In this weekend's feature film The Grey, the jaws of death are literally snapping at actor Frank Grillo's heels. When a plane crash strands several roughneck oil drillers in the frozen Alaskan lands, they must band together to battle injuries, a pack of blood-thirsty wolves and Mother Nature's icy grip. Grillo (Prison Break, Warrior, The Gates) spoke exclusively to us about harsh weather, eating wolf meat and playing the bad guy in The Grey.
FEARnet: How would you describe your character Diaz, who has been referred to as the antagonist of the movie?
Frank Grillo: Diaz is a guy who spent a lot of time in prison. He's on the other side of conventional wisdom and doesn't really care about anyone else. Through the course of the film, and having to bond with these guys, he finds a bit of altruism. There's a shift in who he is and about midway through the movie, he makes a discovery. You have a sense of empathy for this guy.
The Grey sounds like a nail-biting thriller. What initially grabbed you about the script?
It's a movie about men, that tells a story about their fears and vulnerabilities, which not many movies do these days. The script was brilliant. It's the best thing [director] Joe Carnahan has ever done. I told him "I'll play any role. Just get me in the thing." I'm very grateful.
Survivors of this plane crash are pursued by hungry wolves. When you originally read that, were you concerned you'd have to interact with the real deal?
The script itself was as perfect as it can be. My only concern from the beginning was how are these wolves going to look and how are we going to be able to react with them? To Joe's credit, and a great team, they created these animatronic wolves. There's a little bit of CGI and there's some real wolves. We always had the feeling the wolves were around us. The wolves are supposed to be a bit metaphysical and primal and mystical. It's not like we're looking at regular old wolves.
Can you talk about filming on location in Smithers, British Columbia?
It's crazy. I was telling somebody I still have a bit of frostbite on my toes. It was 30 degrees below zero and snowing all the time. For Prison Break, I was in Chicago for a pretty brutal winter, but that was like Tampa Bay compared to being in Smithers.
At the same time, those extreme conditions must have added an authenticity to The Grey...
It was actually a blessing because there was no acting required. What you see on the screen is real. There's no CGI mountain or river. It really lent itself to making this film look as beautiful and real as it does.
What was the worst day, when you wondered "What the hell am I doing here?"
There was a day where, because of the time constraints, we could not come in out of the cold. We literally had to stand in the middle of a barren land, up to our waists in snow, with the worst winds. I think they almost reached 100 miles per hour. We could not see each other and we were only standing four feet away. It was about 30 degrees below zero and we had to stand there for seven hours. It was the one day I thought, and Liam [Neeson] said to me, "I don't know if we're going to be able to do this." It was intense.
Did you ever get a little stir crazy filming in such a remote area?
I did not get stir crazy because we had such a great bond with the other actors. It just became kind of fun. It was like we were in camp together. Every night, we would go out together, drink wine together and talk about the day. Oddly enough, it was the most fun I've ever had as an actor.
Survival movies such as Lord of the Flies and Alive often put human behaviour under the microscope. What does this movie have to say about people?
That's a great question. I think at the end of the day, what it says about people is we're all unpredictable, but at the same time, we all want the same thing. None of us want to be orphans. We all need each other. When faced with our mortality, we almost all become the same. It just goes to show you. You look at a thing like the tsunami in Japan and how when nature wants to just wipe us away, there's nothing we can really do about it. How fragile we are is something that I'll take away from this.
The Grey features some pretty horrific events. In terms of suspense, how does this differ from your previous genre credits such as My Soul to Take or Mother's Day?
Those are strictly genre movies. They are horror films. I did them for non-artistic reasons, whether it was money or something else. This is a movie that crosses genres. There's a bit of horror, for sure, but there's action, suspense and adventure. There's another element... there's this existential element that really makes the movie far more interesting to me than those other things. It asks the big questions.