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 virtual 1-on-1 interview with Collider, which you can both watch and read, Gout talked about the boldness and vision that drew him to the fifth film in the Purge series, the level of collaboration he had with DeMonaco to make it more authentic, the fine-tuning of the editing process, the challenges of the budget, how his work in episodic television has influenced him as a filmmaker, creating the Purge looks, and why his daughter is the Northern Star that guides him.
Collider: I’m a big fan of The Purge franchise. I’ve seen all of the films and every episode of the TV show, and one of the things that I most appreciate about it is how it continues to evolve, with this installment being no exception to that. Were all of the elements brought into this film always there, from the first script that you read and was that what drew you in, or were some of those things added later?
EVERARDO GOUT: Yes, what drew me was the boldness and the vision of James [DeMonaco], who is very clever and very brave because he’s not afraid to break his own rules and that takes a lot of sand. He approached me saying, “This is the last Purge movie and I wanna end with a big bang. I wanna take it to the extreme. At the same time, I wanna get closer to my original vision. With the success of the franchise, it’s been steering a little bit more into Hollywood and I want it to be more like the DNA of the first one.” And I was like, “Great, I get it. We can build on that, for sure.” And then, I brought a lot of veracity, authenticity, and viscerality to the piece. I informed James of the reality of these migrants and what they would actually really be doing and how they actually would be talking, so that it’s believable, and I shared a couple of experiences. I wanted the scene where Dylan Tucker claims that he doesn’t want to hear Spanish in his household because I’ve heard that in my life. There are not bad people, it’s just that they’re not exposed to the culture, so they are offensive, and that’s fine. It’s fair game. But I wanted to see the character evolve from there to the other side of the spectrum. So, most of it was already there. I loved working with James, and that goes both ways. It was a very easy process of back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
When I spoke to James DeMonaco about this film, he seemed to really appreciate you pointing out that Mexicans don’t speak the way that he’d written the characters. Did he open that line of communication and make that level of collaboration possible, from the very beginning?
GOUT: I’m a straight shooter, which has gotten me in trouble many times, but it’s the only way that I know how to be. So, I love working on the truth. It doesn’t hurt when it comes from the right place. It wasn’t bad writing, it’s just not the way we talk, so I informed him of the way we talk, so that he could see how the same idea could be more realistic and more absorbable for my people, at least. That was great. All of that was flawless. He was super easy to work with.
He must also be a really good resource. Having created the franchise, he could probably answer any question that you might have had about the overall concept.
GOUT: For sure. Sometimes he had to scratch his head and go, “Why did I invent that?” It was great. He knew when to be present and help the project, and when to let go and let the filmmaker do his thing, and then come back for editing to make sure that we didn’t lose the DNA of the project that we’d created. It was a wonderful experience.
How was the editing process for you?
Did anything majorly change during that process?
GOUT: Not really. It was more of a fine-tuning. The way that I shoot that, it’s not like I leave options. I have a clear vision of what I want and I only shoot that, so it’s not as if you can later change the movie. If it just doesn’t work, it breaks. So, they were cool with that, they were loving that, and they wanted that because it’s a revamp of the franchise. How can you do a fifth movie with the same codes and still be on top of the game? You have to break some rules and be bold and make something much more cinematographic and center it more toward realism, so that it’s more frightening. There was a lot of room to do all of that and he was championing all of those things, which did make some people scratch their heads and say, “This is really different from all of the other Purge movies.” We were like, “Fuck yeah, that’s why we like it!” It’s still the same codes. People who love the franchise won’t be disappointed. It’s not as if I broke the rules. He broke the rules. It’s still a solid horror thriller movie, it just has a couple of extra layers.
I love that this film has something of a last-stand moment, as they’re essentially running this gauntlet of a tank and explosions and all of the shooting. How much of that sequence was fully written out in the script ahead of time, and how much of that has to evolve once you’re in the environment and can see what you can realistically do?
GOUT: The biggest challenge on the movie was definitely the budget. You read on a script page, “America collapsed,” and then you look at the budget and you say, “How many extras did they say for that scene? Thirty? What the hell? How am I gonna do that?” It made me go back to Spielberg. Not the Spielberg from the hundred million dollar movies right now, but the original Spielberg from Jaws where, because the shark kept on breaking down, it was terrifying. It’s so terrifying because you don’t see the shark. We had to choose our battles and have see-through windows, our 20 extras doing their thing, and then you believe that the whole universe is about them when it was only that. We had to be very inventive and very clever in how to use our resources. I was afraid, the whole process, of losing scale. If you lose scale and for some reason, you don’t buy into the collapse of America, then the movie goes nowhere. If you start second-guessing that, then it’s hard to continue.
You’ve done quite a bit of work as a director in television. Did that affect or influence your approach to this at all? Did that help you with working with the budget and really just having to figure things out?
GOUT: Yeah. You always are learning, on a daily basis. The day that I arrive on set and I don’t learn something, then I should retire. You have to be open to the machinery and the beauty of the experience of filmmaking, with how tough and how fragile it is, at the same time. To find those moments with the actors and tap into that truth is really magical. So, all of the projects come in handy, one after the other. This movie will help me do the next project, and that project is gonna help me do the next one. But yeah, definitely, doing some TV helps you cope with the days that you have to shoot faster and that you have less resources and you need to improvise.
You directed a couple of episodes of one of my favorite TV shows, with Banshee. How was your experience on that show? What’s it like to come into a show in its fourth season and still find a way to bring yourself to it?
GOUT: It was great because I always come strong to episodic TV. I think that’s why they call me. I truly bring a cinematographic experience and try to make it into a little movie, and people love that. The competition is so brutal out there with TV that, if you’re not top quality, you go nowhere. The actors love it, and I love it. That show was crazy and great. It was my first show in America, so I was greener and I had my moments of, “Oh, this is the way the machinery works. Okay.” It was a great experience.
Do you have any idea of what you want to do next? How has doing this film influenced you? Do you want to stay in film for a bit?
GOUT: I love to swap. My Northern Star is my daughter. I believe that we, as parents, have to have the responsibility to try to leave the world a better place for them. As a species, we’re failing, but in my household, I can make a difference. So, I’m always driven by the content, not by the money, not by the bling, not by who’s attached. It’s the content. It’s whether the story is worth telling, and does it have a message or not. I don’t care if it’s TV or if it’s a movie. As long as I can keep doing both, I’m happy. Both have their merit. I’m doing a mini-series for Netflix, where I’m gonna do the whole thing. I like those kinds of projects because it’s like making three movies in one. I really enjoyed making the first season of Mars, where I directed the whole thing on my own. I love those types of projects where you’re in control of the big boat and it’s like making a couple of movies together.
Can you say what that project is that you’re doing next?
GOUT: Not yet. But soon. Very soon.
You mentioned your daughter being your Northern Star. You have some very strong female characters in this film, so is she the inspiration behind that?
GOUT: It’s between my mom and my daughter. My mom, unfortunately, recently passed. She passed two weeks into production, so it was a crazy time for me. She was a really strong, beautiful human being who was curious about the other, inclusive, challenging the rules, pushing us to be better people. I had a really great role model, and I wanna see more of that. It was very important to me for Adela to be a woman in her 40s, who can both kick ass and think and carry her whole family through an ordeal. I wanna see more of that in the movies. It’s always either the youngest beautiful lady or the grandma, but life is not like that. I want more of those beautiful, strong characters. I’m drawn to that immediately and I know exactly what to do with that.
I loved that the men really needed to rely on the women to get them through this.
GOUT: I love that as well because that’s true, in my experience.
Another thing that’s really important and vital to the Purge franchise are the Purge looks, and in this film, we get Purge bunnies, Purge cowboys, and even some Purge construction workers. What was it like to get to design those looks and, and to really figure out what you wanted?
GOUT: What’s really successful about the franchise is that because they wear masks, you are projecting your own horrors behind those masks. That’s why it’s so scary. You imagine the worst version of that person, not the best. It’s your own fear. So, it’s a lot of fun and (producer) Sébastien [Lemercier] was crucial on fine-tuning that in guiding me through the process of juxtaposition. If you wanna be scary, Purge wise, it has to be a little bit off and a little bit funny, and therefore we did the rabbits. With the rabbits, I wanted to honor a plotline that we dropped from the original script. James was wanting to talk a little bit about how we consume meat excessively, as a species. All of that subplot organically didn’t have room because our universe was contained and that was a bigger thing, so we dropped it. But I wanted to honor his vision, so I said, “Let’s do something that has to do with butchers. What could be more frightening than a stupid bunny with a goat, trapping you?”
I love that the Purge looks were full, all-encompassing looks.
GOUT: Yeah, exactly, which was great. It was great to explore that, to explore the cowboys, and to explore the workers. Of course, that would be people purging in that universe. They’re angry, so they have to make their anger be felt.
The Forever Purge is in theaters now.
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