Non-spoiler alert: Ethan Hawke is most definitely not back from the dead.
In last year’s futuristic horror hit, The Purge, the actor’s do-good character was killed off by vigilantes who are allowed to let loose one night a year in a government-sanctioned violence party. In the sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, out Friday, Frank Grillo steps in as the star who fends off would-be killers.
We spoke to Grillo ( Captain America: Winter Soldier, Disconnect) from a spooky trailer set up in the Design District, where the New York native was partaking in “The Purge Experience,” a fake-blood-spattered labyrinth in which fans of the movie pay good money to be terrified out of their minds.
How did it feel coming into a sequel?
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I spoke to [the writer/director] James DeMonaco, and we thought it would be a great idea to see where this story could evolve. It wasn’t like I was taking Ethan’s spot. He dies in a very specific, contained way. Anarchy starts it all over again.
Legal killing for 12 hours is quite a concept. What is it about this movie that makes it popular?
It is impactful and intense, way more than the first one. I mean it’s like, ‘Eek!’ I get it. I understand. I felt the same thing. So is it human nature? Listen, in some weird way I think it is. People jump out of airplanes, ski down mountains they shouldn’t, wrestle alligators. They want to do things to wake themselves up. And you come out of this movie awake.
You’ve played a cop often in your career. What about the script attracted you to the part?
I loved the premise and also the idea of being an antihero. When I was growing up I would see films with Lee Marvin, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood. These were guys who didn’t say much but did a lot.
How did you get physically prepared? What were the biggest challenges?
It’s my thing to be in shape. I had just come off doing Captain America, where there was a lot of gun-play and fighting, so it was kind of seamless. We shot in downtown L.A. at night. Basically, you have a short window in which to work. There were lots of rats running around. So you had to navigate through that, but at the end of the day that [pressure] makes my job as an actor easier.
Do you think there would ever be a real-life Purge in the future?
I hope not. There is so much senseless violence in the world. In no way do we condone it in this movie. But it does raise the question: Who would you kill if you could and there would be no repercussions? Is there someone who makes you that angry that you would do such a crazy thing? Movies are fantasy. We go there to escape so we would hope that you escape there and not in your real life.