In James DeMonaco’s The Purge: Anarchy, Frank Grillo plays Leo, a grieving father, who sets out on the night where all crime is legal for a 12-hour period. During this ordeal, Leo’s personal mission experiences a few bumps in the road when he is forced to rescue and protect victims of The Purge. The sequel takes place a year after the events of the first film, and reveals just how large the socio-economic gap is between those who can afford a security system during The Purge and those who cannot.
We had a chance to talk to film star Frank Grillo about his character Leo, what it was like to shoot during late nights, how the concept of the Purge came about, Captain America 3, and his response to those who are calling to him to play as The Punisher. Hit the jump to read the entire interview.
In this movie you are so badass.
I am aren’t I? Somebody asked me if I went to a school of badassery.
So what characters inspired you to create Leo?
It was Snake Plisken, Cobra, beleive it or not, Outlaw Josey Wales, you know that movie? Clint [Eastwood] was badass, he didn’t say much, that was badass. Even my clothes, like I designed the clothes I wore. It was supposed to be a psudo-duster, like a frock. We were really concerned with the silhouette of the guy. It’s kinda cool, even my son thinks it’s kinda cool, and he never thinks it.
The producers have said there is a tough guy quality that comes with Frank Grillo, so is there a pressure to be the tough guy?
I don’t know where that comes from, like I am a gentle – I have three sons, I don’t raise my voice to them, I love being a dad. You know what I am? I’m a blue collar guy, who people can relate to, because I’m a working stiff, I’m a journeyman. I grew up fighting, I grew up boxing, I grew up with Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, my son’s name is Rio. I was invovled with the Gracie family way before the UFC. So I guess I carry myself – I’m not really afraid of people, like I don’t have a fear of another man. I fear a lot of things in my life, I fear my children getting hurt, or sick, or my parents dying, but I don’t wander the streets fearing other people, so maybe that is somehow conveyed on the streets, because I am really not a badass.
But you play them so well.
I know. My mother even said: How did I raise you?
So there is a funny side to you, would you ever consider doing a comedy?
You know, one of my first jobs was doing a sitcom with Gary David Goldberg, who created Family Ties, and I loved it, I got to be campy, and people just don’t see me that way. You’ll probably never see me in a romantic comedy, in fact, let’s go on the record: You Will Never See Me In a Romantic Comedy. But I would love to do a smart comedy, even that thing [James] Franco did with Seth Rogen last year, This Is The End, I’d love to do a comedy with them.
You got to get in with that group.
I know, but I don’t have any friends.
You’ve said that you weren’t afraid of humans, but what possibilities or scenarios would cause you to fear them?
I’m afraid of what people are capable of doing. I mean I live in New York City, I was born and raised in New York City, I see what random acts of violence look like. I’m afraid of the unknown of it all. I think people are unstable. And I think people are put under a lot of duress, especially people who with different socio-economic backgrounds. I grew up in a bad place, and a lot of people who I grew up with come from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and it was bad for them, and I understand you eventually wear that, and that’s when the clashes are terrible. And that’s why I think we should take the effort to be better with each other.
With that said, what do you think about the concept of The Purge.
I think it’s great entertainment. It really makes for great entertainment. I’ve told a few people that the way The Purge came about was that James DeMonaco, the film’s director, was with his wife, whom I know very well, who’s a doctor, saves people’s lives, and they got cut off in New York, on a highway, and they were really shaking, and she said: “If I could kill that guy and get away with it, just once, I would do it.” And a lightbulb went off, and he said: That is in every single human being, it is in our DNA.” I think all of us though, not to kill people, but just to go back – and that guy in high school, I would take care of it, right? Haven’t we all had that thought, I mean if I could just pick up those pair of earrings and walk out of here, without no one seeing me. We’ve all had that.
Now during our screening, a lot of people were applauding when Leo and his group were killing the rich.
Were they? I haven’t seen it with an audience, I’ve only seen it by myself. How about when I get the eldery woman out of the car. Did you know they wanted me to kill her? But Universal people felt that it was too much. They didn’t want people to look at me a certain way. It was interesting, like you kill her; how about this, you headbutt her. She’s 97!
The movie resonates, because its about status quo, and you get back at those who hurt you.
Right, that’s what we want. That’s why I signed on to this movie, because I wanted to explore this whole journey this guy was going to take. His whole life, now, all he cares about, is taking care of this thing. And when it comes down to it, that is not who he is. He opens his heart, and he starts to live again, instead of dying. In a film like this, its only only fun to keep fans on the edge of their seats, but also to say something, and go on some kind of existential journey.
Were there any major challenges about this film?
I thought really hard about the end, when I was in the home with the people, how artistically I wanted to go some place, how is this going to serve the movie, is this going to throw people off a bit, are people used to seeing this in movies like this, and to Demanico’s credit he said: I trust what you are doing, I think you should just do it. We only did it a couple of ways, so I didn’t have much choice, he couldn’t cut to something else, and I think it worked. I though the emotion didn’t go too far, and it cut away soon enough, and you got to see who the guy was.
Same could be said for what kind of people who harbor that kind of hate. IS there a place you pull from?
I do. I have a friend who was in Iraq, who was in the war, who saw some terrible atrocities. He was a special ops guy, did some bad things, and came back to this country, and was basically discarded by the government. It was terrible, he was injuried, and they made it really difficult to get the minimal amount of service. The amount of rage and hate that this guy – and he wasn’t like this when I knew him when we were young. But her harbors, I tell him: You’re gonna die, you gotta stop, you got to let it go. You’re going to kill yourself. You are literally going to die from the inside out. And that’s – I hope he doesn’t mind me saying this, but that kind of animosity – and by the way I have three kids, and I look at my babies, and if anyone were to hurt one of my kids, I would kill them. That’s it, it’s over. Where your head goes, the body follows.
Was there anything different about handling any of the weapons in Purge: Anarachy than it was in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, etc.?
I’m every skilled – I’m in a TV series right now, where it is my gym, and I have these two sons, and its very dark, and has very serious language, all of that stuff, I can do better than any stuntman, so it helps the process, but I don’t know how to shoot guns. I know from how I was taught how to do films, how to look real when doing films. I am against guns, I do not advocate guns, I do not want a gun, I do not need a gun to protect myself, that being said, people have the constitutional right to carry and have and shoot a gun. I personally am afraid of guns. Some how again, it’s like the Badassery School of Badassery, and somehow I can manage to make it look like I am really good. And when I am doing it it’s fun, I feel like I am 8 years old playing cops and robbers, but at the end of the day “here’s the gun, I got to go.”
What about the car in the film? You could tell that Leo has been working on this for a long time.
Isn’t it cool, you could tell that he has been planning this. I don’t think he cars about coming back from where he is going, all I think he cares about is how he gets there. And so he spends all his resources – it’s interesting that he’s in that kind of bad apartment. He spends all of his resources on that car, making sure for the last year that he’s can get to where he’s got to go. And it starts to crack, when you see the morsels of emotion that kind of string the audience along to make sure in the end it pays off.
So I got to ask, what do these night shoots do to your personal psyche?
Oh man, it turns your world upside down. I can’t sleep during the day time, my body clock is normal. WHen it’s light, I am wake, I don’t sleep enough as it is anyway. It really lends – you start to go cooky, in a week you start to lose your mind. You do. At one day, I thought I saw Elvis on a giraffe, I was falling asleep – it’s like being on drugs – I was falling asleep, and I saw Elvis on a giraffe, clear as day. And I was afraid to ask anybody else if they saw Elvis. It lended itself to the intensity of the film, so it made the film better. In a sense you begrudgingly go to work at 6 o’clock at night, makes the movie better.
But I makes other jobs that much harder?
Oh man, by 4 o’clock in the morning, they wanted you to jump out of a truck. I was like – my body is like no. First of all, your 20 year too old, and it’s late, go home, and you’re not getting paid.
But you’re in such great shape.
Yeah, I’m in great shape. It’s a lifestyle I’ve lived for nine years. I wrestled collegiately, so I’ve always dieted, I’ve always – I then I boxed. You always have to cut weight. I’ve always had a bad relationship with food, so I have to stay in shape. Always. It’s just a lifestyle. It’s not vanity. I don’t work out like a body builder, I don’t do any of that stuff, but it’s a lifestyle.
SO are you happy where you are at now?
Oh yeah. I think – the friends that I have – I’ve done everything from soap operas to sitcoms- I’ve done everything. And I’ve managed not to damage myself credibility wise and stay on anything to long – I remember they wanted me to stay on Prison Break for four years, and I told them I am done after one year, I’m gone, I don’t want to be on the show, I don’t people recongizing me from a TV show, it’s not good. But I love doing it, I was on a soap for a couple of years as a kid, I love doing it. And I got paid. Paid to act. I got enough enough money to where I can afford to do a movie for free, and that movie was Pride and Glory, with Gavin O’Connor. That started a chain of events for me, eight years ago, as an to work with that quality of an actor with Ed[ward] Norton, [Nick] Notle, Jon Voight, I learned – then I took acting way more seriously, and it changed my life, and struggled a bit. Because now you have to be taken seriously. I mean knock wood, I’ll be doing anything.
Are you signed for a sequel?
James and I have been talking about the Michael K. Williams character, Carmelo. Hey, listen, if nobody goes to the movie Friday, you’re not seeing another one of these movies, certainly not with me in it. But if they respond positively, we’ve already started some talks about it.
Considering you are from the streets of New York, was there anything that scared you about the streets of LA.
Did you know how many rats are on the streets of LA. Did you know the rat that crawled up Kiele [Sanchez]’s leg? That’s a studio rat. That’s an actor that rat. It was four in the morning, we were in an alley, hundreds of rats came out of their building to watch the friend the rat who made it. We had to get three of the guys to handle – I live in New York City, I grew up in the South Bronx, you want to talk about rats, there are rats like German Shepards, I’ve never seen so many rats in Los Angeles, there are a lot of rats.
Do your kids play with a Crossbones action figure?
They do, they are waiting for Crossbones. For me, I signed a multi-picture deal with Marvel, and I signed on with the Russos, this is an Origins film, and it’s no secret who Crossbones is in a Captain America film, and Kevin Feige is the Oz of it all. So he’s behind the curtain pulling all the strings, and they don’t tell you every much. But what they do say is I have to clear every movie I do with them, to make sure the timing is okay, and so far we’ve been good, and I am cautiously optimistic that they will let the audience see where Brock Rumlo really goes.
There is a campaign out there to get you to star as the Punisher, do you think you’d be up for that role?
It’s so funny, more than anything, people have been saying to me: “Are you going to play The Punisher?” Yeah, I will, call somebody.
The Purge: Anarchy opens in theaters on July 18.