Conversation: Topher Grace and Dylan Kidd

Photo: Andy Friedman

New York filmmaker Dylan Kidd’s sharp 2002 drama Roger Dodger, the tale of a teen who learns manly lessons from his cruel uncle (Campbell Scott), won raves. In his sophomore effort, PS, Kidd sticks to what he knows—heartbreak and corrupted innocence—casting the lovely Laura Linney as a divorced Columbia University admissions officer who seduces a young man, That ’70s Show’s Topher Grace. Rebecca Marx spoke to Kidd and Grace.

So, how did you decide to adapt this book?

Dylan Kidd: Our first movie involved a really angry male protagonist. We were sent every script Neil LaBute would pass up … This had a really compelling female protagonist.
Topher Grace: I got sent the script and a copy of Roger Dodger, which I had never seen. I wasn’t a thousand percent into the project, and then I sat down with Dylan at that restaurant Pfiff, or—what’s it called? Poof?
D.K. Yeah, it’s eight consonants. The restaurant sounds like the noise you make when you blow a raspberry.
T.G. Pfiff. In Soho. We had such a great time. And then also they decided to give me the role. That was a big part of it, too. [Laughs.]
D.K. To me, 90 percent of directing is casting, as Billy Wilder once said. Not to turn it into a whole Lana Turner moment—clearly Topher’s career is chugging along quite nicely—but [Grace and Linney] had a certain chemistry.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but you lost your onscreen virginity.

T.G.. That is right. It’s funny, because I’m in this movie with Marcia Gay Harden, but all I can talk about is that I had a sex scene. My friends can’t wait for the premiere.

Columbia looks a lot better in your movie than it did whenI attended. I was curious about what it was like to film there.

D.K. We wanted [Linney’s character] Louise to feel like she’s trapped away like Rapunzel in a tower, so we screened The Last Emperor and movies that had walled cities or mazes. What’s great about Columbia is we have all these scenes [where] you actually see in the background that classes are going on and kids are walking around. You can’t put a price tag on that sense of being in a real place.

Topher’s performance is a bit reminiscent of Campbell Scott’s in Roger Dodger—that nervy, staccato speech.

T.G. Dylan had Campbell Scott tapes and said, “Copy this!”
D.K. At a certain level, no matter how much you try, you probably end up making the same movie over and over. There are some similar issues: the older character taking anger and angst and dumping it on an innocent.

Second-time directors always get horrible scrutiny.

D.K. You’ve just got to do it right away. Get in some rhythm where you’re making a movie every eighteen months so there’s no speculation of, like, waiting for Quentin Tarantino’s next movie. The guy’s under such a microscope.
T.G. I think that should go above the title: “Dylan Kidd’s Second Film.”

PS, Newmarket Films; October 15.

Conversation: Topher Grace and Dylan Kidd