Set over one lawless night in future Los Angeles, The Purge: Anarchy tackles the hoary question of what you’d do if crime ruled and only the strong and/or extremely heavily-armed survived. Empire, who would cower under the nearest table, was so impressed by Frank ‘Crossbones’ Grillo’s tough guy activities in the film – a blend of punching, kicking, shooting, driving really fast and looking exceptionally cool at all times – that we decided to quiz him on the Hollywood tough guys who impress him the most. “I’m probably going to give you some off-the-wall answers,” the erstwhile SHIELD man laugh-growls down the phone from his Los Angeles bunker. Fine with us Mr. Grillo, sir.
"My first pick is Jimmy Cagney. He was a little dude. I’m about 5”10' and a half, but Jimmy Cagney was tiny – the size of my wife. But when you think about Jimmy Cagney, he owned it. It’s one thing to be The Rock and the biggest guy on the planet and knock people around, but to be Jimmy Cagney and have people believe that you are that guy? That’s a task. It’s something internal – I think he believed he was The Rock."
"My pal Tom Hardy is a passive guy to know him. He’s a little dude – he’s smaller than I am – and when he’s not jacked up he’s probably 160lbs, but Tommy, like Cagney, has got this inner rage and this believability about him. It’s those kind of guys that I love: those quiet little guys."
"There was this series of three B-movies back in the ‘70s called Billy Jack. Tom Laughlin who played this (Navajo and ex-Green Beret) character was a small guy, but he just took care of business. Arnold Schwarzenegger and those guys were fun to watch, but they were cartoonish. I don’t want to see guys with too many abs. I don’t relate to that. (On his credit for 1994 exercise video Power Abs) Back in the day I’d do anything for a dollar. I had to eat! I never got a copy of that VHS. By the way, I had no idea how to do abs."
"To me, he might be the guy. I love The Dirty Dozen. He’s not quintessentially handsome, he’s tall but he’s lanky, but you want to be that guy. I laugh about [the idea of being a tough guy] with my wife, because I’m not. I don’t walk around intimidating people: I’m sweet; I consider myself goofy; I have three sons, but I’m not afraid of anybody because I grew up boxing and wrestling, and I had a black belt in jiu-jitsu. You can bunch me in the face ten times and it’s okay. A tough guy, to me, stands for something and he’s not afraid to get a beating. I’m around Hollywood people a lot and I’m not going to name names but a lot of guys who claim to be badasses, they’re not. It’s all manufactured. The Lee Marvins, the guys who fought in World War II or Korea and became actors, they’re men."
"I love Charles Bronson. He didn’t have a lot of range and he wasn’t a great actor, but you couldn’t take your eyes off him. What’s my favourite Bronson role? I’ve smoked a lot of pot in my life, so I don’t remember a lot – no, I’m kidding – but for me Bronson is all about the Kersey and Death Wish. He’s not likeable and he doesn’t apologise. I’m attracted to that because I’ve been raised in a movie world where men have become emasculated. There’s nothing wrong with it but I don’t connect with guys like that. I like guys who are a little rough around the edges. When the shit goes down, that’s the guy I want to be next to. They called Bronson ‘the ugly one’ in Italy. My nickname, which has become Americanised, is Kiki, which means ‘beauty’ in Italian. My grandfather was a handsome man (laughs)."
"He’s one of my favourite actors. Again, not a great actor – in fact, maybe not even a good actor – but when he’s on screen you don’t take your eyes off the guy. I must have seen Bullitt 150 times. He didn’t say much; he’s a guy who cut out all of his lines. He looked great in jeans and a T-shirt, all the women wanted to have sex with him, he rode motorcycles, raced cars... he’s the dude. That’s a movie star."
"Who’s the toughest guy I’ve worked with? Statham. He’s a great athlete; a great drinker. He’s not a big guy – he’s smaller than me – but he’s physically imposing. I don’t know how well-versed he is in actual fighting – it doesn’t matter – but he’s badass. If something’s going down, you want Statham next to you. More than any of those guys from Expendables 3, aside from Randy Couture. He’s also a good guy, he’s in on the joke. He doesn’t walk around thinking he’s king shit. In a sweet way, he can be unsure of himself and he’s not afraid to let you know that. I love that about him. And he’s got a beautiful girlfriend."
"Clint Eastwood is in a category all by himself. From the moment you see his silhouette in High Plains Drifter you know that's someone you don’t want to fuck around with. I’d be the most narcissistic person [if I compared myself with him] but if I could channel one thousandth of what he has on screen I would be successful. He was a big influence on my character in The Purge: Anarchy, with the silhouette, the coat, the hair... I had big hair in the movie as an homage to Clint, because he always had great hair in his Dirty Harry movies. He always looked good in a long shot. Clint Eastwood probably has the most famous eyes in Hollywood history. And the voice! It was all an homage to Clint Eastwood. The Outlaw Josey Wales is one of my top three movies."
"The Purge: Anarchy also homages [Kurt] Russell, Snake Plissken and John Carpenter. Was there any thought of wearing an eyepatch? Maybe in Purge 3 (laughs)."
“I gotta throw in Stallone – he’s been a badass for a long time. Also the great (MMA trainer) Greg Jackson, my technical consultant on Warrior, and a trainer of many champions in the UFC. People still quote ‘Feel the Beethoven’ at me, and a lot of that I attribute to him. I lived with him for two months and stole dialogue from him. What’s my preparation for a scene? Gosh, I just try to go still, and not manufacture or invent anything. Just let it happen. It’s how I live my life and try to stay stress-free."
The Purge: Anarchy is out on July 25.