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Whatever Happened To The First Actor To Play Venom In Spider-Man 3

At this point, Topher Grace has long since accepted that he's always going to be remembered as "the kid from That '70s Show," but he's never spoken badly about the long-running sitcom. The actor once told Slate that he was "a loser in college" and never expected to be fronting his own show at such a young age, which took some getting used to. Speaking to the Toronto Sun in 2017, Grace explained that growing up TV famous was "not an easy adjustment, but it was wonderful, because I had a bunch of kids my age going through the same thing with me."

After eight years on the show Grace wanted to transfer his sitcom success to the big screen, and Sam Raimi offered him a way to do just that with the role of Eddie Brock/Venom in Raimi's Spider-Man 3, widely considered one of the worst comic book movie miscasts of all time. Even Grace himself isn't sure why he was ever offered the part.

Spider-Man 3 wasn't the worst superhero movie ever made, but it was by far the worst in Raimi's trilogy. The general consensus was that the director had tried to shoehorn too many villains into the picture, and Grace's Venom was the worst-received of the lot. It was supposed to be a launching pad, but playing the Marvel anti-hero had the opposite effect on Grace's career initially. So what's he been doing since? Here's what happened to Topher Grace.

He's still living off That '70s Show money

It might not have reached Friends levels, but the sheer amount of money involved in the syndication of That '70s Show is still pretty mind-blowing. The show was snapped up for reruns long before it even stopped airing, generating millions of dollars. It's unclear just how many of these millions have landed in the pockets of the cast over the years, but in the case of Topher Grace, he's earned enough to never have to work again if he chooses not to.

"For me, five or six years ago, I looked around at my life and I had just met the woman who is now my wife," Grace told IndieWire in 2018. "I was feeling really confident and good, and it occurred to me that I was really lucky to have been on a sitcom for a lot of years. I realized then that I didn't really need a lot more money." When he spoke to The Hollywood Reporter the following week, Grace was asked about a possible That '70s Show reunion, and (as he's done on several occasions in the past) he said he was down for it. "For me, I'd do it if no one ever saw it," he offered. "Just 'cause it would be great to hang out with them for a week or something."

He distanced himself from the big studios

Spider-Man 3 brought Tobey Maguire's stint as Marvel's wall-crawler to an end, opening the door for the Andrew Garfield-led reboot. Grace was out as Eddie Brock as a result, and over the next few years he tried his hand a few different things. Grace took on the role of secondary villain Edwin in 2010's Predators and even won a part in 2014's Interstellar, but his casting in Christopher Nolan's sci-fi blockbuster was met with surprise and even derision from certain sections of the media. It wasn't long after that he turned his back on the studio system altogether.

"I don't want to slam it, because it really works for some people, but I think it's financially motivated," Grace told IndieWire. "If you play the same thing over and over again, it's very easy to make it a commodity: 'We know what that guy does, so we can pay him to do it over and over again.'"

The actor explained how he quickly came to the realization that playing against type and accepting a wider variety of roles was much more satisfying, even if it wasn't as profitable. "It's not financially a good decision to keep changing it up on the audience," he admitted. "But for me, personally, it gives me the chance to work with creatives. You feel so much more alive than doing things that are preprogrammed."

He's become a star of the indie scene

His attitude toward the studio system could have easily backfired on Grace, but instead of resigning himself to the life of a onetime sitcom star, he set out to prove that he could really act. Spider-Man 3 left question marks over his ability, but as far as Grace was concerned he just hadn't been given the right material yet.

During his 2018 sitdown with IndieWire, the actor revealed that he told his agent he wouldn't do "anything but work with auteurs" from that point on. It was a decision that paid off: Grace has been quietly carving out a reputation on the indie scene since, and his hard work was rewarded in 2018 when he was in the only two U.S. films competing for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival — Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman and David Robert Mitchell's Under the Silver Lake.

"The most wonderful thing about having two movies here at Cannes, which is a total coincidence, is that I feel like it's a confirmation of how I've been working for the past few years," he said. "I just want to work with people where I see their film and go: 'I will do whatever your next film is." I don't have to sit there and decide if it's going to be good or not."

He struck a chord in BlacKkKlansman

Grace plays a minor part in Under the Silver Lake, but he's a major player in Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman. The New York native took on the unenviable task of portraying white supremacist David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. "Obviously David Duke is a horrible person, but the role was so juicy," Grace told Vanity Fair. "It's a scary thing as a performer, especially if you are really, really liberal or have very different values — as I do — than that character."

When he spoke to The Playlist about the hugely positive reaction to BlacKkKlansman, Grace revealed the personal cost of playing a man like Duke. "I did a full month of research," he said. "The worst month of my life. Just this terrible process, because in researching him, you have to listen to all of his bulls*** ideas." He suffered for his art, but in the end it was worth it — the movie has been a smash with the critics (it's Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), praised as Lee's best work in decades.

The same is also being said of Grace, who delivers a career-best performance. In fact, the actor was so convincing in the role that he's actually been getting threatening phone calls from an anonymous member of the public. According to TMZ, a mystery caller warned Grace that playing Duke onscreen would "ruin race relations in America."

He's still besties with Brad Pitt

Prior to winning the role of Venom in Spider-Man 3, Grace appeared as an exaggerated version of himself in Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven and popped up again in Ocean's Twelve, sharing the screen with Brad Pitt's character Rusty on both occasions. He was actually scheduled to make a third cameo in Ocean's Thirteen, but had to back out because of a scheduling conflict caused by Spider-Man 3 reshoots. The actor later revealed what Soderbergh had in mind:

"I was gonna see Rusty [Pitt] going into a casino and I was gonna stop him and the whole time I was going to be holding an Asian baby but we weren't gonna say anything about it," Grace told The Film Stage. "The first one was cards, second was wreck a hotel room, and the third one was that." Fortunately for Grace, it wouldn't be the last chance he would get to work with Pitt — he was offered the opportunity to play his old buddy's media advisor in 2017's War Machine.

"He's a great leader," Grace told People at a special screening of the Netflix war film. "We were all happy to be following him through the desert. And everyone has great chemistry, we all really loved each other."

He grew up and got hot

While you weren't looking, Topher Grace grew up and got hot. That was the headline used by Flare when they printed their War Machine interview with the actor in May 2017. "Not that Topher Grace wasn't a cute and totally respectable actor before," Jennifer Berry wrote for the Canadian fashion mag. "But with his new film War Machine [...], everyone's favourite scrawny 1970s basement stoner is grown the eff up and holding his own among a cast of serious actors."

Grace went and pulled a Neville Longbottom on us, but he was actually taken off the market a few years before he played PR exec Matt Little in War Machine. He was snapped up by the stunning Ashley Hinshaw (True Detective) in 2014 and before long she was planning their wedding, much to Grace's relief. "I don't do any wedding planning," he told E! News. "It is not up to me... I'm just going to show up."

The pair tied the knot in 2016 and the following year they welcomed their first child into the world. According to People, Hinshaw kept the pregnancy quiet to begin with but finally confirmed it via Instagram in August 2017. By November, she had given birth to Mabel Jane Grace, making her dad the latest That '70s Show star to join the parent club.

He starred in his own musical

We've established that Grace doesn't like to pin himself down to any particular type of role or genre, but did you know that he developed and starred in his own musical? Before you rush off to search YouTube for clips of him singing (in fact, we'll save you the trouble), we can confirm that the film is just as bizarre, but nowhere near as bad as it sounds. In fact, 2016's Opening Night was a hit with those critics that bothered to see it, earning a respectable rating on Rotten Tomatoes but still flying way under the radar of the wider public.

"I've always been approached to do indie-type films, but the opportunity to partner with Isaac [Rentz] on this type of project was really exciting," Grace told Hello Giggles. "Singing in front of an audience is like going to a dance in middle school — you have to accept that you don't really know what the end result will be, but you shouldn't be scared." It was the first time that Grace sang on film, but he's actually well-versed in musicals, having been a huge fan of them since childhood.

"Oh man, La La Land blew my mind," he told BriefTake in 2017. "I remember just watching that first scene on the highway, thinking, 'That is more effort than most people put into an entire film, and I haven't even met the two lead characters yet.'"

He was behind Tom Hardy as Venom

When Grace's portrayal of Eddie Brock in Spider-Man 3 was panned by the critics it must have been particularly hard for the actor to take, seeing as he was a fan of the character growing up. Speaking on Michael Rosenbaum's Inside of You podcast (via CinemaBlend), Grace revealed that he was shocked when Sony approached him with the role because in his mind he wasn't the right type of guy to play Brock.

"I was a huge fan of the character of Venom when I was a kid when Todd McFarlane brought him into the comic," the actor revealed. "I was a huge fan of it. And I was surprised and a little bit like 'Huh?' when they wanted me to play it." The Tom Hardy solo Venom movie was just around the corner when Grace gave this interview, so unsurprisingly he was asked what he thought about it. The former That '70s Show star gave Hardy his full backing and praised the studio for getting it right this time out.

"When I look at it now, at the movie that's coming out, I go, 'That's the guy.' In terms of how I think the guy should be played and who should play it." Grace echoed these sentiments when he spoke to Inverse about Hardy's Venom, calling him "the best dude" and insisting that he was "thrilled" about experiencing a Venom movie as a paying customer.

What's next?

What's next for Grace? It seems like he intends to capitalize on the buzz surrounding BlacKkKlansman with a variety of different roles. He'll get the chance to do some soul searching when he begins research for 2019's Breakthrough, a faith-based movie in which he'll play a pastor. The film is to be produced by NBA star Steph Curry and is based on the book The Impossible: The Miraculous Story of a Mother's Faith and Her Child's Resurrection.

Grace will also take part in National Geographic series The Hot Zone, which will star Games of Thrones' Liam Cunningham among others. The series (based on the book of the same name by Richard Preston) is about the arrival of the Ebola virus on U.S. soil in the 1980s and follows the men and women trying to contain it. But before any of that, we'll get to see Grace return to TV with the hourlong comedy drama Treasure Squad.

Described by Deadline as "The Big Chill meets National Treasure in the tone of Pineapple Express," Treasure Squad will reportedly revolve around "a group of childhood friends who used to go on treasure hunts as kids and reunite after years apart for one last big adventure." As well as starring, Grace is co-writing and executive producing. He might have flown under your radar for the last decade, but Grace has never really gone away — and it looks as though he's going to be around for some time yet.