What Went Wrong For… Topher Grace

[What Went Wrong? is a regular Monday segment in which we examine an artist — an actor, director, musician, etc. — and try to pinpoint the exact moment in which their once-promising career went off the rails.]

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Topher Grace was the face of That 70’s Show, a late-90’s sitcom that arrived at the height of the Clinton years — a time when the economy was booming, the concept of 9/11 was still unthinkable, and nostalgia was at its utmost bankable, sharks jumped and unjumped alike be damned.

Grace was widely perceived as the cast member most likely to break out of That 70’s Show and emerge a movie star, the bashful everyman who could capably anchor many a romantic comedy, receive a reliable amount of backlash due to his lack of range, and cash in several paychecks thanks to his lack of range. The fact that he never displayed anything beyond the suburban forlornness of his everyday-kid Eric Forman character never crossed our minds. He was the closest we had to a sure thing, and hell, he was practically a guarantee amongst a cast filled with his flavor-of-the-week co-stars Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher.

As expected, Grace was the first main cast member to leave That 70’s Show, departing before the show’s eighth and final season. We all saw this coming. His natural charisma carried the decent sitcom (which regularly but barely overcame its heinous, overblown laugh track), and Topher, intent on Hollywood stardom, began his path of taking whatever Paul Rudd roles Paul Rudd didn’t feel like taking.

It worked reasonably well In Good Company, a competent romantic comedy starring Dennis Quaid and Scarlett Johansson alongside Grace, in which Grace played a wunderkid busisnessman taking over Quaid’s firm and subsequently falling in love with his daughter. It was a sweet, simple film, and a similar one followed that year — Win a Date With Tad Hamilton. Like Good Company, it received a mixed critical response, neither project elevating Grace’s career status beyond what was projected when he left his sitcom. Christian Science Monitor’s David Sterritt inadvertently summed up both the film and Grace’s career film career to that point by claiming it “isn’t as funny as it wants to be, but it has a sheer pleasantness” to it.

Grace later emerged in 2007, in the third installment of Sam Raimi’s acclaimed Spider-Man saga. Portraying main antagonist Eddie Brock, a Daily Bugle photographer who would serve as the doppleganger to Tobey McGuire’s Peter Parker, Grace was faced with the unenviable tasks of defying fans’ expectations of the character (Brock was originally much bulkier and less Topher Grace-y than Grace), and carving a distinct voice in a film that had one too many antagonists as it was. Grace was far from bad in the film—if anything, his Tophering of the Venom character made him more entertaining than the black and white villain the comics presented. But while Spidey 3 went on to become the 25th highest grossing film of all-time, it did nothing to elevate Topher’s status as a movie-star. If there was ever a time that Topher wanted to retreat back to That 70’s Show, it was probably then—but it was too late, as the show that made Topher Grace a household name amongst households that recognized the name Topher Grace had ended, without him, a year prior.

Every single one of his co-stars went on to better careers than him. Even that foreign guy who dated someone for a time and did the Yo’ Mama show on MTV. Seriously.

Topher Grace is a strange subject to tackle for the first What Went Wrong feature, because it’s legitimately difficult to pinpoint the exact spot where something went wrong. It just did, so immediately and so irreversibly and, to this point, so tragically. It’s not like he was making notably poor decisions. He started by taking roles that suited his particular understated skill set — In Good Company and Tad Hamilton –– and when he was presented a role in a surefire blockbuster, as he was in Spider-Man 3, he gave us the most Topher Grace role that Topher Grace has ever Topher Graced. Unfortunately, Spider-Man fans and casual movie audiences alike apparently didn’t want the actor who was inherently supposed to out-McGuire Tobey McGuire, in a process otherwise known as Topher Gracing, to be Topher Grace.

When promos for Take Me Home Tonight began airing on TV in 2011, it was clear that something was amiss. Topher Grace was the star of a major motion picture? After four years of hearing nothing from his camp since Spider-Man 3? Nevermind that a hackneyed, stoner comedy named after an Eddie Money song was exactly the type of vehicle Grace would have starred in circa 2011. It betrayed my theory that Venom was never supposed to jump into that explosion at the end of Spider-Man 3, and Sam Raimi’s proposed plans for a Spider-Man 4 were nixed only because they had accidentally killed Topher Grace in a moment of fiercely passionate Topher Grace character commitment. But of course, after a bit of research, it was revealed that Take Me Home was shot in 2007, only to be shelved by the studio for four years. My Venom theory survives to this day.

Still, it’s not clear if Topher Grace is dead… yet. His career most certainly is. But the man inside the Tad Hamilton suit may be gracing us still, his intents guarded, his delivery reliably self-knowing and faintly sarcastic in nature.

The guy who played Eric Forman’s best friend on That 70’s Show has a new, shitty sitcom on TBS. We can only hope that Topher Grace is not Andy Kaufmaning us, and will come back with his own shitty TBS sitcom in the years to come. If not, at least those of us insane enough to suggest Laura Prepon’s career would outlast Topher Grace’s will have something to smile at when we visit Topher Grace’s Topher Grave.

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So Where Did It Go Wrong?: Probably Spider-Man 3, in the sad case where an actor’s career went to shit because a casting department’s judgment overshadowed a decent performance and made him completely unmarketable. Agreeing to do a film called Win a Date With Tad Hamilton and expecting a success probably didn’t help though.

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61 responses to “What Went Wrong For… Topher Grace

  1. Lest we forget, Topher Grace played Seth in “Traffic” another Soderbergh genius movie that won Benicio Del Toro an Oscar, duh, because he’s excellent as is that film.

    Grace made that during season three of “That 70’s Show”, and while he played a terrible person – a character that supplied and encouraged which then brought the downfall of Caroline (Michael Douglass’ daughter, played by Erika Christensen) to smoke opium – he was still in it. A face that was memorable only because we knew his face. But that movie is so littered with famous faces and details that he might’ve just blended into the overcrowded crowd (which was an excellent one at that.)

    “That 70s Show” was my shit when I was in high school and I loved it, until Keslo started dating the librarian and Donna went blonde. There was no reason for them to continue after they wrote Eric Forman off that show: he was the driving plot-line and the reason everyone on that show interacted with one another. Grace, I think, was greedy for something that he clearly couldn’t get (even now, he’s still not famous.) That show shouldn’t have gone past season five – as no TV show should. ALSO, The Pilot tells us it’s 1976…so how do we deal with that? They also used to centralize earlier episode with actual 1970s centered themes: the gas shortage, President Ford, the recession, et al. Then when they developed good characters, like any good sit-com, they focuused on that. The only saving Grace – hah! – in what should have been the end was WPPF, the radio station where Donna worked. Carsey-Warner and the Turners should know better. _end rant_

  2. I for one enjoy his portrayals in most of the movies mentioned above. I also think he has made good choices as far as the films in which he has appeared. Traffic gave him cred as anyone who acts in movies with such proven actors as Michael Douglas and Benicio Del Torres can do IF THEY SHOW UP and I thought Mr. Grace did great in that film. He definitely would do well to carve a career as a character actor and not necessarily the star with all the pressures of carrying a movie.

  3. All of you haters..? I left “That 70’s Show” because it just dropped. I started thinking about this around season six but yet it was such a hit.

    • Topher I think you carried the show as long as you know the show was ready to bomb and you got out. Which was the right thing to do. So you did a few movies. That I liked but they didn’t let you be yourself. Well now that you got that out of your system get back to sit-coms. If a movie deal comes up now and then take it. To hick up your ratings.

      What ever you do I’am with you. God Bless you and the the rest of the cast. Of the next sit-com you are in.

    • Topher! Don’t listen to these invalid opinions. You made that show for what is was. I enjoyed it and still watch it. These people don’t realize how hard the industry really is and so forth. You’ll find your way, just takes time. Good luck and much respect on getting into the industry.

    • i just started watching that 70’s show it is so funny , touching i really love it . i wish they made more like this .All of you were great together you guys were such a team that meshed together well. I hope they make more shows like that and the characters are just so like able . some hate to love them .these shows come along once in a long time. Be seeing you topher in the movies don’t stop that’s the only way to see you since we can’t stop over your house and chat . see you in the movies soon i hope in .
      Romance
      nice guy
      mentor
      your just that kind that everyone loves.

  4. I wouldn’t say every one of his That ’70s Show co-stars went on to have better careers than him, only Mila and Ashton. Topher is doing pretty well for himself.

    • Wilmer has acted with Tom Hanks an Oscar winner among other things. He’s talented, handsome and hot! End of Story!

  5. hahah, we’re going to have to hold you up to that last sentence. With the new critically acclaimed Netflix series Orange is the New Black, Laura Prepon may hold more relevance than Topher Grace yet. At least she manages to embody different roles and is not just Donna Pinciotti

    • She is quite an actress. Magnificent in Orange. Whoever cast 70’s had a good eye, even though they were all uneven performers to begin with.

  6. “…it’s not clear if Topher Grace is dead… yet. His career most certainly is.” – HA he has been cast in Christopher Nolan’s next film. Suck on that you stupid, bitchy, lame website.

  7. I liked TG on TSS, I STILL love the show! But after I learned how ‘snooty’ Grace was to the rest of the guys on the cast in real life, I lost almost ALL respect for him as a person.
    I think the reason he lost the game is because he’s just not all that ‘energetic’ of a guy. He’s not ‘interesting’ he aint got much ‘mojo’. He’s just a skinny, twerpy lil jerk that thought he was more than he was simply because he fit one character on one show so well(it was just luck that got him that part, right place, right time).
    I also think it’s obvious that he probably has a small manhood because he naturally ‘overcompensates’ whenever he has to try and play a character that is any more than a limp, ninny boy with a fail frown on his face. Even Donna played into this. She was all big and manly and she constantly made him out to be a sissy, fail machine.
    He was a comedy character that was the ‘butt of the joke’, his character was a blues song and it was fun to laugh at him. When he broke off from TSS he didn’t get placed in proper roles. He tried to play ‘serious’ more manly characters(not too manly, but characters that weren’t ‘fun to watch fail’). He played characters that you pretty much just hated and wanted to throw a tomato at. And that’s why I believe his career failed. He played characters that no one wanted to watch and it led him no where.

  8. Topher is great in every film he was playing, I hope he will have more roles. Why the guy supposed to be masculine ?Are all men masculine? Topher is talanted and different from many actors. Love him.

  9. Everybody needs to just shut the fuck up and keep your goddamn opinions to themselves grow a fucking pair and deal with shit like a normal fucking human being

  10. How can you say Laura Prepon and Wilmer Valderrama are more successful than Topher Grace? The only ones who are more successful than him are Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher. Laura Prepon has only done “Orange is the New Black” and she won’t even be in season 2. Unless you want to count the Lifetime TV movie Karla. She was in a couple straight to DVD movies like The Kitchen and Lay the Favorite. Wilmer Valderrama was on the horrible unsuccessful show “Yo Momma” and he was the voice of Handy Manny for god’s sake. Only thing he can be known for now is dating Demi Lovato. Meanwhile, Topher has been in Win a Date With Tad Hamilton, Spider-Man 3, The Big Wedding, Take Me Home Tonight, Valentine’s Day, Predators. In Good Company, and The Double. They weren’t great but they’re a lot more than what Laura and Wilmer have done. At least he has major motion pictures to his name.

      • I watched Predators 4 times. I’m still shocked to learn that Topher was in that movie. Totally forgot he was. The only thing that movie makes me think is “Why is AB playing the badass hero of the movie?”

  11. I am a genuine fan of That 70s Show. And like the majority of people that watched and loved the show, Eric Forman was the only character I truly enjoyed watching, besides Red and Kitty. Eric carried the show. He was the center of the circle. And his on/off relationship with donna was always entertaining to watch. Eric, played so well by Topher Grace, was charming and quirky and funny. Even now, watching reruns, it’s so easy to fall in love with geeky, sensitive Eric Forman. But I have to agree; Topher Grace ran too far ahead of himself. I think he yearned for something much bigger beyond That 70s Show and just couldn’t make a name outside of the show. I’ve seen almost all of the movies he’s starred in, and he’s just not leading man material like he was as Eric. And that alone saddens me greatly because Eric Forman is a truly amazing character in my opinion. And again, I agree with how the show should’ve ended a lot sooner then it did. Randy was a lame excuse of a character. After Eric left, the show just went flat as we all knew it would. How can take out the main character and expect the show not to lose it’s shine. I was glad, that even though it was the end and for only a short moment, Eric came back to donna. Nothing was resolved or said but a future relationship was implied and it gave us loyal fans the hope we desperately wanted when it came to Eric and Donna. I’m glad the show ended. I agree it overstayed it’s welcome and I HATE to agree, but…I think Topher Grace will never live up to his role as Eric Forman. Nothing he will do will ever compare, sadly. That’s my thoughts! Lol.

  12. He acted really well in predator had no idea he was a killer in the movie he played so innocent and clever letting them believe he was a Dr and shit his acting ability was great. Everyone who hating need to stfu though yall say they aren’t doing to well or they career when down the shit well guess what all of them make a lot more money then any of you. So quit your bitchin I don’t see any of yall on movies or shows making bank. Itleast they can act.

  13. Yeah, the article is far from accurate when it says the entire cast of That ’70s Show has had better post-show careers than Topher. Half the cast more or less dropped from sight, really (and poor Lisa Robin Kelly passed away, sadly). The real issue is that Grace was *expected* to be the ‘big’ breakout star of the lot of them, and Mila Kunis wound up being it instead.

    Topher was really great on the show though, that’s pretty unquestionable, by most fans anyway. Agree with all the commenters who say the show could’ve ended a couple of seasons before it did though. They just lost too many good actors/characters down the stretch… Lisa Robin Kelly got fired, Tanya Roberts left the show or got mostly written out, Topher left the show, Ashton left the show. They got pretty thinned out, and the writing started to go downhill on top of it.

    Then they tried to have Randy (who was flat awful) and Leo fill the gap, and way-upped the creepiness factor on Fez. Bad decisions all around (even though I love Leo, he’s more effective as a minor character).

    Topher’s problem post-That ’70s Show seems to be one of range and/or audience expectations. We all kind of expect him to be Eric Foreman in anything he does, and he hasn’t really done much to break out of that. Kutcher has been typecast too (often playing the dumb/silly/womanizing guy, aka guys who are sorta-kinda like Kelso), but for some reason he’s mostly gotten away with it up to now. Though he too faces a day of reckoning, once the very mediocre Two and a Half Men ends its run. Oh, and his Steve Jobs film bombed.

    Topher just needs to be in better-quality films (maybe establish some indie cred?), or go back to TV full-time.

    On the plus side, he has scored a role in Chris Nolan’s upcoming film Interstellar, but it seems like he’s a supporting character, i.e. a smaller role that probably isn’t going to fully turn things around for him by itself.

    Good luck, Topher. You were a big part of why That ’70s Show worked so well, for the first 5 or so seasons, anyway.

  14. I love watching Topher Grace.
    Wish he would stay the trouper and find his way in film again.

    He has that something special.

    DONT GIVE UP!

    GO TOPHER!!!!!

    Miss seeing you

  15. Topher was briefly on 2014 Left Behind after the rapture he is seen on the big screen in a plad red jacket scruffy faced

  16. Come back,So handsome,don’t be arrogant take less $and show them how awesome you really are. And then the parts will come . And sooner or later you will be happy and all will be talking. Stay the course

  17. He ruined venom my favourate villain I will never forgive him for that. The fact that you think he was more entertaining then the comic version obviously proves your dilusional. That venom is the reason I can’t even watch that whole series it sucked -10000000000/10 nobody I knows liked him he ruined one of the greatest villains in comic history.

  18. Is this a serious article? ashton kutcher and mila kunis are flavor of the week? Aside from the legend Tommy Chong, those two were the most successful to hold a place on the cast.

  19. This article was made in 2012. Almost 4 years ago. Since then, Topher has gotten himself into decent roles. So has Laura Prepon and the rest of the cast (excluding the parents). Topher was in Interstellar, American Ultra (large role), and now 3 more upcoming films. He’s picking it up!

  20. IT, IN MY MIND IS NO MATTER WHAT YOU SAY ABOUT MR, GRACE, HE MADE HIS SIT-COM WHAT IT WAS AND WHAT IT IS TODAY, HE PLAYED A NEW MAN ON THE BLOCK, WITH A MAN GOING DOWN, PLAYED BY DENNIS QUAD, WHICH KEPT ME GLUED TO MY CHAIR.
    HE IS TALENTED, FAR BEYOND WHAT ANYONE WANTS TO ADMIT TO,DOES HE HAVE A SPECIAL RANGE?, WHO KNOWS BECAUSE NO ONE HAS TAKEN THE TIME TO UNDERSTAND HIM AND THEN BROUGHT HIM ALONG SLOWLY. IN THE OLD DAYS, I WOULD HAVE RESPECTED HIM AND MADE HIM TRUST ME AND MADE HIM WHAT HE COULD BE. HIS ENTERTAINMENT WOULD HAVE BLOWN YOU ALL AWAY AS HE GOT OLDER AND BRAVER AND WISER, AS HE GREW.
    HE WOULD BECOME A REAL STAR THEN,,IN HIS OWN RIGHT. THIS IS A MAN WHO NEEDS HIS SELF RESPECT TO BE RESPECTED AS HE GREW. IF ALL YOU ANGRY JEALOUS PEOPLE WOULD KNOW THIS AND BE HIS FRIEND, YOU MIGHT BE WORKING AND ACTING ALONG SIDE OF HIM. SIGNED.. AN OLD MAN WHO USED TO BE IN THE BUSINESS. MR. GRACE DO NOT EVER SETTLE FOR ” I COULD HAVE BEEN A CONTENDER”…..I AWAIT….. CHUCK

  21. “Grace was widely perceived as the cast member most likely to break out of That 70’s Show and emerge a movie star” Ummm no I don’t think so!!! Please don’t write anymore articles while you’re on crack. He was shit in Spiderman and was double crap in Predators.

  22. i dont know why everyone is saying that ashton kutcher n mila kuni or the other are doing better than topher grace. i find all of ashtons movies shit…like common was punked suppose to be amazing???…it was an adult acting out pranks like what a frat boy would do. n all his movies have him playing someone who is clueless and daft n finally he gets the girl. jobs was so bad they had to remake the biopic wth michael fasbender. n yo mama seem to have the same theme as punkd… i find topher selects his movies…they may not be big budget movies but he has the balls to experiment. i find him talented..n i love the fact tht he challenges n makes do wth his ‘boy next door’ appearance…i think topher is doing really really way better than the others in terms of what an actor should really be. n laura prepon is now back doin great wth the orange is the new black…

  23. So I’m just re-watching That 70s Show, and I’ve noticed something, when I watched it the first time round almost 20 years ago now I was fully on Eric’s side, I thought Kelso was a dick, Jackie was annoying and Donna was the hottest girl alive. Now it’s pretty clear Eric was an asshole, Kelso is still a dick, Jackie is gorgeous and Donna is meh.

  24. Drew is a sanctimonious dick. Not a big one, a little dick cheese dick who writes like a retard.

  25. This was one of the most unintelligible pieces of writing ever. Trying to sound intelligent by topher gracie-ing the graciest topher ever, thus the review was tophered beyond all grace. Lol, stfu.

    • Topher Grace you rock man! Keep looking up you pot of gold is coming. Love your acting skills.Love the fact that you are the boy next door. Your just keeping it real, your time is now!!! Embrace it. I Just check out you movie Opening Night it was a hit!! Keep up the Great work,I’m a dedicated Fan!!

  26. I think he would’ve been a better carnage. I mean venom was reaching but let’s be serious almost anyone casted would’ve been scrutinized, still think he did a good job considering. Hope he gets a shot again.

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