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Frank Grillo on Creative Freedom and Character Development in THE PURGE: ANARCHY

Horror had a big year in 2013 with Mama, Texas Chainsaw 3D and The Conjuring cleaning up at the box office. But probably the biggest surprise hit of the summer was none other than James DeMonaco’s Blumhouse feature The Purge. I enjoy the film a lot, not because it’s a perfect movie but because to me, it feels like a long episode of The Twilight Zone. It’s a parable of sorts discussing income inequality, class and violence. According to writer/ director DeMonaco, this was intentional: “The family in the first film isn’t particularly noble, which is not normal for a Hollywood film. We fashioned The Purge to be a morality play about this one family’s comeuppance and the lessons they learn about violence, money and class. It was built to be more provocative than commercial, and now it’s both.” Now, a year later, The Purge: Anarchy will hit theaters tomorrow and the film feels less like the horror/ home invasion film in line with its predecessor and more like a 70s exploitation action flick. Speaking to Nerdist about his role in the follow up, actor Frank Grillo discussed his character in the film, working within the Blumhouse model and the message at the core of it all.

It didn’t take much to get Grillo to sign on to the follow up to The Purge. The actor explained the process by saying, “Because the script was so good, because I thought I could do a lot with the character and create one of those characters that I loved watching in the 70s… [and] I felt like I could do something with this and I love James DeMonaco and they [Blumhouse] were hands off with us so it was kind of a no brainer.” The actor continued discussing working within the low-budget Blumhouse model. “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 make the movie you want to make — which is rare, and we were able to do that.”

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Grillo and DeMonaco also worked closely together to develop Grillo’s character, something that the actor was happy to do. Said Grillo, “Originally my character had said a lot more and had 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. I’m not introducing [myself], I don’t want to be friends with anybody.” It’s like, the Charles Bronsons, the Steve McQueens, the Lee Marvins, those kind of guys, and he said, ‘That’s perfect, let’s do that.’

At the end of the day, Grillo recognizes that there is some sort of message to The Purge franchise. “The action is even tertiary to the story, to what’s going on.” He continued, “There is a political message here… That was another thing DeMonaco was clear about wanting people to think after the movie. Be entertained first and foremost but to think a bit.”

The Purge: Anarchy opens in theaters today, July 18.

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