Frank Grillo bounces back and forth between big blockbuster films and low-budget indie features, and he does so a lot. The man just loves to work… and the money that comes with it.
To put it in perspective, Grillo is just 57 years old and has already amassed nearly 100 film and television credits, from shows like Prison Break and Kingdom to movies such as Warrior, The Grey, Minority Report, Zero Dark Thirty, and The Purge: Anarchy, not to mention Marvel hits like Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Endgame.
Then there’s his long list of movies that most audiences haven’t seen, let alone even heard of. The dubious titles include iMurders, Collision, Demonic, Reprisal, Hell on the Border, Ida Red, Body Brokers, and This Is the Night. Grillo makes no apologies for any of these movies, some of which turn out to be little gems. His latest effort, the drama Lamborghini: The Man Behind the Legend, falls into that category as well, though it boasts a higher profile courtesy of its studio, Lionsgate.
Grillo recently jumped on the phone to chat with Above the Line about Lamborghini, which was released in select theaters on Nov. 18 and is now available on VOD. The biopic casts him as auto inventor Ferruccio Lamborghini, who aspires to create the world’s best and fastest cars. He’s also determined to beat his chief rival, Enzo Ferrari (Gabriel Byrne), both on the track (at the Geneva Grand Prix) and in automobile showrooms around the world.
Lamborghini was written and directed by Oscar-winning scribe Bobby Moresco (Crash), while Oscar-winning actress Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite) co-stars as Lamborghini’s second wife, Annita, so this film comes with a more prestigious pedigree than some of Grillo’s other indie efforts. For what it’s worth, Grillo seemed proud of the project, but we’ll let him explain below:
Above the Line: What makes you say “Yes” to a project?
Frank Grillo: I dig smaller movies because there’s more control and you have more creative input. It’s usually the director and the script that’ll get me. I’m a frequent collaborator with a guy named John Swab. We have two movies coming out. He’s going to be a giant. A lot of it is that creative aspect of it, and then I’ll be honest with you… money. I can get paid a lot of money to jump into a movie with some other names; get in, get out, and support my family. I never hear actors talk about it, but it’s a job. Sometimes you get offered a shit-ton of dough to do a couple of days on a movie. It’s not the best thing to do all the time. You don’t want it to be what happened to Bruce Willis (the now-retired actor with whom Grillo co-starred in several recent B-movies), but you make a good living that way.
ATL: What specifically convinced you to sign on for Lamborghini?
Grillo: Oh, that was a no-brainer. I didn’t have a lot of time, but I got to go work with Writer-Director Bobby Moresco, who is a great writer and turned out to be a good director. Also, Mira Sorvino and Gabe Byrne. I got to play a real person. I got to go do a biopic in Italy, where I’m from. I got to stretch my muscles a little bit, because I could kill people falling off a log — doing that stuff’s easy — so this, to me, was such a great challenge, and I absolutely loved it.
ATL: What did you learn about Lamborghini — the man, his life, the things he created — that you were not aware of before you took on this role?
Grillo: I knew Lamborghini was a guy. I knew he was an industrialist, but I didn’t know he was rich before he started the company. He started a tractor company that was a huge success for him in Italy, and a refrigeration, air conditioning, and heating business that was also very successful. They’re both still in operation. The guy did not need to start a car company, and the genesis was this supposed interaction with Ferrari. All of that stuff, to me, was fascinating. [That] was the jump-off point for me to start getting into the character.
ATL: What kind of a set did Bobby Moresco run?
Grillo: I have to tell you, Bobby may be the happiest guy alive. He is full of love and joy for what he does. He loves actors and he loves creating these worlds. Being in Italy with him changed my DNA entirely. That’s a lifelong friendship that I made. We’re in the process of putting another film together. Now, he’s family.
ATL: You only had a few moments with Gabriel Byrne, but those moments are pivotal to the movie. How did you make the most of your time with each other?
Grillo: We hung out for a few days at some agriturismo by Emilia-Romagna, where Lamborghini’s from. Gabe is a legend. He’s Gabriel Byrne! The one mistake that the film made is that they didn’t take more time with this thing between Ferrari and Lamborghini, and put Gabe and [me] in a bit more scenes together. I think that was a waste, but I just showed up to act, so I didn’t have much input.
ATL: How did you two avoid the inclination to overplay those scenes in an effort to make them really count?
Grillo: In the story, it seems like it’s pivotal because it’s the genesis, when you’re looking back at the story. And it is [pivotal], but in the moment, it’s two guys who know each other. Ferrari knew Lamborghini way more than he let on, and you can’t overplay it. We would do a disservice to the moment, because it really is just a moment — two guys talking and one guy pitching the idea of possibly partnering. If Bobby would’ve stuck on me — boiling over it — it would’ve been soap opera and saccharine-y. We kept it lean and mean. And again, I wish there was more of it. I wish there was more of a conversation, because a lot of it was fabricated. We don’t know what they said to each other. It could have been one scene, or it could have been two scenes.
ATL: A lot of indie films, especially now, seem to just disappear into the ether. Lamborghini is getting the hybrid theatrical/VOD release and there’s been some solid promotion behind it. How pleased are you with the finished film and the fact that people will actually get to see it on the big screen if they so choose?
Grillo: I love the finished film. It’s not perfect by a long stretch. It’s flawed. It’s two parts in the same movie. It’s two different movies. They stayed on the first part (focused on young Ferruccio, played by other actors) a little bit longer than they needed to, and they should have gotten to the old people a little sooner, but Bobby was working with time and money constraints. It’s an independent movie. Here’s the great thing…
Last night, we [went] on Apple to see how it was doing. George Clooney‘s movie was first, Brad Pitt’s was second, Tom Cruise‘s movie was third, and Lamborghini was fourth. Listen, I do some smaller movies, [but] you can’t believe how many people see [them]. I did a movie called Ida Red, which I love. It’s a small movie. It’s on every airplane and streaming service. Little movies that normally — before COVID, before all of this happened — would never get eyes on it, you cannot believe the [number] of people who see these movies that we make for $5 million bucks.
ATL: IMDB lists 14 upcoming projects for you, so I have two questions: Which one or two of your upcoming films are you particularly jazzed about, and do you ever come up for air?
Grillo: I have not looked at my IMDB, but I have a couple of phenomenal films coming out. One is a movie called Year 2. It’s like The Purge, only it’s with werewolves. I know it sounds a little hokey, but it’s really good. We just got huge news about the film, speaking about theatrical, but I can’t say anything yet. I have another movie called Little Dixie, which I did with John Swab, whom I also did Ida Red and Body Brokers with. Then I have another film coming out with Scotty Caan that I’m excited about. I don’t know what the hell else I have.
ATL: I’m going to read them off real fast. You mentioned Little Dixie. Then there Man’s Son, One Day as a Lion, Lights Out, King of Killers, Black Lotus, Year 2, MR-9, Hounds of War, and Hard Matter. It says you’re filming a Jason Woliner Project. Then, in pre-production, there are another three films: Branded, Dirty, and Merciless.
Grillo: Those last three movies? That’s just people putting my name on movies. Because I have a little bit of value in the foreign market these days, people put my name on things, but I don’t know about those movies. Hounds of War? Really cool movie I shot in Malta. Very Bourne Identity. It’s also a bigger movie. There’s another movie you mentioned [Lights Out] — it’s me and Mekhi Phifer — that I’m also excited about. Yeah, I guess I do have a bunch of movies coming out. I better stop working for a minute. Wow, okay.
ATL: When you’re not working, are you one of those actors who is afraid you’re never going to get another job, or is it that you just like to work?
Grillo: At my age, at this point, what I’ve created in this world of sub-$15 million movies… brother, I’ve got to tell you, and I don’t say this with any hubris, I get offered 10 movies a week. Right now, I never worry about not working. What I worry about is spending enough time with my kids. I’m a single dad and with my mental health, it’s taxing to travel all over the world and be away from [my] family a lot.
Look, I’m a divorced guy. I’ve got a lot of money I’ve got to pay to people. I’ve got to balance my life out with taking care of who I have to take care of, trying to spend quality time, and then working. People go, ‘Oh, you suck! You did that sucky movie!’ I’m like, ‘Hey man, maybe you should ask me why I’m going to do that movie.’ I have one kid who has special needs. I have three sons that I take care of. I have an ex-wife. I’ve got to work. I’m not Brad Pitt. I’m not getting paid $17 million a movie. So, there you have it.
ATL: There’s a scene in Lamborghini that’s staged like the classic dinner sequence in Citizen Kane, where you and your son are sitting at opposite ends of a very long table, a physical distance reflecting the emotional chasm between the two of you. Based on what you just said about juggling work and travel with family time, how hard did that scene hit home?
Grillo: Isn’t that amazing? That is the takeaway from the film. It was for me. Yeah, you’re Lamborghini, Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, or Bill Gates, but at what cost? Can that guy be the perfect dad and go to every soccer game? Can he be the perfect husband, and be home for dinner at five o’clock every night? Absolutely not. It is a difficult position to be in. These guys are not just striving to be great. They are iconic, and something’s got to give. You can have anything, but you can’t have everything. There’s got to be a point where somebody’s going to be mad at you, and you have to live with that.
Lamborghini: The Man Behind the Legend is now available to buy or rent on VOD.