When Topher Grace graduated up the Hollywood chain and started adding producer credits to his resume, it dawned on him that he had little idea what went on once his duties in front of the camera were complete. After giving what turned out to be some bad notes to an editor, Grace, 35, realized that he needed to enhance his film education, pronto.
“I’d never been in editing before, and as with a lot of actors, you shoot the movie and go, ‘What took you guys so long?’ at the premiere,” Grace told TheWrap. “And once you’re editing, you go, ‘Oh my God, there’s so much work to be done.’ I felt so bad that I started getting into editing.”
The result was what ultimately became his new website, CerealPrize.com, a compendium of all things Grace, including abbreviated versions of cult movies.
His first major project was a re-cut of the second “Star Wars” trilogy, for which he winnowed down three massive films into a tidy, 85-minute adventure. He did it on a lark, choosing the prequels because he needed a ton of footage (and, as he says, the trilogy “only had one good movie” in it combined). When he was done, he held a screening of the finished product for some bloggers in Los Angeles.
Given the venom felt toward the second of George Lucas‘ trilogies, and the fact that many bloggers gave favorable reviews to the ultra-slimmed story of Anakin Skywalker, the screening became a topic of considerable conversation. Grace wasn’t on Twitter, though, and realized that he needed a way to join in the conversation.
“I thought, I’m just not witty enough to write something in 140 characters,” he admits. “Here I can say, in 140 characters or a Facebook post, ‘Hey, come to my room every day and hang out, and I’ll have something cool to share.’ And I like doing original stuff, a lot of it is just calling attention to stuff I like.”
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Right now the site is populated with old and un-produced scripts, lost pilots, short films, funny edited images, and other pop culture ephemera. Also, more of those re-cut films. First up: A trailer-length cut of the Brock Landers porn films from “Boogie Nights,” which featured star Mark Wahlberg (as Dirk Diggler) — and John C. Reilly (Reed Rothchild) as gun-slinging sex machines; much of the footage came from the DVD extras.
Grace released his latest creation (below) exclusively to TheWrap.
While he didn’t consult “Boogie Nights” director Paul Thomas Anderson, Grace says, “I can’t wait to hear from some of these filmmakers,” and that it’d be his dream to have some of the directors of his re-cut movies at his screenings. Consider that an invitation to Steven Spielberg; one of Grace’s next big “premieres” will be a new version of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” which will feature a “remix,” as he calls it, of the many different alternate versions of that film.
Another film Grace has heavily tweaked is Joe Wright’s 2007 drama “Atonement,” which he whittled down to 20 minutes and gave a happy ending.
“It’s all done out of reverence for the material, none of it is done to make fun of the stuff,” he said.
The one major rule for the actor — and he is still primarily an actor, with roles in Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” and the Aubrey Plaza-Chris Evans comedy “A Many Splintered Thing” on the way — is that he won’t re-cut projects in which he’s appeared. That includes the show that made him famous, “That ’70s Show.”
“It’s a little self-centered and also very hard when you’re in it, because you have a vain opinion of the actor in it,” he explains. “That’s why, I could have gotten my hands on films I’d been in and cut them, but the reason I want to do other films is, you’re really thinking about the whole two hour experience, not one performer in it.”
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CerealPrize.com will offer one new post per day, making it a low-commitment endeavor that Grace still says will provide a more natural approximation of his personality and communication with fans.
“There are kind of a couple ways to have a communication with the audience if you’re not in a film,” he says. “If you’re in a film, that’s coming out — we all know what Jennifer Lawrence is up to. The studio is essentially paying $100 million, multiple studios in that case, to have us think about her all the time. And if you’re between films, people have turned to social media. There are other ways to do it, you can date someone publicly, you could be a spokesperson for something, you could be a fashionista and be on the red carpet. That just wasn’t working exactly right for me.”