Jason Blum isn’t done with The Purge. Although The Forever Purge was once billed as the fifth and final installment in the series, the producer isn’t ready to let the hit series go. And based on the ending of the latest installment, there are still more stories to tell.
As for the present, The Forever Purge is one of the bigger stories in the series. It opens the world up more, and this time the story takes place outside of a city landscape and in the state of Texas. Blum considers it the best of the franchise. In the beginning, though, people doubted the first movie would even work, let alone lead to four sequels.
Recently, Blum talked to us about the evolution of The Purge, how he tries to lead at Blumhouse, and why he was understandably more worried about other matters than movie theaters returning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s funny talking to you about the fifth Purge movie. I interviewed you for the first one, and at the time, you said there was a lot of doubt whether it would work.
That was a long time ago. It was the first movie I did for Universal. Universal’s never released a $3 million movie in the history of the company, being Universal. So, just that was like, wait, we’re going to spend $30 million to open a movie that cost $3 million? That made no sense. The movies are politically charged a little bit, which always makes everyone a little antsy. I’m glad they did, though. The rest is history, as the saying goes.
Does that still make people antsy?
Look what happened to The Hunt. I mean, it’s complicated.
After the success of the first movie, did the franchise become what was originally imagined?
Even after the success of the first movie, I never thought I’d be talking to you about the fifth movie. And by the way, hoping we make a sixth movie. James has said, “This is the last movie.” I’m going to try and talk him into another movie. I think the franchise has been a great comment on the hollowness of the American Dream. The American Dream is great for a very small handful of people, but there’s really a lot of untruth in the American Dream. I think each Purge has touched on that.
The Purge is about a society without rules for a certain amount of time. This is about a society without rules, always. So, all the rules are out the window. There is no structure anymore. It’s just total anarchy, which for me is a lot of fun. So, it’s my favorite one. I think it’s super scary and the craziest one we’ve ever done.
Speaking of anarchy, would you say that the first sequel really set the tone for the rest of the franchise?
It’s a wise observation. Because that is the movie, the second movie, is what the third, fourth, and fifth movies were born out of, not the first movie. And the reason for that is that the first movie was about this thing called The Purge, but you never got to see it. It was all inside a house. It was strictly because of the budget. We found the budget to show the movie.
Once we figured out that the audience was receptive to an idea of a movie about a society where there were no laws for 12 hours a year, once a year, then we could spend a little bit more money. We could actually show what we imagined, or what James imagined, would be happening on Purge night. And that’s what we did in the second movie. And that’s what we’ve done in every subsequent movie is, show what’s happening outside on the Purge, not just inside. So, the original Purge is over here. And then, the four subsequent movies are over here. So, I think you’re very right to say that.
Five movies in, what’s still challenging about this franchise?
The budget. All of our movers are low-budget. The low budget is three million, or eight million, or 15 million. Compared to a studio movie, they’re all low-budget. So, it doesn’t surprise me, but if we just had a little bit more money, we could just do this thing so much better. It doesn’t seem to matter. However much money you have, you always need a little bit more. So, that’s always the biggest challenge in our movies is, trying to fit a big story into a small budget.
The last time we talked was for David Koepp’s movie. You were confident movie theaters and audiences would return, but was that ever a real concern?
I was nervous about other things than returning to the theater, to be honest, I was worried about my kids going to school without a fucking mask on their face. That’s what I was really nervous about, to be honest with you. But I was sad, and I missed the movies. I missed the movies. I never realized how much I took going to the movies for granted until I didn’t go for a year. And then, I really realized it.
Especially, scary movies. We really built The Purge, Halloween, and others for the screen. You want to be scared. So, the way to be scared is to watch these movies in a theater, in a big dark room with a lot of other people, with your phone in your pocket, not on your lap. They’re just not as good any other way. They’re surely not as scary. So, that’s something that I missed. I wouldn’t say it kept me up at night, but I missed it.
I felt the same after returning to the theaters for the horror movie, The Night House.
What was that? Is that good?
It’s with Rebecca Hall, and it’s very good. Have you been back to the movies yet? What have you seen?
Yes, I’ve been back now a couple of times. I saw Boss Baby 2 with my daughter in the movie theater. We did a test screening of The Black Phone. So, that was in a full movie theater in Burbank. I’ve been twice now.
You talk to some producers, they almost don’t even seem like film fans, but you’re one of those producers that strikes the balance between film fan and the business side. What’s that like for you, striking that balance?
I feel really lucky about that. I agree with you. I love movies and TV shows. I love them. I’m watching this show, Your Honor, have you seen it? Bryan Cranston show?
Yeah, it’s good until the eighth episode. Have you seen the whole thing?
As soon as he kills the person in the boatyard, the show falls apart. It’s so dull. I was so pissed because I really loved the show until that moment. I just saw Dirty John, season one and two. Did you see that? Dirty John and Dirty: The Betty Broderick Story?
I haven’t seen season two yet.
Season two is amazing. Amazing. Anyway, that’s right. When I have free time, with my kids, and when my kids are asleep, I watch TV or I read a book. I love stories. I actually don’t read a book, I listen to a book. I more often do audible books. I’m listening to a book about the Sacklers right now. They did the opioids.
I feel very lucky because I hear other people in my position and I feel like, you’re right. I’m just very excited by stories. I need them to breathe. There are a lot of people in my position who just don’t feel that way. If you don’t feel that way, why are you doing the job? It’s a hard job, do something else.
So, I appreciate you saying that. I don’t think that’s true of writers and directors, but I think that is true of producers. It’s weird. Most writers and directors, love stories. But producers, they’re on the bubble. A lot of executives are really on the bubble. Agents, too, which is strange.
When you run a company as big as you do and being in a leadership position, what qualities and values do you try to bring to the office every day?
Transparency is very important. Try and be as transparent as possible. Optimistic. You don’t want to be led by someone who’s down every day or pessimistic about the world every day. It’s too debilitating. I think those are probably the two most important categories.
I think, for me, making sure I listen to people. I don’t always do what people’s opinion is, but I try really hard to get the people’s opinions who worked for me, to hear them. The final thing is that I empower my executives in the same way I empower my directors, which is I don’t micromanage our directors. I try and do the opposite, which is to turbocharge our directors.
Meaning, I give them a ton of notes. I give them a ton of ideas of casting. I give them a ton of input, but I let them choose what they’re going to do and not do. I let them choose. When you do that, the director is more likely to do what you want because it’s not a battle of wills.
The battle of wills, the director always wins, right? I always say that. Listen, I’m never going to force you to do anything. I give, on the film side, I almost never have final cut. I give it to our directors on the low-budget movies. On big-budget movies, that’s not true.
I do the same thing with our executives. I give our executives a lot of freedom. There’s an executive, just to give you an example, who really loves a project and think it’s great. If I don’t get it, I say, “Go for it.” Until they pick a few and they don’t work, then they’re probably not working at the company anymore. I let them go unless they screw something up really badly, as opposed to holding a tight noose around people.
How far off do you usually think in the future for Blumhouse? Ever think five years ahead?
I think that far with our franchises. With Halloween, I thought five years ahead. Because I knew we were going to do three movies. I was really thinking about that. I try not to think that far when we’re deciding on whether to greenlight a television show or a movie. I just try and put the noise out and try and get as much information as I can. And then, I go to sleep at night and think, should we do this? Or should we not? I try not to think about the future too much because I think that can kind of paralyze you. So, I guess the answer is, in some ways I do, in some ways I don’t.
Speaking of franchises, Happy Death Day, the sequel was excellent. Still any hope for a third movie?
I’m not giving up. That’s like the next Purge movie. There’s nothing official, but I felt the same way. I think Chris Landon’s one of the most talented filmmakers we’ve ever worked with. We continue to work with. And I want to continue that franchise in some way. It’s what happens when the box office really falls off on a second movie, it’s much more challenging to keep it going, but I’m going to try. I’ve got some ideas up my sleeve.
Is Dracula with Karyn Kusama still moving along, too?
Well, I just texted her this morning. I’ll say this, it’s in very active development, so we’re getting very close.
The Forever Purge hits theaters on July 2, 2021.
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