Topher Grace defends 'Spider-Man 3': 'It had the gross national income of a small country'

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How Robert Redford Almost Made Topher Grace Cry

Topher Grace had no qualms about thinking outside the box to land his pivotal role in the Robert Redford-Cate Blanchett drama Truth.

The James Vanderbilt-directed film, opening Friday in select theaters, stars Redford as Dan Rather and Blanchett as his 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes amid the flap following the show's 2004 news story about then-president George W. Bush's time in the National Guard. Grace co-stars as the CBS news-magazine's researcher Mike Smith, who is particularly passionate that their story about Bush get told.

Read More: Dan Rather Reflects on His Dramatic CBS Exit That Inspired 'Truth': "I Have a Lot of Wounds"

Grace, who appeared in this summer's Kristen Stewart thriller American Ultra and is currently shooting a part in Netflix's Brad Pitt satire War Machine, tells The Hollywood Reporter that he nabbed his Truth role after sending producers an unsolicited audition tape through Vimeo that he filmed with his fiancée.

Grace also talks about CBS refusing to show Truth's ads, Pitt's War Machine skipping the typical distribution model and his take on the backlash against 2007's Spider-Man 3, in which he played Venom.

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How did you get involved with Truth?

It's an excellent script that James Vanderbilt wrote -; he wrote Zodiac, which is one of my favorite films. And then to know that Mary Mapes is going to be played by Cate Blanchett. My favorite film of all time is [Redford's] All the President's Men. So for there to be a journalistic thriller, and he's in it, I just thought, "What an amazing thing -; and I'm not going to get it." I knew I wasn't going to get it. I'm not even sure if I would be on the list. But I said to my agents, "I'll put my ego aside. Tell me the truth: What do I have to do?" And they said, "What if you make a tape?" [So] my lovely fiancée sat with me -; first, I had to get off book on [a major scene]. We made a tape, and I'm like screaming at her [in the scene]. (Laughs.) But the beautiful thing about Vimeo is you can send it in instantly. [And then] I loved every minute of being on the set.

Did you get feedback from the real-life subjects of the film?

Mary and Dan came down to the set in Australia. We actually all went and had a dinner, which was easily the most intimidating dinner I've ever been at. (Laughs.) Bob and Cate and Dan and Mary and me -; they started talking about current events, and I was like, "I'm just going to sit this one out. You guys do your thing." And they were on set, and we were talking a lot about what had happened. Mary gave me Mike's email address, [but previously] I had had a bad experience meeting someone that I was playing before I did the movie. I thought it had colored maybe that performance a little too much. So I went, "OK, I don't want to meet [Mike] before the film." But we spoke over email [afterwards]. I apologized that forever he'll be linked with the kid from That '70s Show.

Read More: Leslie Moonves and CBS Staff Heard Dismissing Robert Redford's Dan Rather Movie as "Half-Truth"

What is your take on CBS banning ads for the film?

The truth of the situation, without trying to sound diplomatic, is it has nothing to do with me. I'm happy if it brings more attention to the film. (Laughs.) That can happen. Jaws was so terrifying -; they said at the end of the Jaws trailer, you have to say "May not be suitable for children," so it became the biggest blockbuster of all time. (Sarcastically.) And there's no way this isn't at least twice as big as Jaws is. (Laughs.) [But] when you're not the lead of the film -; I'm rarely the actual lead of a film -; one of the good things about that is that you never have to fully worry about that stuff. The fact that it is coming out and that people are going to see it is a huge win for this kind of film.

[Spider-Man 3 director] Sam Raimi recently did a podcast where he said the film didn't turn out the way he was hoping it would. What's your memory of making the film, and what do you think of the final result?

I know the movie did well for Sony, but I also know a lot of people weren't happy with it. I think Sam is so talented. I remember one time I was on ninth unit. (Laughs.) Ninth unit? It's like he's running a small country. This summer, there was a movie like that where people are just slamming a big studio movie. I would love to see anyone who's slamming one of those movies try to fit in Sam Raimi's position. He was like the president of a small country -; by the way, it had the gross national income of a small country, too. I have huge respect for him. I think, on a whole, he did such a fantastic job [on that trilogy].

Read More: 'A Walk in the Woods' Director on Why Robert Redford Put Film on Shelf After Paul Newman's Death

With American Ultra, how is it to work on a Kristen Stewart film? Is there extra scrutiny, or do fans try to watch the shoots?

There wasn't where we shot that in New Orleans -; we were out in the middle of nowhere. But all these people -; I've worked with a lot of great people lately -; who are icons, they all have one thing in common, is they're too good, and they just don't have any time for any BS. I worked with Brad [Pitt] earlier in the Ocean's movies, I had these cameos. I remember I had a day with him and George Clooney, and I was sitting there going, "Oh man, there's no off-set drama because they're so smart." I would say the same thing's true of Kristen -; Jesse Eisenberg's like that [too].

You're co-starring with Brad Pitt in War Machine, which Netflix is producing and distributing. How do you feel about the film not following the traditional distribution model?

Netflix, they've been amazing producers on this thing, and they're paying a good amount of money for something really cool and great to be made that I'm not sure that a different studio would have paid for. But I really admire Netflix for saying, "We'll let [director] David [Michod] have this artistic [license]." Every actor on it's grateful because we're all able to do something that, I don't know where else we would do it.

Have you met Ashton [Kutcher] and Mila [Kunis'] daughter?

I haven't! (Laughs.) I've been out of the country. One was in the Australia's, this one's in London. I feel like I'm existing on Facetime and Skype right now.

What are your thoughts on That 70's Show's legacy? It's interesting that the whole cast is still working so steadily.

Yes, that is the best part of the show looking back. I loved those kids so much. I feel like all of them have found great personal success and great success in the business. I knew it back then because I thought, "Everyone is so talented." And then I saw [Laura Prepon in] Orange is the New Black, and I went, "That doesn't surprise me -; she's amazing." And [Kunis in] Black Swan, and Danny [Masterson] and Ashton are doing [their upcoming Netflix] show now together -; I can't wait to see that!

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Topher Grace defends 'Spider-Man 3': 'It had the gross national income of a small country'
FILE - In this March 24, 2013 file photo, actor Tom Holland, winner of Best Male Newcomer Award appears at the Jameson Empire Film Awards 2013 in London. Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios announced Tuesday, June 23, 2015 that Holland will play Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the next "Spider-Man" film, in theaters in IMAX and 3D on July 28, 2017. The film will be directed by Jon Watts. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP, File)
Actor Tom Holland attends the premiere of "The Impossible" at the Arclight Cinerama Dome on Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
Actor Tom Holland is seen at the UK Premiere of The Impossible at Odeon BFI IMAX on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, in London. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)
The Spider-Man balloon floats in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Dane DeHaan, from left, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield from the cast of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" attend the Be Amazing Volunteer Day held in the Queens borough of New York, Friday, April 25, 2014. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Actor Dane DeHaan, left, and actress Emma Stone, right, attend a lighting ceremony at the Empire State Building with the cast of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" on Friday, April 25, 2014, in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)
Actress Emma Stone, actor Andrew Garfield, center, and composer Hans Zimmer attend the "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" premiere party at Moynihan Station on Thursday, April 24, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
US actress Emma Stone, center, British actor Andrew Garfield, right, and US actor Jamie Foxx, left, pose for the media during a fan event with the actors of the movie 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' prior to the movie's premiere in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, April 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
U.S actor Jamie Foxx, left, US actor Dane DeHaan, second left, British actor Andrew Garfield and US actress Emma Stone pose for photographers before the French premiere of the movie The Amazing Spider-Man 2, in Paris, Friday April 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
US actor Dane DeHaan, left, British actor Andrew Garfield, second left, US director Marc Webb, and US actress Emma Stone pose for photographers before the French premiere of the movie The Amazing Spider-Man 2, in Paris, Friday April 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

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