing where your focus is going to be as an audience. As an actor, it’s really difficult to see yourself a lot of times. What will happen when you’re in doubt is that you will rely on crutches. That’s what I call them, those things that you do as actors, mannerisms or whatever that you do that you know work. At the same time, it may not be really right for the part, or there may be something else there that if you just dig a little deeper, would propel your character a little farther. And that’s what a great director will see in you and he won’t let you get away with your own bullshit. TG: I knew Dennis a little bit from kind of a three-month post-release party for Traffic. Even though our characters never met in that movie, I met him a couple times. But yeah, just the idea of having to act opposite someone who’s so good and for like three months – you can get away with it for a day, maybe – was daunting. Dennis, from the first day was – as you guys can see – is the nicest…it’s hard for me to say in front of him…he’s the most easy-going, nice guy. I think it’s just the fame that his talent has bought him that is intimidating. What about the practical joke he played on you? TG: Ok, that was hilarious. You know what, that was the first day of shooting. That was like really one of the funniest…that really set the tone. It was this scene in the restaurant where he thinks he’s getting fired but he’s not, so we shot his side of it. Because I was really nervous, I think Paul did his side of it first so that I could get my flow going. Then they turned around the cameras during lunch on me and I came back and his stand-in was there. And he said, “I’ll be reading Dennis’s lines while we’re doing this scene.” I was like, “Ok.” DQ: I was just over at the monitor with Paul, just watching the beads of sweat, the inner monologue. (laughs) It was good.
Did you try to get him back for that? TG: No. I hope our relationship is really the opposite of our characters’ relationship. It is. I’m really open with talking about how green I am and how much I just want to learn. I want to be the least good person in any project I do. And it was certainly true in this case. Paul mentioned that Dennis had a revelation about Topher: “Oh my God, he can act. I’m gonna have to really work hard on this with this kid.” TG: That moment never happened. (laughs) Dennis, what was your thought process on that first day? DQ: Well, I wanna work with great people. Just like he said, great people really make you better. Topher and I, we read together before we even started the movie. And it was just really obvious how talented he was. TG: I should also say that there were like a lot more famous people who wanted to play my role, before the film. Dennis was kind enough to put in his two cents, and I don’t think I would have gotten the role if Dennis hadn’t stepped forward and said that I could. So I’m grateful for that, and also…so it was not something that was on the set, this kind of figuring it out. There was no moment of revelation? TG: I think it’s a moment that the director had. (laughs) Dennis, you were pretty generous with Topher on this. Does that generosity come from you not being treated that way early in your career? DQ: Well, I’ve been around so long, I’ve had it all, ok? Been to the bottom and top and treated like a dishrag and yesterday’s news. (Laughs) I just believe in a good work environment, to support everybody. You’re all on the same team or whatever. The idea that there’s some sort of competition going on between the new hot guy and the old veteran or whatever is…that might make a good story someplace or whatever, but it’s not the way it actually is on the set. I think it’s best just to pull for everybody.
Topher, did you learn anything from working with Dennis? TG: Sure, a big part of it for me was just trying to shut up observe. Because you can ask tons of questions to people who are as accomplished as Dennis, but the best thing to do is just watch how he talks to the director and how he related to the crew, how he comes prepared everyday. So for me it was just like that. I never went to acting school, so… Topher, what about the rumors of you playing Jimmy Olsen in SUPERMAN? TG: No. I never got the call. I think another guy is playing that role. You were never approached? TG: No. I bumped into Mischa Barton somewhere and I said, “Hey are we in SUPERMAN?” She said, “No, we’re not.” (laughs) Is this the last season of “That 70’s Show”? TG: No. Well, I don’t know. This may or may not be our last season. This is my last season – I have ten episodes left as of Friday night. And what’s next for you? TG: Well, I did three movies this year and the show. I bought an apartment in New York and I’m going to try to relax and…although what the reality of what’s going to happen is this movie’s going to come out and then I’m gonna just do two other movies in row. DQ: Well, good. TG: No, I mean – DQ: I think it’s good timing for him, actually, because I think he’s really getting ready to take to off unknown (heights). Dennis, do you have any advice for Topher? DQ: He doesn’t really need my advice. He’s a smart guy who handles himself really well. I really don’t think he really needs my advice about things. Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.