Frank Grillo plays Sergeant. The gruff executioner in The Purge: Anarchy. During a Q&A, Grillo discusses the film, his character and meeting James DeMonaco.
Q: How was your experience with this movie?
A: My experience on this movie was great. When I met with James DeMonaco early on, we had talked about what we had wanted to do with the movie, and that’s the exact thing that happened. Which is rare. We made the movie we that wanted to make. So if you don’t like it, it’s my fault.
Q: Have you seen the first one?
A: I didn’t see it until after I signed onto this. They offered me the movie, I read the script, I loved it. I love Demonaco, Jason Blum, all good people. And then I went to see the movie. And then, I understand. He wanted to make this kind of movie first, this kind of movie, but he had 3 million bucks, and I don’t think he ever expected this to happen. So now he made the movie that he wanted to make.
Q: What was it like shooting in Downtown LA?
A: It was great. I haven’t worked in LA in years. And not only did we get to shoot in Downtown LA, we did it at night. And we only had 28 days, so we had to move fast. Which I think it added to the intensity of the movie. Cause we were intense all the time. But it was great, I’m glad to keep movies, to keep some productions here in LA. You know, we have the best crews in the world, and so it was good. Hopefully if there’s another one, we stay here.
Q: You say that this is the kind of movies that you wanted to make, so is there some type of Evolution from when you first signed on to what this movie turned out to be?
A: Originally my character had said a lot more, and it introduced himself at one point to the other four people. And I was like, you know what. Let’s cut this dialogue. I don’t need to be talking. I have a mission, they’re an obstacle. I’ve got to get around this obstacle, but continue. I’m not introducing; I don’t want to be friends with anybody. You know it’s like the Charles Bronsons, the Steve McQueens, the Lee Marvins, those kind of guys. He said that’s perfect, let’s do that. And so it did, it went through a couple of evolutions. And the great thing about making movies with Blum is that yes, he doesn’t give you any food or a trailer, but he gives you complete creative freedom. And so I’d rather bring a brown bag and be able to make a movie that you want to make, which is rare. And we were able to do that.
Q: Were you aware of that Blumhouse method when you signed on?
A: They make it very clear very early on. You’re not going to make any money up front. So I said, okay I’m working free. ‘You’re not going to have a trailer’, said okay. I just got off Captain America, my trailer was about as big as that truck. So I was like, I’ve made it. I’m never going back. It’s like flying first class, when you think I’m never going back to coach again, until the next flight where you’re in coach. So I knew going into it, so I know also, how successful the first one was. So, my incentive is, if the movie does what it did first, I get paid. You know, so if we make a great movie. All the money goes into the film, which is not a bad way to make a good movie. You know, there is a lot of fat in movie making, and if you get rid of it, I think that’s why he kinda changed the business a little bit.
Q: The audience I saw the movie with was yelling, and screaming, and cheering, and were so into it. So I was curious for you was, did you guys want those kind of reactions?
A: It’s so funny because, when I was a kid, I reacted to the movies. I remember going to see Rocky, screaming and crying. I miss that. So to hear that, cause I haven’t seen the movie with an audience, I saw it by myself. But we were hoping to get the people frightened, and to get the sense of anticipation, that psychological, screwing with your mind psychologically, so your imagination can take over as opposed to us showing everything. So to hear that is great.
Q: There is a lot of running and jumping over obstacles in this movie, were there any accidents?
A: Yeah, I still have it. There’s two things. I got a broken finger, which by the way, that’s bone. That has to be broken again. And there’s a point where I’m in the truck and I jump out, I shattered my knee. So, what I had to do for the remainder of the movie is every night wrap my leg every night, 4 times over with tape and ace bandages, and I have to have surgery on my knee. So, I took one for the team. I’m always getting hurt though. In Captain America I get hurt. And I did a movie called Warrior, it’s about mixed martial arts. This is a family saga, and the backdrop is mixed martial arts. All I do all day is fight, and so everything hurts, all the time.
Q: Do you have a background in Martial Arts?
A: I do. I’m an advanced jui jitsu practitioner for a very long time with the Gracie family. In fact, my sons name is Rio, cause I spent a lot of time in Brazil. I’m a boxer for 25 years, I box everyday still. I was a wrestler in school and college. So I am a very physical person. I used to say myself why don’t I learn another language, or play the cello, or I don’t know, the guitar? Why am I always in the gym? And now I know. And one of my best pals is Liam Neeson, from the Grey. And I said, Liam, I’m starting to get these things like him. And at 58, he did Taken, like he’s done so many things before that. But now Liam is an action hero and he said, I got one piece of advice, keep your knees healthy. I said, too fucking late.
Q: That’s actually one of the things I liked most about the first movie, and this one too. Its kind of like the Twilight Zone, like it’s got this great message at the end. Is that something to you that was appealing, you know, yeah you got this action thing, but….
A: Absolutely. The action is even tertiary to what’s going on. You know, I brought up Liam Neeson; when I did the Grey, and I read the script, and I saw my character, who seems like a bad guy, you know he makes such a beautiful journey, and to me, I signed on to the movie because I wanted to explore this journey, this existential thing that men, and this was the same kind of thing. So yeah, I mean, first, and foremost, if you don’t find something like that in the character, and you just do a movie to do an action movie, then you become the cliché, kind of, not that it’s a bad thing, the kind of Jean-Claude Van Dam thing. Even, and I love him and I think he’s great at what he does, but Statham movies. He’s the guy who you expect that thing to happen, and so, we wanted to kind of flip it, and surprise people and hopefully that’s what happens.
Q: You said that you shot the movie in 28 days, everyone seems to have really great chemistry, how did you guys bond off set?
A: Oh I hate them. When you do a movie like this and you have a limited amount of time, and a limited resources, limited space, and all that stuff. There’s a comradery that forms quickly, because you’re in it together, for the right reasons. Nobody is in it to get rich, everybody’s in it for the right reasons, and those are usually the best movies. Those are the best times. And Kiele, once I started working with her, on the movie, I’m doing this TV series, and there was a role and she plays my girlfriend in the TV series, and her name came up during casting when we were looking for people and I said, I’m working with her right now and she’s great. And through that, she met with the Director, and now plays my girlfriend on this TV Show. So great things happen.
Q: Was this film a small budget?
A: Small, it was 12 million dollars, or 11, 999,990 went into the movie, and like $8 bucks went into like, us.
Q: What made you want to do this role?
A: Yeah, I mean. You know because the script was so good, cause I thought I could do a lot with the character and create maybe, not an iconic character, but one of those characters that I loved watching in the 70’s. You know, to me, to be the leading guy, I’ve been offered things where I could’ve been the lead, but they weren’t real good. And I don’t want to be the lead of a bad film, so I’d rather be supporting in a great movie, you know? But I felt like I could do something in this, and I loved James DeMonaco. And they were hands off with us, so it was kind of a no brainer.