In 2013, we were introduced to The Purge. Since then, we’ve got four sequels, with the newest installment being The Forever Purge, which has just been released. I sat down with James DeMacaco, the creator, writer, and frequent director of the franchise to discuss The Forever Purge and more.
In The Forever Purge, “Adela (Ana de la Reguera, Cowboys & Aliens) and her husband Juan (Tenoch Huerta, Days of Grace) live in Texas, where Juan is working as a ranch hand for the wealthy Tucker family. Juan impresses the Tucker patriarch, Caleb (Will Patton, Halloween), which fuels the jealous anger of Caleb’s son, Dylan (Josh Lucas, Ford v Ferrari).
On the morning after The Purge, a masked gang of killers attacks the Tucker family—including Dylan’s wife (Cassidy Freeman, HBO’s “The Righteous Gemstones”), and his sister (Leven Rambin, The Hunger Games), forcing both families to band together and fight back as the country spirals into chaos and the United States begins to disintegrate around them.
Kelli McNeely: “How was The Purge born?”
James DeMonaco: “Two things led to it. The first thing, I was living abroad in Paris, and I saw that the European relationship with guns is much different than the one I perceived in America. No one had guns there and I knew a lot of people. It just struck me as odd. I’ve always been really concerned about gun laws in America.
Then my wife said something in a road rage accident that we had in Brooklin. I was driving and a drunk driver cut me off and I got in a fight with the guy and the cops came. It was a crazy situation. We almost got killed. When I got back in the car, my wife, who is a very good woman and a doctor said “I wish we all had one legal one a year.” I knew what she meant even though she didn’t really mean it. But the idea stayed with me, a legal murder a year. Over the years, with my thoughts about gun control and America’s relationship with violence, and all of the school shootings that were happening at the time, I think I just woke up one day with this idea of this American holiday of legalized violence. That is where it all started.
Kelli McNeely: “That’s so interesting. And I’m sorry you and your wife had that experience, but something great was born out of it.”
James DeMonaco: “It was a crazy night but it did lead to The Purge.”
Kelli McNeely: “So, the Forever Purge is out. I really enjoyed it. It feels different than its predecessors. Instead of the urban backdrop we’ve gotten so far, it really reminds me of the Old West and that time in history when things were still very much wild and lawless.”
James DeMonaco: “Absolutely. That’s right. I was just talking about it having a wild west theme with someone. I had said let us flip it, story-wise. We came up with the idea of people not stopping purging and that’s different. That also allowed something I really wanted to do, I wanted the visual palette of the film to be much different. I didn’t want to be in the city. I wanted to have a rust-orange color to the film. I wanted it to be during the day this time. I didn’t want another night Purge. It allowed us to make the movie much different. I’m glad that you saw that. That was the goal. I hope that people see that.”
Kelli McNeely: “Oh, I am sure they will. There has always been a lot of themes of economic differences and political ones in the franchise, but with The Forever Purge, there is a lot of subject matter about immigration and racism.”
James DeMonaco: “Yes. I wrote it during the border crisis of the previous administration. It’s about a lot of things that were in the news at the time. When I first pitched it to the studio, as a love story, they looked at me like I was crazy. I wanted to do it about a Mexican couple who moved to America in search of the American Dream, but the dream is a lie. They looked at me like I was crazy. I think at that point there was just so much about the border crisis and the previous administration’s policies that it seeped into my mind. That became the theme, immigration, what does it mean to be an American now, and how do we fix society.”
Kelli McNeely: “Right. I see that in the movie and it’s still going on.”
Jams DeManaco: “It’s great that that resonates. The director, Everardo Gout, also brought so much to the table. I’m a kid from New York so having a Mexican director was helpful. He’d tell me that this isn’t how Mexican people see America. This is an American’s view of Mexicans.” We’d fight but in a great way. Hopefully, it brings authenticity to the movie. He brought knowledge that no research I did could have given us. He oddly has not only had experience as a Mexican man, but he also lived on a ranch so he had knowledge of ranch life which was helpful and is something I didn’t have in my life at all.”
Kelli McNeely: “I think it all comes together well. It definitely has a different type of grittiness to it than the other films.”
James DeMonaco: “Yeah. It feels different. I was talking to a French critic about it. He said that it felt like our version of a noir western, like an old cowboy movie. And I think that that is great. It’s nice that each film has its own specific kind of feel and palette.”
Kelli McNeely: “Yes it is. Okay, it’s been said again and again that the franchise is finished. I have to know, is this really the end, or are we getting another?”
James DeMonaco: “[laughter] Listen, I’ve been made a liar so many times. Here’s the truth, I really wanted five to be the last one. And then, I woke up – the god’s honest truth – about eight or nine months ago and I had an idea. I took it to my producer Sabastian [Lemercier] and he said, “Oh my god, it’s actually good.” I pitched it to the studio and they liked it. I wrote it, I just finished it about a month ago. So, The Purge 6 is written, but I have no idea if the studio really wants to make it. But it is written and everybody seems to like the script. I think it’s a nice extension of the franchise. And it takes it into a new chapter. It flips everything on its head. It’s set fifteen or ten years beyond The Forever Purge. It’s a whole new America. The America that we know is gone. America is broken down into divisions and discords. I think it’s something that people would enjoy. It has socio relevance and I think it captures the disorders happening in America right now. But I don’t know, it’s written but I can’t say it will definitely happen.”
Kelli McNeely: “I hope that it will. I would be interested to see how things have evolved. Plus, The Purge has already been proven as a successful franchise.”
James DeMonaco: “I hope so. The Forever Purge came out during Covid so the numbers are a little less, but I guess the pandemic is to blame for that, hopefully.”
Kelli McNeely: “Covid has caused a lot of problems in the film industry for a lot of people. I’m sure the studio will take that into consideration. I think that The Forever Purge ends in a good place for a sequel.”
James Demonaco: “Hopefully. We tried to end it but left it open. Listen, hopefully, people will like where I am going to take it.”
Kelli McNeely: “I’m sure they will. Okay, I really want to know something. What would you do if The Purge or something similar really happened? What would you do? How would you survive?”
James DeMonaco: “Oh, my god [laughter]. I’d go to Canada. I’d be out. In reality, I would probably stay with people I love and hold up in a bunker. I would get as far away from any gun I could. I’d go into a panic room or something with my daughter, my wife, my parents. But if I could get everyone to Canada, I’d go. What would you do? Would you stay?”
Kelli McNeely: “I would stay. There’s a hunting cabin in the woods I would go to. But I’m already well-armed. I was raised in the country with guns so I think I could protect myself.”
James DeMonaco: “I like that. You’d be okay. If I picked up a gun I’d have no clue what to do with it.”
Kelli McNeely: “I’m sure you’d figure it out pretty quickly. With writing all the movies you would at least have a good idea of where to go and what to do.”
James DeMonaco: “[laughter]”
Kelli McNeely: “Speaking of guns and surviving, Which character in The Forever Purge speaks to you the most?”
James DeMonaco: “I guess the character that I love is Ana de la Reguera’s character, Adela. I like that she has hope for what America can be. I think that’s my hope for America, that we can be this place where everyone can live free and a place where you can have the “American dream” and be a place where white, black, whatever, can all come and experience that dream together with harmony. I know that’s idealistic, but I love Anna for that, that she still hopes for that. I think she’s the one I relate to the most in The Forever Purge.”
Kelli McNeely: “Great answer. What was the most difficult aspect of filming?”
James DeMonaco: “This is a boring answer, but with all The Purge movies, it has been budget. Even though we are “summer films” we don’t have the budget of some of the other “summer films.” We always have a very strict budget. We’re doing some action so we just get pounded in a way. It really grinds the crew down to exhaustion. I think by the end of it we were all hallucinating from exhaustion. Beyond the practicality, it’s grueling to shoot The Purge films. The other thing is that we don’t want to preach to the audience. It’s always such a fine between wanting the films to make people think about America and how it could be better and fix things, but I don’t want to preach. In my scripts, I fall victim to sometimes getting a little too political, but I do have good people around me like Sabastain and Peter Cramer that keep me in check. I think the hard part of the script stage is that you can’t go too far into the socio-political dynamic. Coupling me with someone like Everardo Gout, who is also quite political, we were pushing it even further. It is probably why The Forever Purge is one of the most political of the films because together we were fueling that discourse. That’s a fine line. That’s a tough thing to balance because sometimes I push it too far. We do have a check and balance system to control that so we aren’t preaching.”
Kelli McNeely: “There are strong messages and themes throughout the franchise, but I think the fans have come to expect that. It’s part of its charm.”
James DeMonaco: “I’m glad to hear that. It’s always one of my concerns.”
Kelli McNeely: “If you had no budget limit, where would you take The Purge?”
James DeMonaco: “The next one, the new America that I was talking about will require a much bigger budget. Beyond that, I’ve always wanted to – you know there’s something about American culture that spreads across the world, both the good and bad parts of American culture – I always wanted to do a movie where we see that The Purge begins to spread across the globe. I think that would be something to explore. That would require a much bigger budget I think. To see how other places purge. ”
Kelli McNeely: “That would be interesting. I’d watch it.”
It was a pleasure to talk with James DeMonaco who has created an impressive franchise that has continued to entertain fans. I look forward to seeing where the future films take us and how the story evolves. If you haven’t seen The Forever Purge, I urge you to do so. It is now out On Demand and arrives on 4K, Blu-ray, and on DVD on September 28, 2021. We’ll keep you updated on The Purge 6, but in the meantime, be sure to check out James DeMonaco’s new film, This is the Night. You can learn more about it here.
To stay up to date about all of DeMonaco’s projects be sure to follow him on Twitter.