'I'm not ready to leave'

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Old 17-Oct-2011
'I'm not ready to leave'

UNP ImageThey gush about the beauty of the cities, the wonder of the Arabian architecture, the lure of the desert sands, but the reality is most stars jet in and jet out.

No sooner have they tasted their first chicken sharwarma, than the steady flow of A-listers who grace the UAE are strapped safely back in their first class seats and off.

Not actor Topher Grace. He does things his way.

"I've extended my stay by a week or so already," Grace told tabloid! just hours before his first red carpet appearance in the UAE on Saturday. "What an amazing place. I am not ready to leave and want to see as much as I can. It's fantastic," he added, before also admitting part of his decision was also swung due to it being "quite a flight".

Unsure whether it's because of the sincerity of his varied yet convincing movie roles or just the fact he has one of "those" voices, I would have put 100 sheets on the 33-year-old being a total gentleman.

Spot on. From the second I picked up the phone he was every bit as polite as I'd built him up to be. "Hello Kelly, I'm calling for the interview."

Topher Grace is calling me? Surely not? Scrap that, of course not. "Perfect, you can connect me when you're ready," I instinctively replied, the celeb routine a given.

"No it's Topher," he said. "We're all about the hands-on here," he quickly added with a laugh, thoughtfully disguising my utter embarrassment.

Grace, of That '70s Show fame as well as numerous Hollywood blockbusters, was in town to fly the flag for the team at the world premiere of the spy thriller The Double, directed by Michael Brandt.

The movie is part of Hyde Park and Abu Dhabi-based Imagenation's $250 million (Dh918.11 million) financing deal to make up to 20 films over a seven-year period, with additional financing for the production of local language and cross-cultural films.

"I try not to get involved in any of the financial stuff, but what I will say is this," said Grace. "It was great to do a film where very little of the emphasis was ever about the money. It was about making the best movie we could. It's quite common to feel rushed on set because we're all aware time is money. The guys from Imagenation were not like that. It was terrific."

Brandt, also in town for day three of the fifth Abu Dhabi Film Festival, and his writing partner Derek Haas, who wrote movies including Wanted and 3:10 to Yuma, penned The Double, which begins with a murder of a senator in Washington by a Soviet assassin long thought to be dead.

The story follows retired CIA operative, portrayed by Richard Gere, who spent his career going toe-to-toe with his Soviet nemesis, who is forced to partner with a young FBI agent, played by Grace, to hunt down the killer.

Brandt said he was a fan of films including The Conversation, Three Days of the Condor and No Way Out, and hoped to follow in their tradition.

For Grace it was all about learning from the best. Playing alongside Gere, Grace found himself somewhat lost for words when attempting to describe his co-star and peer.

"Working with Richard Gere is like finding the best CEO of a business and being able to shadow him for a week. Learn from him. Pick up all the tips. There's a reason he has been so good for so long and it's not a coincidence."

A huge fan'

A wonderful opportunity for Grace meant an even bigger one for his mother. "I've filmed in Connecticut just five minutes from my home and my mother didn't make it on set. Detroit is a few hours away, but someone showed up to support me on set of The Double."

Needless to say much of Mrs Grace's "support" headed in the direction of Mr Gere rather than her son.

"She's such a huge fan. Who isn't?"

Grace next had little issue divulging his sleeping arrangements for the summer.

"I was back in bunk beds after many years because I was filming in my home town this year," he said before laughing out loud when asked whether he preferred the top or bottom bunk. "It was bottom bunk all the way, I'm afraid. I'm too old to be having any accidents."

Raised in Darien, Connecticut, Grace made a name for himself as Eric Foreman in That '70s Show. He has since starred in many Hollywood hits from romantic comedies with Scarlett Johansson, In Good Company and Valentine's Day, to giant sequels like Predators and Spider-Man 3.

Not bad for a boy with no formal acting training. "Everything I've learnt has been through a process of osmosis," he explained.

"Michael Douglas, Dennis Quaid, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Richard Gere. I love working with my peers, people who have achieved so much. But these guys are so much more than that. They are good people. People that are liked. People who others want to work with."

Grace attended school in Massachusetts for two years, where he began his acting career in musicals. He later attended the University of Southern California but dropped out to pursue a career in show business.

That '70s Show creators, Bonnie and Terry Turner, parents of a fellow college pupil, saw him in a high school play and "gave me a shot", said Grace. Apart from school plays, Grace had no acting experience before landing the role which would soon launch a long and successful career.

"I try and stay grounded and focused," he said, humble to the end. "You can have all the formal training money can buy but if you don't work on yourself, sometimes you'll get nowhere. The true greats are genuine people and that's part of what has got them where they are today. I'm trying to find time to work on me."

Old 17-Oct-2011
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