“First movie I saw with my pop. Longest Yard with Burt Reynolds. I said “I wanna be that guy””-Frank Grillo
On his twitter page, Frank Grillo plainly states, “I’ll fight any superhero with my bare hands.” That’s the essence of the gifted actor and tells you all a movie loving soul needs to know about this underrated performer. He is blunt, worthy of your attention and a lot more than “a face of film” in my opinion. Grillo is a born and bred New Yorker just hitting the age of 50 this year and he hasn’t lost an ounce of will. The statement could be blindly tied to his role as Crossbones in the next summer’s Marvel sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
However, when taken on its own, the Twitter bio can be placed on top of Grillo’s entire career. He’s a fighter in this game of filmmaking and always will be. Grillo takes on Jason Statham in this week’s Homefront and I had to chance to ask him some questions about his trade craft.
While his first role was a bit role in a 1993 film called Deadly Rivals, I remember him hitting my vision in 2002’s Minority Report playing an officer colliding with Tom Cruise’s runaway cop. That is signature Grillo. Bashing skulls with the pretty boy movie stars and leaving a dent in your mind long after the credits roll. In 2011’s Warrior, Grillo played a MMA trainer who brought Joel Edgerton’s professor back to the land of hand to hand combat warriors. You didn’t catch his face on the poster, but that isn’t the point. The point is the performance Grillo turned in that caught critic’s and fan’s attention. To an actor, it’s all about the work.
When I call him a character actor, Grillo respectfully disagrees and lays it out firmly but fair. “I’m not a character actor. Who is really? Ernest Borgnine, I guess. I’m an actor. I’ve been leading on TV and in film. You need to understand the business to understand who’s the guy and who supports. It’s not a meritocracy. A Character actor is an old term for an actor who plays the same character.” Again, this is blunt response and not an actor being rude. I respect Grillo for bringing it straight with me and not phoning in the answer.
When I ask him how much time he gives to a script to hook him, he says it usually happens quickly. “First ten pages and I’m in or out. It’s a gut thing or a money thing. If the script’s good, I’ll do anything.” Too many actors languish on scripts until they force themselves to do it or do so at the request of their agent. Grillo sounds like an actor who takes his career and puts it in his own hands. There is an old school grace about him that flickers throughout his words. He leaves the B.S. to other actors.
Grillo continues on the idea of the label of character actor being overused. “It all has a lot to do w international value. Those guys are brilliant. But don’t necessarily have a lot of drawing power. Not a meritocracy.” He sounds like a guy who knows what he has to do and will just keep fighting his way through juicy roles.
I asked him who is the biggest badass he has ever faced on film and his answer is unequivocally quick. “(Liam) Neeson. Hands down.” Grillo and Neeson shared the screen in the outstanding and underrated film The Grey, directed by Joe Carnahan. There is hope that Carnahan and Grillo will remake a Charles Bronson film someday if funding comes through.
What is up next for Grillo? A lot of versatile film fare. In 2014 he has Demonic with Mario Bello. Captain America: Winter Soldier. Big Sky with Kyra Sedgewick and Bella Thorne. A Conspiracy on Jekyll Island with Minnie Driver and John Lequizamo, Ed Westwick, Mary McCormack as well as a Direct TV series called Navy St., which Grillo compares to Warrior.
My favorite Grillo scene is clear cut. He is magnetic in every role he takes but his role as Sarge in End of Watch involved a scene at a cop’s wedding where Grillo’s weary and wise cop tells this group of soldiers about this incident with a partner. He tells these young men how this guy took a bullet for him and that the bullet “was mine and he took it.” Grillo says it was “last minute” and it plays in parts during the wedding scene but it’s one of the lasting images I took from that film and I rated it my top movie of 2012. Grillo was a big reason for that. He was so good as Sarge you would have thought he wore that badge for years.
That’s why Grillo calls himself simply an actor. That is what he does and he does it very well. I implore you to check out this man’s work and get to know his name as well as his face. He has big things ahead of him and while fighting superheroes may be involved, I personally think something a lot better awaits Grillo.
After answering these questions the day before Thanksgiving, Grillo says thank you and that my work here on him is much appreciated. Trust me, Mr. Grillo, for this film-addict, the pleasure is all mine and it will stay that way as long as he keeps working.
Signature Frank Grillo Films–The Grey, End of Watch, Warrior, Homefront, Pride and Glory, Disconnect, Prison Break, and a brief stint on The Shield.
Connect with Grillo on Twitter at his handle, @FrankGrillo.
Written By Dan Buffa
@buffa82 on Twitter
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Getting to talk to Frank happened on a whim. Truly, out of nowhere. I praised his work in a tweet on Tuesday and he replied in gratitude and I asked him about a quick interview and he complied. This interview was done over Twitter direct message. A way that Twitter is powering my passionate career as well as many others. The global ground of opportunity.)