Interview: Frank Grillo on Little Dixie, trusting his director, and the importance of removing ego from the action genre

  • Peter Gray
  • February 4, 2023
  • Comments Off on Interview: Frank Grillo on Little Dixie, trusting his director, and the importance of removing ego from the action genre

When a deal goes wrong between a corrupt governor and a ruthless drug lord, ex-special forces operative Doc (Frank Grillo) is caught in the crosshairs. Now, with his family in danger, Doc must take down the Mexican drug cartel and do whatever it takes to protect the one good thing in his life – his young daughter, “Little Dixie“.

As the intense revenge thriller arrives in American cinemas, On Digital and On Demand this week (you can read our review here), Peter Gray spoke with Grillo about removing ego from the action genre, what films he looks at for inspiration, and the “love fest” that is his collaborative relationship with director John Swab.

Congratulations on Little Dixie.  I appreciate going into films knowing very little about what will transpire in front of me, and that was the case here, but I also know it being a Frank Grillo movie means it’ll be a little bit gritty and unapologetic.  I like that you have this vanity-free approach to action where you aren’t afraid to take a hit as much as you give them.  There’s a vulnerability there.  Has that been a conscious choice in attaching yourself to projects that aren’t afraid to remove the gloss of so many action films?

That’s a great question.  And yes, it’s all by design.  My approach to it is, you know, it’s kind of broken down.  I don’t wear makeup.  I like the directors to catch a lot of just thinking.  I always find it interesting when the camera is on an actor’s face and there’s nothing being said.  You just kind of know what he’s thinking because it’s all in the eyes.  And yeah, you gotta take a beating.  You gotta be able to take a punch and come back.  There’s no superhero aspect to it.  Yes, it’s something that often draws me to these lower budgeted world of characters.

This film’s temperament leans into that old school style of storytelling.  Is there an action movie or a hard-boiled thriller that speaks to you as the pinnacle of the genre? A title that you grew up with?

Yeah, you know, I love Charles Bronson’s movies.  I love (Steve) McQueen’s movies.  I love early Clint Eastwood films.  You watch a movie like The Outlaw Josey Wales, which (Eastwood) directed, and you have this guy who’s been wronged and is very capable and says very little, and gets any job done.  He does great things without patting himself on the back, or having the rest of the cast patting him on the back.  I dig that man.  I dig a good guy who does the job.  It’s like if you were a philanthropist and you gave away a million dollars, but you do it anonymously.  You know what I mean?

You’ve collaborated many times with director John Swab…

We just did one in Puerto Rico, so this is our fourth or fifth.  Yeah, we’ve been cooking.

Does he now come to you with his ideas and there’s that trust on your end in taking that on? Or is there still a formal process of reading it to see if you’ll like it?

No, he calls me and says “We have one.  It’s going in March.”  He’ll send me the script and will tell me which character I’m playing.  I mean, I basically do (these movies) for almost nothing.  And for whatever amount of time he needs me, I believe in him,  I believe in him like no one else.  I think this guy is going to have a long, phenomenal career, probably with trophies at some point.  I love being around him.  I love saying his words.  I love his personality.  It’s a love fest.  It’s a family affair at this point.

I imagine it’s quite collaborative then in bringing your own ideas to the table…

Oh yeah, him and I, it’s reciprocal.  We’re constantly doing that, like, we’re two cooks in the kitchen playing with ingredients.  We have no ego when it comes to those ingredients (too).  I think that’s the best way to make a movie.  The movie isn’t for me and it isn’t for him.  It’s for an audience.  So we try to keep that in mind, and we have a great time making these little movies.

Little Dixie is screening in select theatres and available on Digital and on Demand in the United States from February 3rd, 2023.  An Australian release is yet to be determined.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.