Josh Lucas on The Forever Purge Playing Young John Dutton on Yellowstone

Directed by Everardo Gout (Days of Grace) and written by James DeMonaco (the creator of The Purge franchise), the latest installment The Forever Purge shows what can happen when one night of mayhem and murder is no longer enough. When a rogue group of masked purgers decides not to end the annual Purge at daybreak and instead shows up on a Texas ranch, the family there, along with a Mexican couple, find themselves having to band together and fight back, if they have any chance at survival. The film stars Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rambin, Alejandro Edda, and Will Patton.

During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Lucas, who plays Dylan Tucker, heir to his family’s ranch in Texas, talked about what made him want to sign on for this film, how familiar he’d previously been with The Purge franchise, the way he views his character, what made this such a challenging shoot, and the Purge looks. He also talked about how enduring Sweet Home Alabama has been with fans, nearly 20 years later, his experience on the TV series Yellowstone, and what he’s currently shooting now.

Collider: How did this movie come your way?

LUCAS: I got a call from this director, Everardo [Gout], and I didn’t know his work, but I watched a bunch of his work before I read the movie and I was like, “Wow, this guy’s an artist.” What’s really interesting about him is that he was raised by Luis Buñuel, who many people would say is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, up there with Fellini. He wasn’t just his godfather. He literally grew up in his house, raised by him. I think he still lives in Luis Buñuel’s house, to this day. It’s actually pretty amazing. He is really interesting.

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Image via Universal

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How familiar were you with the franchise? Had you seen any of the movies? Had you seen none of the movies? Have you seen some of the movies?

LUCAS: There’s no reason not to be just totally honest with you and blunt, but I hadn’t seen any of the movies. I didn’t know anything about them, other than the premise of them. Frankly, I’m not a genre person. Genre movies, frankly, scare me. I’m just one of those people who’s maybe a bit sensitive to it. So, I knew the premise and I knew that they were very violent. When I went back and researched the whole thing, it was quite interesting. I knew Ethan Hawke. I worked with him when we were kids and have a lot of respect for him, and the fact that he had done one was interesting to me. It validated it immediately. And then, I went back and read all of the New York Times reviews of all the different films. I was quite surprised to hear how fascinatingly political they are, straight up, and that they were pretty well-respected. I also knew that this one was standalone, so I didn’t necessarily have to go back and watch all of them, back to back. I dabbled in what they were and understanding them.

It was also clear from my conversations with Everardo that his idea for this movie was what he referred to as “hiding diamonds in a storm,” which I had never heard before. He was like, “That’s what I want you to do with me,” and I thought that was so interesting. And then, when I saw Everardo’s work, I knew he was a real filmmaker. So, that’s how it started. You do a movie like this because they’re going to pay you a ton of money, but the reality is that Blumhouse doesn’t do that. I was like, “Wait a second, they’re not gonna pay me any money to do this movie?” Then, you have to figure out why you’re doing the movie. I was really doing the movie because I thought the script was fascinating. I thought the idea of Mexican characters, Mexican actors and a Mexican director, and telling the story through that perspective was very interesting to me.

Throughout my career, I’ve thought about why I wanted to do something. Am I doing it because I love the story? Am I doing it because I love the filmmaker? Do I wanna go to the place the movie is being made? Am I doing it because it’s a money job? There are these weird equations, particularly the longer I do this work and the more it’s about leaving my son. It’s a very complicated choice to go do a movie when it’s gonna be away from my son. But I really believed in the script and Everardo and the actors that he’d already hired. Frankly, this was a very difficult movie to make. It was not pleasant. It was painful and troubling, on a daily basis, because the experience of making it is rough. That’s all there is to it. It’s violent. The character was completely complicated in a way that was hard to wrap my head around and justify. And yet, I thought that the transition that he went through is so interesting. It was a tough movie that was very, very hard to make.

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Image via Universal

How do you view your character? Did you see him as someone who is a little bit racist, or did you not see him that way?

LUCAS: You can’t deny that he’s racist. The reality of what I saw him as, is a replication particularly of white America and that he is how so many white Americans see themselves, which is that they don’t recognize their own inherent racial bias. He justifies it, but so many Americans, and particularly white Americans, are stuck in that concept of, “I’m not racist. I just have these thoughts.” He’s a fascinating example of that and of America, particularly a white American male . . . The movie is hitting on some really complicated ideas and the character, straight up, is one of those people. It’s scary to play that because you’re having to put a mirror to it and to what it is to be a white American, particularly a white American upper middle class guy, and see it through that lens. I do think (franchise creator) James DeMonaco is a pretty brilliant dude in what he’s doing and how he’s attempting to use genre.

When you shoot something this horrific, does it feel different when you’re shooting it during the day, as opposed to the stuff that you had to shoot at night?

LUCAS: That’s a really interesting question. Acting is such a weird job because we often work at night, and nights are rough. When you’re working nights, your brain struggles. I do think that there’s a power to the concept of the Purge happening during the day. It takes away that nocturnal mindset, but it doesn’t make it easier. It might even make it harder, in some ways. Nights suck because they’re so hard on your body, especially the older you get.

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Image via Universal

In a lot of ways, people think of you as the charming romantic comedy guy, primarily because of the impression that you made on people in Sweet Home Alabama, and those are not really attributes that would help you in something like The Purge. Is it cathartic for you, in any way, to tap into that kind of darkness, or is it just always mentally and physically draining?

LUCAS: I wouldn’t say this guy’s a bad guy. He’s not at all. There’s a heightened atmosphere to the character, in terms of the way I feel like I was representing certain elements of America, like we talked about before. You’re almost trying to maybe take elements of that Sweet Home Alabama sweetness and the reason why people love Jake and that character and the way that movie has stayed with me for all these years, and turn it on its head, in a way. You’re maybe using those good feelings that people have for me and that character. Maybe it takes a little bit of the sting with this character. He also changes, which is interesting.

That’s a movie that you made nearly 20 years ago and it’s a movie that I still watch, anytime I pass by it on TV. Are you surprised that that’s one of the projects you’ve done that has held up for so long and that people seem like they will always love it?

LUCAS: What’s funny is that, if you go back and look at the Rotten Tomatoes rating of Sweet Home Alabama, it’s something like 20%. It got horrifying reviews. I remember, at the time, being quite surprised by that. I didn’t necessarily think it was gonna be some classic, but I did think it was a really fun, special movie that had a great heart. What I’m surprised by is the fact that it still stands up the way that it does. It’s still so enjoyable and there’s still a real sense of interest in it, like you, and like so many people I know that say the same thing. Consistently, I have men come up to me and say, “Dude, I don’t like romantic comedies, but I like that one.” I agree.

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I like it because I don’t like typical romantic comedies and that movie is a little bit quirky and weird and strange, which made it much more enjoyable.

LUCAS: You’re dead right on. Andy Tennant, who directed that movie, is a really interesting guy. He’s got all of those quirks and eccentricities and shadows in the corner of his life, and so does Reese [Witherspoon] and so do I. I think we all wanted a little bit of that in the movie. I like that you like it for that reason.

One of the things I love about this particular Purge film is that you have that gauntlet sequence where you just have to keep making your way through everything, with a tank, explosions, and all of the shooting. What’s it like to do something like that? How long did it take to shoot all of that?

LUCAS: That was not easy at all, to say the least. That was rough. It was one of those sequences where they talked about it for a long time. We prepared and rehearsed it for a full day a two. And then, the shoot of it was a couple of days as well. It was relentless. With the noise and the movement, it was one of those experiences where you were like, “Whoa, this is heavy, dangerous filmmaking.” They told all of us, “We’re gonna do this and we’ve gotta get it right. We don’t know how long it’s gonna take because until you get it, you don’t got it.” The reality was that it wasn’t something that you could just do over and over, in terms of the resets and the explosions and the damage it was gonna do physically, to the set but also because you were gonna get beat up by it physically. I think we only did maybe six or seven takes before that was finally it, and each time, you got a little bit more whacked, but there was a real sense of achievement, honestly, in what we were attempting to do. It was one of the reasons I was so fascinated to work with this [Everardo] . . . These are incredibly physical filmmakers. You’re really in a movie that’s a physically daunting, painful experience, to get the authenticity that he was after.

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Image via Universal

Another thing that’s really important and vital to this franchise are the Purge looks, and in this one we get Purge bunnies, Purge cowboys and Purge construction workers, among various other things. Was there a look, costume, or mask that most stood out for you, or that you found most creepy?

LUCAS: Because of that scene where I’m walking through the stables and those guys come out at me, and it’s the same dude who has been working on the ranch, that one struck me. Maybe it’s because I’m dealing with it so straight in my face. It’s pretty easy to pretend to be afraid when the images that are coming at you are palpable and terrifying.

What are you currently working on?

LUCAS: I’m doing something called Long Slow Exhale, which is a really interesting story. It’s a fictional story about a sex scandal that happened with a national champion female basketball team in Atlanta, Georgia. The creator of the show is a woman named Pam Veasey, who is a really interesting showrunner that’s been around for a long time and had this idea in our head, from when her kids were both attempting to become NFL players. She was looking at the landscape of what would happen if somebody falsely accused one of her kids of something, so she ran with that idea. It’s a very complicated story. It’s from the team that did Big Little Lies, and it’s very, very interesting.

What it was like for you to take on playing the younger version of Kevin Costner on Yellowstone? Is that weird and daunting to do?

LUCAS: Anytime you’re playing a personality that’s iconic and real, it’s harder to do it when the person is an actor. I’ve had it happen a couple of times. With Don Haskins for Glory Road, I had the real coach there with me, helping me through it. It’s an amazing challenge. I got a call from Fred Schepisi, this really cool Australian director, who wanted me to play the younger version of Paul Newman in this TV series that we did quite awhile back, called Empire Falls. With Kevin, it was different because it was Taylor Sheridan. I really like Taylor. I think he’s a fascinating, amazing screenwriter and storyteller. I sometimes find these people in my life who I’ll reach out to and say, “Look, I’ll be an extra for you,” and Kevin is one of those people. I was very, very honored to go do it. I really find Taylor’s work extraordinary, and Kevin is an icon for a reason.

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Image via Universal

It seems like that would make it more intimidating.

LUCAS: Luckily, he’s not there when I’m shooting. We’re almost kept separate on purpose. Taylor and I talked about the idea of The Godfather. When [Robert] De Niro was playing Brando, he wasn’t attempting to look or act like Marlon Brando. He was attempting to play the character. That’s what we talked about.

Do you think that you’ll ever show up on Yellowstone again?

LUCAS: Please write it, I would love to. I really would. I really liked doing that show. There’s even been some talk of doing whole flashback episodes. That is my hope. I don’t know if or when that’ll happen, but I’m open to it, that’s for sure . . . It’s one of the most beautiful shows that I’ve ever been a part of, in terms of the landscapes. Even getting to set can be extraordinarily challenging, where you’re like taking an ATV to a horse, and then taking a horse to set. It’s the best.

The Forever Purge is now playing in theaters.


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