Now in theaters is The Purge: Anarchy, writer/director James DeMonaco‘s follow up to last summer’s surprise hit The Purge, which presented a horrific dystopian vision of a near-future America. In 2022, under the guidance of the New Founding Fathers, every American is entitled to a yearly twelve-hour anything goes crime spree. It’s an intriguing concept, rife with possibilities, and for the sequel DeMonaco expands on the most interesting ideas of the first film by leaving behind the relative safety of suburbia and focusing on class warfare in the blood-soaked streets of downtown Los Angeles.
I recently jumped on the phone for an exclusive interview with producer Jason Blum. We talked about the endless possibilities of the film’s concept, making the world (and production) bigger for the second film, casting Frank Grillo, and how cinema’s rapidly evolving technological landscape is changing the way Blumhouse Productions makes films. We also had a chance to catch up on a ton of his upcoming projects, which you can check out here. Hit the jump to see what he had to say.
JASON BLUM: Oh gosh, don’t believe everything you read! [Laughs]
I never do, but yours is next level. There are an absolutely ridiculous amount of projects on there. It’s like a novel.
BLUM: [Laughs] I’ll have to look at it, I haven’t look in a while. Is it that scary?
BLUM: Oh God.
Jumping into The Purge: Anarchy. This is a really big production for you guys.
BLUM: It was like Transformers for us, are you kidding? Massive.
BLUM: It was nine million dollars. Normally I make three movies for that amount.
Exactly, and you operate on a pretty reliable formula, is this indicative of any change in your method?
BLUM: No, definitely nothing new about it. Our movies are all under five million dollars, but the sequels are not. So the Paranormal sequels, the Insidious sequels, by studio standards they’re still not- Paranormal‘s pretty damn close to five, but the sequels are always slightly more expensive than the original movies. This was massively more, but the sequels – generally the whole idea of doing low budget is so we can try new and weird stuff and experiment, so if it doesn’t work out perfect and isn’t wide release, we can release it on VOD and make our money back. But because the sequel, the odds are a lot better that it’s going to be widely released, I’m willing to spend a little bit more, but not a lot more.
Makes sense – and the script certainly calls for a much bigger budget on this one.
BLUM: The first movie was really kind of a dressed up home invasion movie and a lot of the feedback we got – and even our conversations we had ourselves was that if we were lucky enough to do a sequel we want to show what happens in the streets during Purge night. So inherently that’s going to be a more expensive movie to make, because the movie takes place outside from seven to seven – almost all outside from seven to seven, and the masses are purging so obviously the scope of that is bigger.
I’m curious about the casting process that led you guys to Frank Grillo, because he had to sort of fill the shoes of Ethan Hawke as the new leading man of the franchise, which is a tall order, and then carry the film as it heads in this totally new direction. How did you guys know that he was the right guy?
BLUM: Have you seen the movie yet?
I have and I think he’s fantastic.
BLUM: Yes. I think he’s great too. He and I had a meeting, as is often the case with actors who end up in our movies, and I kind of pitched him our model. He was like, “That sounds like something I would love to do.” I sent him the script and I met him with James. James and I met him in my conference room in our little office, and we had the best – one of the great meetings. He left the room and James and I looked at each other and went, “That is our guy.” And I’m very happy to say, again it doesn’t happen always, but that time we were right. And really James really drove it home and just told everyone that it was the right choice. You never know. I’ve done that a lot of times where we think it’s the right choice and it turned out not to be, but he’s even better in the movie than we thought he was going to be.
BLUM: Yeah, I’ve already sent him two movies he’s passed on [laughs], but hopefully soon. We’ve already sent him two scripts.
Obviously one of the great things about The Purge is that it’s a fascinating concept and you can do so much with it. You haven’t shown the day before or the day after. We haven’t seen how this affects things on an international scale. We’ve seen suburban and urban, but not rural. I know you don’t like to talk about the sequels before a movie comes out, but how excited are you by these possibilities?
BLUM: I am so psyched. Someone pitched me an idea today and I’ve never heard it. They said, “I have a great idea for Purge 7 or Purge 3 or whatever it is.” And I said, “What is it?” They said, “Someone goes to rob a bank, there’s a big bank robbery right before the Purge starts, and the cops show up at the bank right at the start of the Purge [laughs].
[Laughs] That’s great, very clever. You really can go anywhere with this.
BLUM: You can go anywhere. There’s so many different ideas. On original movies I never really like to talk about the sequels, because we should be so lucky. On this movie, again, we have a good chance of making another one and I certainly want to make another one. I think the idea is so rich you could go back in time, just like you said, you could go forward in time, you could go to the country, you could go to suburbia, you could go to New York City. There’s so much you could do. Your could go to Washington, DC and see what the government does that day. I hope we get to make more Purges, I really do.
We’re in such an exciting time right now with the effects of VOD and digital settling in and the technology continuing to evolve at such a rapid rate. How has Blumhouse evolved since when you first started making movies?
BLUM: I think we’re really at a pivotal time, people have been saying this for a while, but definitely people are going to be seeing more movies at home. Whether they’re seeing them at the same time as they’re in the theater or a little bit after, the windows are going to shift. They haven’t shifted yet, but they are eventually going to shift and I think that change in distribution will change movies. It’s already changing things to a large degree in that most of the independent drama, which used to be in feature form, is now in television. That has a lot to do with changing technology and changing distribution. I think we’re only at the very very beginning in changes in distribution that will be pretty radical and I think that ten years from now when we look back at today, it will seem very archaic the way we consume media, television and movies. I think it will be totally different in ten years, much much more different than it was ten years ago. I think that’s definitely coming.
Has that started changing the way you’re making movies in production or is that still to come?
BLUM: Oh, it’s totally – one exception, Ti West said he was going to quit [In a Valley of Violence] if we didn’t let him shoot on film, so I gave him his way, but we don’t shoot movies on film. We shoot all our movies on HD and that brings the cost down. The lower the price point of the movie the bigger risks you can take, you can tell better stories and different stories. You can make a freaking Western. Everyone in the world tells you, “Don’t make a Western. There’s no international value. The movie’s not worth it.” The market can’t support financing a Western, very very rarely, but if you make it cheap you can make them. Technology has reduced greatly the cost of production and post-production. And you know, cameras are only going to get cheaper and better, and sound will get cheaper and better, that’s great. It makes making movies less expensive, and the cheaper it is to make movies the better movies will be.