Exclusive Interview: Actor Frank Grillo Discusses The Grey, Complicated Bad Guys, Eating Wolf and More
Actor Frank Grillo is relishing these past few years of his career. Not only did he recently star opposite Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte in the critically acclaimed flick Warrior, but he’s already earning rave reviews for his star-turning performance opposite Liam Neeson in Joe Carnahan’s The Grey, which hits theaters this Friday, January 27th.
Dread Central recently caught up with Grillo on the phone and heard more about how the actor came on board The Grey, his insights into his complicated character, what it was like to eat wolf meat alongside his cast mates and what’s up next for him in 2012.
Grillo, whom some of you may recognize from his previous genre efforts including iMurders, Minority Report, My Soul to Take or Mother’s Day, discussed how he came on board The Grey for a role that the actor saw as both an incredible challenge and an opportunity. “It was a gift to get to play a character like Diaz, who feels so rooted in reality; that usually doesn’t happen a lot these days. I usually get offered roles that are a complete 180 from me so it was great to play a fictional character and incorporate elements of myself into him. I’ve been friends with Joe and I’ve wanted to work with him for a long time now because I really love his style of filmmaking. Thankfully, after Joe saw a cut of Warrior and saw what I did in that film, he asked if I wanted to come on board The Grey to play Diaz.”
“I live in New York right now and I’m not an LA-type actor so I’m always up for a challenge like The Grey, especially since Joe wanted to get all of us out in the middle of nowhere to make it,” added Grillo. “Most directors would have shot on a soundstage and faked everything in post, but it was important to Joe to do this right, and I was completely on board for anything this shoot was going to throw at us over the six weeks we shot. One thing I will say is that it certainly wasn’t hard to ‘act’ cold since most days it was around 36 degrees below zero. In fact, the hardest challenge for me really was being able to dive into this character and serve him justice- the cold didn’t really bother me because I knew in six weeks we’d be wrapped and I’d get warm eventually.”
In The Grey Grillo portrays sociopathic ex-con John Diaz, who is forced to deal with his own inner demons in order to survive the unimaginable when the plane carrying him and a group of his fellow roughnecks goes down in the middle of nowhere in the Arctic. His character acts as the abrasive foil to Neeson’s level-headed character Ottway throughout the film, and while Grillo was happy to be on board the flick in any capacity, he discussed his initial concerns over playing a one-dimensional character that is only around to act as a hearty meal for some bloodthirsty wolves.
Grillo explained, “When I first started reading the script for The Grey, my first thought about Diaz was ‘Here we go again- another tough guy jerk-off character that’s only there to make Liam look better and to get eaten by wolves.’ I mean, to be honest, I’m a working actor so I would have been good with Diaz being just that kind of character, but thankfully, as I kept reading through the script, Joe makes him into so much more and gives him a real arc and I just fell in love with the role. It was so great to be given a real arc for a change- usually these guys are the ones you want to see die, but by the third act you’re rooting for Diaz to make it through this ordeal, too, and that’s something special.”
“John’s definitely the kind of guy who has spent a lot of time in prison so I thought, in order to really get into this guy’s mind, I need to spend a night in jail; so I did. I stayed at Riker’s and it was a pretty intense experience. While I was in there, I talked with quite a few of the inmates and saw how a lot of them managed to just slip through the cracks. Some of them were even really funny and charismatic guys and that made me realize they were far more than just inmates; they weren’t one-dimensional so I worked a lot on making sure Diaz wasn’t one-dimensional either. I think the most telling thing I could say about Diaz is that he’s the kind of guy that believes in God but knows that God doesn’t have any belief in him at all,” added Grillo.
Even though Grillo was able to prepare himself for the bitter cold shooting conditions on The Grey, the one thing he didn’t prepare for was having to consume actual wolf meat while filming Carnahan’s harrowing tale of survival.
“All of us that were on set are huge animal advocates so handling the ‘wolf’ aspect of the story while respecting them was definitely a concern for everyone on The Grey,” said Grillo. “and since our characters have to eat wolf meat at one point in the movie, Joe thought that we should all experience it in real-life so we actually drove about an hour away from set to eat wolf meat. I guess the wolf we ate had gotten too close to a camp and was threatening the residents so he had to be taken out- I don’t think we would have agreed had the wolf been killed for sport. But the one thing I can tell everyone is never eat wolf meat because it is just awful. So gamey and gristly – just a godawful taste – but the experience did bring us all together so that was good, I suppose.”
With The Grey coming out this week, recent rave reviews for his work as Frank Campana in Warrior, which was released this past September, and four features slated to come out this year, we asked Grillo his thoughts on all his recent cinematic success.
“You know, having Warrior and The Grey both come out within a few months of each other has been a great ‘one-two punch’ for my career since I was blessed to get to create two amazing characters in two very wonderful films. I’ve been at this for a while know so I still keep pinching myself over all this- it’s pretty amazing,” expressed Grillo.
Open Road Films will release the highly anticipated, action-packed survival thriller The Grey (review here) in theaters nationwide on January 27th, 2012.
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