By ROCCO T. THOMPSON
For the latest entry in the franchise he began in 2013, writer and co-producer James DeMonaco‘s THE FOREVER PURGE trains its crosshairs on the U.S. border crisis in its inimitable series style. Directed by Everardo Gout (National Geographic’s Mars), the film picks up after the events of The Purge: Election Year (2016) and follows a Mexican couple, played by Ana de la Reguera (Narcos, Army of the Dead) and Tenoch Huerta (Days of Grace) who join forces with a white rancher (Josh Lucas, Ford v Ferrari) and his family when a group of radicals continues Purging beyond its allotted twelve-hour window. Rue Morgue connected with star Josh Lucas to discuss the timeliest chapter in the always timely series ahead of its release this Friday.
The release of THE FOREVER PURGE was delayed for a year. Was that frustrating for you as an actor to have the project stuck in limbo?
Actually, kind of the opposite because I could feel their belief in the film [and] that they were willing to hold it. My sense is, with these movies in particular, the same reason I’m waiting to see it in a theater is because I want to see it with an audience. I think the movie, at least from the making of it, was such a cinematic experience that I really believe in their choice to hold tight and wait. Hopefully, this is the right weekend to do it. I haven’t [seen it yet], only because I really want to see it on a big screen and I haven’t had the opportunity. I want to see it opening weekend myself!
Every PURGE movie is timely and this one, honestly, doesn’t feel like it’s passed its due date at all. It feels like it’s right on time.
Well, I would say maybe scarily so. I mean, some of the stuff that we were shooting was all pre-COVID, right, so it was all pre-election, pre-insurrection, pre-everything. So some of the stuff, frankly, while we were making it, felt a little fantastical. And over the last year, unfortunately, I would say it no longer felt fantastical.
It’s true. These movies seemed so over-the-top when the series started, but as the years wear on they’re increasingly less so.
That’s kind of both terror and brilliance of what DeMonaco’s doing with it, right? I mean, and this one as much as any of them, from what I can tell. Obviously, they’re thrilling pieces of horror cinema, but at the same time there’s a very deep underlying idea that he has there that, I hope is, for many people, at least very provocative from a political standpoint as well.
I know that’s one of the reasons I really was intrigued to do it, because this director, Everardo, he, to me as I started to get to know him before signing on and looking at his work…the guy’s an artist. And my sense is that DeMonaco and those guys, they are trying to make really thrilling genre films and do it in a way that I think has some artistry and some very interesting messaging underneath it.
What I think is really commendable is how, as the series evolves, they’re doing a good job of bringing in diverse voices to better address the topics they’re handling. You saw it with director Gerard McMurray on The First Purge and now with Everardo Gout on THE FOREVER PURGE.
Was that important for you to have Everardo on the project and what do you think he brought to the table that another director might not have?
Well, look, I was, from the very beginning, pitched the idea that this was a Latin-forward Purge film, if that’s the right term, I’m not sure it is. But that it was a Mexican director, that it was a primarily Mexican cast of actors that are not necessarily totally familiar in American cinema but much more so in [South American] cinema. And then when I spoke to Everardo, he was incredibly clear about what he was attempting to do and that the movie was very much going to be centered around the clash of cultures and the border elements, all of that. Originally the movie was called “Borderline” because it was about the border. So, I think that [it’s] a really interesting attempt to discuss those concepts through genre.
“So some of the stuff, frankly, while we were making it, felt a little fantastical. And over the last year, unfortunately, I would say it no longer felt fantastical.”
Was it clear to you what James’ script was aiming for? Or were you at all reticent to take on the role? I know you have an activist background but some actors might feel a little uncertain playing a character who’s a bigot at the start of the film.
I felt like that was important, actually. I think, I think that’s one of the really fascinating things that’s happened in the last year is that that sort of chosen blindness [of] American, white culture has been exposed and people are more aware. [Now] you’ll go into neighborhoods that are predominantly, I would say, white neighborhoods see Black Lives Matter signs all over, and that’s a shift. I believe that this character absolutely represents the America that doesn’t see itself in any way as bigoted or racist…[that] chooses to turn a blind eye to it. I wanted to portray that but also put a flashlight on it, in a Purge film that’s not set at night, but during the day. It’s almost, in the same way, they’re turning the lights on on the movie. It’s funny – it’s bright! [Laughs]
Are you a horror fan?
I must admit I’m not at all! I really have always been someone who is, I guess, cinematically sensitive. I guess that it’s not that I don’t like them, it’s almost like they’re too scary for me! [Laughs]
I get it!
There are very few that I have seen, period, for that reason. And that’s funny, I have an eight-year-old son, he’s exactly the same way. He just is like, “That’s too scary, Dad.” Some of them, we’re in the house with [the] kids right now, and [they were] talking about watching The Ring the other night.
Oh, no! That’s a rough one.
There’s no way! [Laughs] But I do have, I must say, great appreciation for it. I really do. They’re, I find, very difficult to make because as an actor, you’re sort of in a brutal world every day, and that’s a part of it as well.
Speaking about that, once THE FOREVER PURGE gets going, it’s pretty much wall-to-wall action until the credits roll. Was it a physically demanding shoot?
Yeah, without a doubt. I mean, again, Everardo and his cinematographer, they’re like a team, they’ve made most of their movies together. They push hard, they really push the crew and the actors and everybody for an attempt at a real level of visceral nihilism. I have found in my career [that] you can fake it to an extent but there’s really no CGI in this movie, there’s no replacing actors. I don’t think there’s a moment that’s a stunt person from what I can remember.
It’s just the way that he wants to work, and I really respect that, I’ve got to say. So there were a lot of days when you kind of crawled home. I never felt terribly unsafe, [but] you were battered after every take and there was an incredible sense of accomplishment afterward. It was brutal filmmaking that I hope [comes through] on screen.
What, for you, is the ultimate message of THE FOREVER PURGE?
It’s a question you’d think that I would have had a clear answer to and I don’t. But I think the disturbing kind of power, the message of the movie, is that there’s an extraordinary division in this country. Unfortunately, what you said is true – these movies, they seem so fantastical, but they actually become more true in hindsight. So I think that’s the scary cautionary tale end of it, that’s for sure.
THE FOREVER PURGE hits theaters Friday, July 2nd, 2021 from Universal Pictures.