Frank Grillo may be one of the most prolific actors in the business, but he recognizes a worthy collaborator when he sees one, and today's release of Little Dixie marks his third collaboration with writer and director John Swab.
The duo, who have previously collaborated on crime thrillers Body Brokers and Ida Red, have given a fresh coat of paint to a classic formula in Little Dixie by telling the story of Grillo's Doc Alexander, who takes matters into his own hands to embark on a brutal rampage of revenge after his daughter is kidnapped by a brutal Mexican drug cartel.
We Got This Covered had the opportunity to chat with Grillo about his approach to Little Dixie, his fruitful collaboration with Swab, some exciting future projects, and the dream remake he's been planning for years.
When I spoke with John last week and asked him how you ensured that Doc's journey would not become so dark that he became irredeemable, he said, "I don't know if you've killed people or not." I wouldn't put it past you. However, you are one of the nicest guys I've ever met, but you might assail me with your bare hands."
You know, it's a duality, and that's why he and I have such a good connection. He kind of understands me and doesn't pigeonhole me in any way, shape or form, and that's probably the best thing anyone's ever said about me, brother!
I also asked John why he believed so many actors were so willing to work with him on so many projects, which he attributed to the culture he's created on his sets. From an actor's point of view, what is it about working with John that stands out the most for you?
Brother, he's so cocky. He's so prepared. He's never unwell. And this guy is in his early 30s. You know who they are, and it's a shitshow. We only do one or two shots because there's not a lot of time or money.
So, for me, I don't get to experience this much; to walk on a set and trust the director implicitly. It's just a great belief, and a great joy. So long as he hires me, I'll work with John Swab.
Is it now that John calls, you're 100 percent in, no questions asked?
I'm 100 percent into it, and I have to tell you. On a film, I'd probably spend 1/10th of what I'd normally spend. He knows that, and whether it's a lead role or a supporting role, I'm in.
Both you and John will recognize Little Dixie in a familiar wheelhouse, but the plot and characters are painted in different shades of gray. Is it always a conscious decision on your part to ensure you're not repeating yourself, even if the broad strokes of the genre are familiar?
That's a great question. Yes, it's a big deal. If you see the movies we've done together, they're never the same. There's never even something that is remotely similar in the characters I play that John plays. It's fun, and each time it's a singular experience, you know?
I'm getting to witness this youngster evolve as a director in a way that... I'm a father of three, and he's almost like my fourth kid! I'm so proud of what he's accomplished in such a short time, and how he's getting actors like J.K. Simmons, Harvey Keitel, and Melissa Leo in his town. These are all award-winning actors who want to come and play with him.
For many reasons, I'd love to hear your thoughts on two of your future films: Year 2, because Frank Grillo versus werewolves is so absurd that it must be seen, and The Resurrection of Charles Manson, which is directed by your son Remy.
I'm so proud of what he's achieved as a 26-year-old man. Year 2 will be a blast. It's like a World War Z apocalyptic film.
I think it's going to be a great experience to have that theatrical release, as well as to have a lot more stuff in the works in 2023!
What would be the definition of a Frank Grillo dream project, as in someone giving you unlimited funds to make whatever you wanted without limitations, and why would it be?
I would rather not have to spend that much time on a remake of my favorite film, Bullitt. I wouldn't, I wouldn't need that much at all. But I'd just love to remake Bullitt. That's why? The other day I was talking to a young actor about Steve McQueen's book.
And he was like, 23 years old, and he had very little knowledge of who Steve McQueen was. And for me, Steve McQueen is one of the reasons why I became an actor. And I wish for me to be able to obtain that and recreate it again, which will never happen, but that would be my aim.
Little Dixie is now available in select theaters, on-demand, and digital. Check out our review of the film here, as well as exclusive interviews with writer/director John Swab and star Annabeth Gish.