Since bursting onto the scene ten years ago in Guy Ritchie's LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, Jason Statham's name has become synonomous with "cinematic badass." Flicks like SNATCH, THE ITALIAN JOB, CRANK, and THE TRANSPORTER franchise (yes, they're making a 3rd) have solidified the man's status as one of the only genuine big-screen tough guys - a dying breed.
I was fortunate enough to hang out with the cat while he waited for an exciting car stunt to be set up. Needless to say, he brought his trademark laid-back vibe and confidant swagger to the discussion, which he actually seemed to enjoy. Telling you, this guy's as cool as advertised...
Statham: I suppose you come on a decent day to see a stunt or two.
No Mini Coopers in this one?Statham: Better than the Mini Coopers these are. Talk about little minis. Don't go very fast, these will have a bit more of the engine inside more toys to play with.
That's right, we saw the insides of these cars. What's it like to get to...?
Statham: Oh, it's all the best things you know. There is a nitrous oxide system. It gives you another 250 Horsepower. We've got napalm, smoke, ejector seats and a very crappy stereo that plays CDs. But we're not concerned about that. Yeah, it's great to be able to drive something as potent as one of those things. This is so unique, I've never seen anything like it. You have got General Electric mini-guns on there that fire out 4000 rounds a minute. One of those can tear a car into smithereens within a couple of minutes. They are amazing. You should go on YouTube and see what one of those guns does, it will blow your mind. So these are the most tear-it-out cars you could ever imagine.
Were you aware of the old film and had you seen it?
Statham: Yeah, but Paul said to try not to pay too much attention to that. I mean, it is a homage to that but this is not a carbon copy in any stretch of the imagination. This is something completely different.
Did you set up your character and how he ends up in prison and driving in the race?
Statham: Something happens that he gets sent to prison. It's all to do with the murder of his wife and his young daughter gets taken into foster care. So, he is in prison trying to clear his name the best way he can. No one is interested in listening to that story. So, the only way he can find a way to exit that hellhole is to win five races, and he takes on the persona of Frankenstein, which is a creation that the evil Hennessey has brought to everyone's attention through the masses of the Internet. He has to take the place of Frankenstein because the real Frankenstein is dead.
Did you have to drive with that mask?
Statham: No, that would have been a bit of the burden.
The window let some air in there, right?Statham: Yeah, the windows are bulletproof and smoked and mirrored. We can't really see what's happening inside so when we get inside, we can take off the mask.
You've got quite an adversary and Joan Allen. In this one, what is she like to go up against?
Statham: Oh, I tell you she's a cold and chilling villain, believe me. You know, she's amazing. You don't get the Oscar for being average. She is as good as they come. So, to act across from somebody as great as her is, for me, a major step forward. Unbelievable. Yes, she does the job and a half.
What about McShane?
Statham: Again, you know Golden Globe winner Mr. McShane. Fellow countrymen. Working with somebody like him just raises the bar considerably. Its just that credibility and he gives you all the drama, much more weight, so were all happy about that.
Can you talk about the relationship between your character and Tyrese's?
Statham: There ain't much of one. I mean, it's a very competitive environment in the prison. Machine Gun Joe is on his way to winning his freedom too so it's a bit of a competitive environment. So there ain't no handshakes and no pats on the back. So, you'll see he's a bit of an evil bastard.
You have a navigator in this. Is there some sort of relationship between you and your navigator?
Statham: Well you'll have to wait and see. I mean, they bring all the women in from the female prison, and it's either to pump up the ratings or its to do a good job at navigating a bad track that we have to drive around.
We were talking to her earlier and she talked about the way that the driver and the navigator work together. You have to have sort of a quick shorthand language and develop a rapport while she was navigating you around the course.
Statham: Yeah, I mean, I come from the UK and I'm very familiar with rally driving. It's a 50-50 sort of job with the navigator, I mean, it's very shorthand. I mean, the corners come up so quick and they give a number for the acuteness of the corner. And I mean, it's all very very fast talking and it's a communication that has to be very, very strong. So yeah, that's the kind of track that this is. It's not like a Formula One track where the navigation comes from within the pits and you kind of get familiar with pre-laps. This is a bit more of her reckless kind of track that we are subjected to.
What do you think you would do in a real death race?
Statham: I don't know, I would give it a good go. I don't know, I'd like to think I would do very well.
Can you talk a little bit about the fighting and if this is a very much stylized kind of thing. Like, the Transporter obviously got down and dirty.
Statham: Yeah, no one wants to be repeating themselves. In this character is a different kind of person. He's a bit of a bad boy turned good from his misspent youth. But he got his act together and found itself a lovely lady. I don't think he had much skills from the military or in a martial arts environment. So we couldn't stick any of those skills on him. He's a bit more of a brute or sort of street fighting sort of guy. And we're picking out weapons instead of doing a round houses.
What's the working relationship like with Paul Anderson? Is he pretty hands on with you or does he sort of lets you go with the flow?
Statham: Yeah, I've never really been working with anybody so ahead of the game. He's so detail oriented, that this whole movie that he's already pre-shot it in his head. He's a bundle of good energy. Every change that he has had has been a positive one script changes every refinement of the day has been a great one. I have massive, massive respect for him and you'll see the finished product. I think he's going to do an amazing job with this. Yeah, I'm really, really pleased.
The Crank guys said they were going to do a run through. They said they were going to do a sequel in April. What can you tell us about what we can expect from this one?
Statham: Oh God, it's fucking ridiculous. In a nutshell, you thought the first one was a bit crazy, this one is ridiculous. I mean, it's mad but, you know, in a good way. I couldn't resist working with those chaps again and doing something in that vein. And again, it's something really unique and they gives me the chance to go wild in the aisles.
Is it a prequel?Statham: No, it's the follow on.
What about The Italian Job sequel or Transporter 3?
Statham: Yeah, they're in talks. I mean, I have a massive sort of yearning to do part three with Luc and we've just been waiting for the script to be in a good spot. And I think that'll happen. Luc is actually coming up here in a week or so and we'll have a little talk about that. Italian Job has been floating around for years. I mean, they're trying to get their fingers on it. I don't know what you would call it, apple pie or something. But they're trying to get that together and I don't know. I don't know what's going to happen, whether they can make it work or not. There's more elements to try and get together. Charlize is busy, Wahlberg is a busy man. Everybody is busy so there is too many moving parts for that one to come together quickly.
There were some rumors on line a few months ago that they were looking at you for maybe a role in the G.I. Joe movie. Have you been approached at all about that?
Statham: You know the old Internet can be quite misleading a time. I don't know where that came from. No, nothing. No connection with G.I. Joe. That is so not on my menu.
Backing up, I don't think we've asked you what attracted you to this role in the first place.
Statham: My meeting with Paul. I sat and had a lunch with him in the Château Marmont and he showed me the concept drawings for the cars and I was like, “Ooh, this looks really nice.” I mean I'm a massive car geek anyway. And most sort of chaps that I grew up with come from the same ilk. And then obviously that's not enough to make a movie, having a good meeting with the director and how cool the car looked. So, he presented me with the script and I phoned him the next day. I said, “It's brilliant.” So yeah, we hit it off and it was a combination of great ideas from Paul and the start to finish of the whole movie was already presented to me by him that day, and the script was great. And I really liked him and I thought I could do a good job with him.
Do you have any ideas about the character that you shared with Paul?
Statham: Yeah, I mean, we talked about all that stuff and we talked about how we wanted it to look. I mean physicality got adjusted and I stopped eating the pies and stopped drinking beer and started getting into prison shape.
Yeah, we saw those pictures, that was amazing. That must be a really tough regimen.
Statham: Yeah, I was a very miserable bastard around the set. Yeah, take away sugar and you become a bit of a nasty person. Yeah, you know it's a bit of the sacrifice. But for me, it's all part of the job.
What's been your most challenging scene or your favorite scene that you have done so far?
Statham: Well I've enjoyed most of my scenes with Joan, you know, because she's so smooth and intense and she's just got this aura. And I would just have to say my scenes with Joan or good old Ian McShane. You know he's been a great mentor towards the young lads as well, a man of many, many stories. You can't get enough of him. It was sad to see him go. So yeah, a combination of those two.