‘Copshop’: Gerard Butler, Frank Grillo and Alexis Louder on Being Good, Bad and Gritty

Action movies like “Copshop” thrive on pure attitude. This one has enough to spare with a crackling, sarcastic script and the trio that makes up its key cast. Gerard Butler and Frank Grillo are known to action fans the world over for their seemingly endless stream of output. There isn’t a bullet they haven’t dodged or building they haven’t leaped out from. Yet their material doesn’t grow stale. Butler was recently in “Greenland,” one of the best disaster movies in years and earlier this year Grillo fronted “Boss Level,” a time-twisting testosterone ride. In this new outing they make way for Alexis Louder, who has been building up to a breakthrough popcorn role after doing small supporting roles in acclaimed TV series like “Watchmen” and “The Good Lord Bird,” or action extravaganzas like Amazon’s “The Tomorrow War.” 

Louder plays Valerie Young, a sheriff stationed in the outskirts of Las Vegas at the Gun Greek Police Department. Conman Teddy Murretto (Frank Grillo) is brought in after sucker-punching officer Valerie Young (Alexis Louder). Why such a slick scammer would get himself arrested becomes clear when a DUI is brought into his cell space. The arrested drunk is actually Bob Viddick (Butler), a hitman out to kill Teddy over unpaid debts to certain, powerful people. A verbal standoff intensifies between the two, with Young caught in the middle, not knowing who to trust. Gerard, Grillo and Louder sat down with Entertainment Voice to discuss the fun of making “Copshop.”

Gerard, in “Copshop” you’re playing Bob Viddick, a mysterious assassin who keeps his cards close to the chest, so to speak. What does an action movie need these days for you to feel like picking up the guns once again?

Butler: It depends. You can have certain principles, criteria, but often it can be something completely different. It can be the smartness of the script, the humanity beneath it all that you didn’t expect. For this one I loved the whole concept of it being inside of this police station. The concept of everyone in this one station trying to get this one guy and the rookie cop caught in the middle. But there was the whole irreverence of these characters. They’re so brimming with personality and weirdness. I thought you could have it all. It’s action-packed but the action is never frivolous. It’s building like this pressure cooker to an explosive ending.

Alexis, this is your first action thriller where you are also the lead hero. What was most challenging about taking on this kind of role?

Butler: I thought I was the lead.

Louder: Shhh! I definitely had a moment where I had to balance that my character is there from the beginning to the end and I had to do real script analysis. I spent a lot of time at the beginning working with the stunt team and working with my gunslinger trainer. But then I would think, ‘shoot, I need to learn my lines and develop my character.’ I had to find that balance. But once I did it was very rewarding to be able to dive deep into the play of it all. We had some phenomenal scenes where we’re giving a lot of information and character and it’s still riveting. It’s beautifully done how that’s brought into this huge action thriller. You’re scared about what’s around the corner and what’s going to happen next, but you’re wow’d by the explosions and gunfights. You don’t know what to expect when you’re coming into this movie.

Did you master gun slinging? In the movie it looks flawless.

Butler: Did you see her doing that? DAMN!

Louder: (Laughing) I think I still got it. I don’t own my own Blackhawk so I haven’t been practicing lately. 

Butler: But she’s got one on her head. Can you see that?

Louder: (Turns to show a new haircut design in the shape of a Blackhawk gun) Can you see that?

So Frank, you find out you’re going to be locked in a jail with Gerard Butler for a good part of “Copshop.” What are your thoughts as soon as that dawns on you while reading the script?

It happened different than usual. The producers were going to get involved with the distribution at one point of “Boss Level,” but it didn’t happen so they gave us this script called “Police Station” that they were interested in getting made that had been around for years. To be honest, it wasn’t very good. So they offered to have Joe rewrite it. Joe Carnahan is an A-list writer and he did what Joe Carnahan does and turned it into “Copshop.” But we had to make it in the middle of Covid. No one was making any movies and there was no protocol. So we had to hire these doctors and create our own protocol. We went to Atlanta and kind of figured it out as we were doing it. It was a scary proposition. It’s not a cheap movie, it’s pretty expensive, actually. And we discovered Alexis Louder, who steals the movie.

Gerard, for most of the movie you’re in a standoff with Frank, who also has experience playing big screen tough guys. Share about how you two got along making a movie where you’re both trying to kill each other?

Well, Frank’s been a friend of mine for years and we hang out a lot. Over that time we’ve always said it would be fun to do something together. Director Joe Carnahan is also an old friend. This script had been sitting around for a long time and someone gave it to Joe and he said, ‘hey! Why don’t we both jump in and make it with Frank?’ So it’s quite funny that there’s such loathing for each other on screen, with such evil intentions. Then they yell ‘cut!’ and then you go, ‘hey where are you going tonight? Let’s go train together!’ It’s always funny working with a friend when you’re playing a foe.

Frank, like Gerard you’ve also played so many cops and fiends over the years, as an actor how do you make Teddy stand out in your mind?

Brother, such a great question, because to be honest on the page, this was not the most exciting character. Hey, I’m a team player, we’re making the movie together, Gerard is the bigger name, he’s the star and can pick who he wants to play. But my guy, on the page, is a plot device. I could do whatever I wanted to create him. I said let me get some hair extensions, I’ll have this funky suit made, I’ll get snake-skin leather boots. I want the audience to want to punch me in the face. A lot of actors don’t to do that. They want to be liked. 

Does the average director give you the kind of freedom to create the character down to the wardrobe from scratch?

Yeah, they do. My preparation is meticulous. It’s just the way I was raised. I over-prepare and probably annoy people a lot. I like to know the guy. I’m going to Italy on Wednesday to play Ferruccio Lamborghini in a biopic with Bobby Moresco who wrote “Crash.” For the first time in my life as an actor, I’m scared shitless. Now I have to go and play someone who was real, who was an iconic person. I’ve never done this before. I’m not a young man, I’m scared. It’s different than creating Teddy. Now I have to work within the confines of this other person.

Alexis, Now that you’ve finished “Copshop,” what can we expect from you next?

Well I just finished “The Terminal List,” a TV show out in Los Angeles, and I can’t wait for that to come out. I was working with Chris Pratt again, hunting him down. After that, I don’t know. It’s important to find the right next move for me.

Frank, among the many projects you’ve got on the horizon you’re reuniting with director James DeMonaco of “The Purge” for “This is The Night,” and you’ll be in Ralph Lundgren thriller, “Operation Sea Wolf.” 

Yeah, I did a little thing for Ralph because he’s a buddy of mine. I also just did “Ida Red,” which is a great film. It’s me, Josh Hartnett and Melissa Leo. That’s coming out in November, hopefully. But “This Is the Night” is coming up. It’s been on the shelf for a couple of years. Me, Naomi Watts, my favorite actress, and Bobby Cannavale, who I also love, are in it. James DeMonaco directs. This is a drama, a nostalgic film. It’s about the night “Rocky” opened in Staten Island. James is the most underrated writer/director in Hollywood. My son is 24 and graduated from film school recently and told me they are studying “The Purge.” When you look at the pandemic and the way politics have developed, it’s become just so relevant. James created that world out of his brain and deserves credit for that. Even the NY Times had a piece recently on “The Purge” series. He’s a genius.

You’ve also been outspoken about your workout routine and in particular, your preference for paleo diets. How did both play into your preparation for “Copshop” and is paleo the way to go for the aspiring action star?

Paleo works for me. I’ve been doing paleo since before “Kingdom.” For those who don’t know, it’s basically a caveman diet. It’s a lot of grass-fed meat. I usually don’t eat a lot of meat, and when I do it’s grass-fed and also wild, caught fish, free range chicken, a lot of veggies, a lot of fats, really good fats, avocados and nuts, etc. It’s kind of simple and I love it. It’s a lifestyle. People sometimes ask me what’s my cheat day. I don’t have a cheat day, this is my life, I don’t need to cheat (laughs). It’s not like I’m doing something bad. I’m 56 and at any point can get down to 7% body fat. My body is lean because of my paleo existence and it works for me. It might not work for everybody. Some people are vegetarians. I don’t get that, but hey, if it’s good for you. Some of my closest friends are vegans! I gotta tell you man, I don’t know how they do it. Paleo pancakes saturate your stomach with good fat. You feel full. I have them for breakfast and don’t have another meal until 3 or 4 in the afternoon.

Gerard, you’re always busy and are slated to appear in “All-Star Weekend,” written and directed by Jamie Foxx. What can we expect from you in that project and the massive slate you’re always in?

That Jamie Foxx movie I think I made three years ago. I was thinking about that earlier (laughs). I’ve never even seen it, I haven’t heard about it. Jamie keeps saying “oh you’re gonna love it!” And I go “well, why don’t you show it to me?” Jamie had called me and said “can you come in for two days and play a Russian gangster? Please, please please! I’ll wash your dishes, I’ll DJ at your parties!” So I don’t know what’s going on with that movie. I just did another movie called “Chase” where I got to improvise. My wife gets kidnapped. I read 16 pages of the script and the rest I had to improvise on set. I’m teaming up again with director Ric Roman Waugh, with whom I made “Greenland,” we’re going to make a movie called “Kandahar.” I’m so excited about it, it’s a phenomenal script where I play an undercover CIA agent getting into trouble in the Middle East. I’m also doing “Den of Thieves 2,” which I should be shooting next year. And then…I’m retiring. I’m serious!

Louder: Stop saying that!

Butler: No, I’m serious! I’m done! I’m done!“Copshop” releases Sept. 17 in theaters nationwide.