If you’re a fan of action cinema, then you’ll already be more than familiar with Frank Grillo’s filmography. The actor has taken a more hands-on role in his output over the last few years since founding production company WarParty films with Smokin’ Aces and The Grey director Joe Carnahan, and the pair’s Hulu hit Boss Level gained a deserved reputation as one of the year’s most unsung and underrated genre films.
WarParty’s latest effort Copshop isn’t just Grillo’s eighth movie release of 2021, but it also marks his first time starring opposite fellow heavyweight action hero Gerard Butler. Fans of the pair have been eagerly anticipating the showdown for quite some time, and it would be fair to say that the gritty R-rated crime caper delivers on its promise.
We Got This Covered had the chance to chat with Grillo for a wide-ranging interview covering Copshop, The Purge 6, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and much more, and you can check out what he had to say below.
Teddy is a very different character than we’re used to seeing from you. You’ve got a great relationship with Joe Carnahan and you’ve been friends with Gerard for a while, so did that give you more room to make the role your own and build your idea of Teddy from the ground up?
Frank Grillo: Yes. You know, Joe and I are partners, so we choose projects together that we’re working together specifically for each other, and it was a chance for me… I don’t think the character on the page was necessarily me, do you know what I mean? So, I had to kind of play around a little bit and create a kind of sleazy character. But, you know, it’s hard for me to be the little, weak, accountant-type weasel, right? It just doesn’t work, physically. So we had to kind of make some adjustments. Some people will say it works, other people will say it doesn’t work. We put a lot of time into it, so… And I had a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun. Me and Gerry, we had a great relationship on set, back and forth with all the banter, and Carnahan rewrote the script from page one, and he made it a Joe Carnahan movie.
Gerard Butler said he always thought he’d play Teddy, but the dynamic works better because you’re both playing roles that are the opposite of what your fans would expect. Was that an easy switch to make once you and Joe got involved in the project?
Frank Grillo: Yeah, I mean I would have played either role. I think it’s easier for me to play the assassin, you know? But I’ve seen that in my own stuff too many times, so I wanted to have some fun with this, and I don’t know if I’d ever see big bad Gerard Butler as a weaselly Teddy Murretto! But we kind of sat down, the three of us, and talked it through. And we didn’t always agree. You know, Gerard thought my character should be a little bit more mysterious and not such a badass, and I had some different opinions, and Joe had some different opinions, so at the end of the day we kind of mixed it up and tried some different stuff. And we had a really great chemistry, the three of us. Actually, all of us, everyone in the crew and cast.
On paper it reads like a two-hander between Teddy and Viddick, but would you agree that Alexis Louder is really the ace of Copshop’s sleeve in terms of what she brings to her role, even though she’s up against two of the action genre’s biggest names?
Frank Grillo: Yeah, and you know, that was the plan. Joe and I, we auditioned a lot of women and we knew that, because you have to promote the film… I mean, Alexis Louder at this point… she will be, but she’s not a name that people recognize, and Gerry’s Gerry, and for whatever value I have. But yeah, we always knew that was the linchpin role, that was the pivotal role, and she just absolutely crushed it. You can’t take your eyes off her. So yeah, she’s the ace.
Movies like Wheelman, Boss Level and now Copshop are all action thrillers with premises that audiences are familiar with, but put fresh and exciting spins on them. Is that the WarParty remit, or can we expect to see you doing some slapstick comedy in the future?
Frank Grillo: I think Boss Level is about as slapsticky as I’ll get! But yeah, that is kind of our mission statement. But you know, I’m going to play Lamborghini, I’m doing a serious movie. I’m going to Rome on Wednesday to play Ferruccio Lamborghini in a biopic [Grillo replaced Antonio Banderas in the project to be written and directed by Academy Award-winning Crash writer Bobby Moresco]. So my idea is, ‘Look, I can do the action stuff falling off a log at this point, it’s pretty easy and fun, now I wanna go do some stuff and challenge myself’. I’m sure I’ll get beat up by critics, which I don’t really… It’s not my concern. But, I kind of want to do some interesting things, and stay with what I know as well, which is this physical action stuff. And elevate it, you know? If you can elevate it, it’s good.
Copshop is your eighth movie release of the year, and it’ll be nine next week when This is the Night arrives, which is also your third of September. Do you ever stop working?
Frank Grillo: No! I don’t! You know, I love to work, and I have a lot of friends in the business and I’ll get a lot of calls asking, ‘Hey, can you come and do this role for three days or a week?’. And I was just in a little movie called The Gateway with my friend Shea Whigham. And I like to go and play, I like to go to work. I do have actor friends that, like, they want to do a movie and that’s the end of the year. And I’m like, ‘No! I have lots of other time’. I know people say, ‘I’m tired of seeing you’, ‘You suck’, or whatever it is, but what are you gonna do? Some people like it, some people don’t.
So what is the status of WarParty’s next film, is that still going to be Leo from Toledo with Mel Gibson?
Frank Grillo: That’s a great question. I don’t know. I think Boss Level took a lot of energy and effort with Joe and I, and WarParty, and during COVID, and it was a very difficult movie to pull off for other reasons. So I think we’re taking a minute to kind of reassess what it looks like. I have four or five movies lined up between now and next summer, so I’ll probably… We probably won’t do another movie together until at least then.
Anytime James DeMonaco is asked about The Purge 6 he always says, ‘It has to be Leo Barnes’. I’m going to ask you for your perspective on the next Purge movie, because I’m actually speaking to James on Friday, and I’ll ask him the exact same question to see how different his answer is from yours.
Frank Grillo: We’re making that movie. We’re making Purge 6. I think he’s finished with the script. It does center around Leo Barnes. He called me… like, now I’ve done three movies with James, he’s my brother. So he called me and said, ‘What do you think?’. I said, ‘What do you think?’. Because he hasn’t directed any of them for a while. And he said, ‘I’ve got a great idea’. And I said, ‘You got a great idea? I’m in’. So, I think… I don’t want to date it, but I think we’ll be shooting that movie sometime second or third quarter of 2022, Purge 6. You’re the first person I told that to.
Kingdom [Grillo’s MMA drama that ran for three seasons between 2014 and 2017] has found a new lease of life on streaming, where it’s become more popular than ever. Is that something you’re proud of, when it was always underrated and underseen during its initial run on TV?
Frank Grillo: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’m so proud of that show. In fact, [co-star] Jonathan Tucker called me last night from Boston, he was in a bar and people were going crazy. It’s like… it’s reached so many people thanks to Netflix, and now Universal have picked it up on their streaming platform. So yeah, it’s probably in the top three things that I’ve ever done in my life. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the opportunity to do anything like that again, and I relish in the fact that people are now appreciating that. I get people all day long, mostly women, coming up to me about Kingdom. I get on my knees and I praise Netflix!
Obviously you’re a very busy man, but are there any regrets on your part over how your time with Marvel ended? Because you signed a five-picture deal and made three appearances, two of which were cameos, and there was plenty for your character to do in the future.
Frank Grillo: Yeah, it’s always been a bit of a heartache because it was going a different way, and then the popularity of Marvel just shifted. But, again, you would think that Crossbones and Rumlow were in ten movies, because even as little time as I had in the second Cap and no time in Avengers, people think Crossbones… I mean, look, I have probably fifteen different versions of Crossbones. He’s in the movie for twelve minutes, you know what I mean? So, I’m grateful. I can’t go anywhere on the planet without people saying, ‘Oh my god, Crossbones!’. And I’m like, ‘Really?’. That’s amazing, so I’m grateful for it.
Now that you’ve moved into producing, you and Joe are forging ahead with WarParty and you’ve got more ownership and control over your own projects, is there any type of movie or genre you haven’t explored yet that you’d love to dive into?
Frank Grillo: You know, we have a couple. Joe has this script, Leo from Toledo, it’s very much in the vein of L.A. Confidential, it’s the sequel to L.A. Confidential, so there are some serious things I’d like to do like that, which are pretty much straight dramas. And I wanna be able to dabble in the horror genre, but mash it up with thriller/action, and I think that’s what The Purge: Anarchy was. It wasn’t really a horror movie, it was more of a thriller with a bunch of great action, so something like that I think is really interesting.
That concludes our interview with Frank Grillo. Copshop is in theaters from today, September 17th. You can check out our review of the movie here, as well as our exclusive chat with Grillo’s co-stars Gerard Butler and Alexis Louder.