Frank Grillo is always looking for new opportunities as an actor. While the bulk of his work is primarily action, he'll stumble upon more dramatic work on the occasion that allows him to flex his range as a performer. One such project is Lionsgate's Paradise Highway, which follows a reluctant female trucker Sally (Juliette Binoche), who has to transport a girl (Hala Finley) as part of a human trafficking operation or else her brother Dennis (Grillo) will suffer the consequences. Grillo spoke to Bleeding Cool about working with Binoche, writer Anna Gutto in her directorial theatrical debut, and his upcoming biopic on automotive pioneer Ferruccio Lamborghini.
Bleeding Cool: What drew you to Paradise Highway?
Frank Grillo: I thought the script was beautifully written. Juliette was already attached. I loved Anna, the writer & director, and she told me Morgan Freeman was signing on. So it was kind of a no-brainer.
BC: What were your first impressions when you met with Anna and the way she directed?
Grillo: It's interesting as a first-timer; she was well prepared, specific in her vision of the film and what the tone should be. I had all my confidence in her as a director and collaborator. She was great to work with.
BC: With the dark subject of human trafficking in Paradise Highway, was there anything you did to prep for the role before filming?
Grillo: I didn't get too deep into the human trafficking aspect of it because that's not what my character Dennis was. He wasn't astute about human trafficking but caught up in a circumstance. My thing was childhood trauma and abuse, which I had similar research from some of my other films and what the genesis of the behavior was.
BC: How do you break down as far as chemistry with Juliette?
Grillo: Juliette's and [my characters] came from this world of abuse, where we were eventually separated. There was a long period of time that we didn't see each other, which I never wanted to happen. [Dennis] had an obsessive relationship with his sister. Juliette and I had to find a good balance that never seemed like it was too odd and weird or sexual, and it was fun. Working with her it's the top of the food chain.
BC: I see that you'll be in a biopic about Lamborghini. Can you tell me a little bit about that project and what it means to you?
Grillo: It's an important movie for me to play somebody like Lamborghini in Italy. It was a book written by his son [Totino] about his father. It goes through his whole life and how Lamborghini started, how it ended, and where it went towards the end of Ferruccio Lamborghini's life. Gabriel Byrne plays [Enzo] Ferrari, and Mira Sorvino plays my wife. It's another time for me to work with everybody. Everybody has Oscars. Bobby Moresco, who wrote it, has an Oscar. I'm surrounded by Oscar winners [laughs].
BC: Did it feel creatively like a new challenge for you compared to your other projects?
Grillo: It's getting back to kind of my roots of acting; I had a dialect coach and an Italian coach. I only had two weeks to kind of really prepare for the movie because [Antonio] Banderas was going to do it. He dropped out, and I came in. It was all on the fly, which is the best thing in hindsight because I didn't have too much time to overthink it. It's a terrific picture, and we're going to the Rome Film Festival in October, which is great because we're back in Italy. It's a big thing for me to play because I'm not killing anybody, and I'm not being killed. So it's very fulfilling.