Action's new king talks Bank Job, Crank 2, Transporter 3 and Death Race.
It was just under ten years ago that audiences were first introduced to the brooding tough guy played by Jason Statham in Guy Ritchie's breakout Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The pairing was a success and Statham has gone on to work with Ritchie twice more on Snatch and Revolver.
But before becoming a movie star, Statham had already tried his hand at a variety of careers. He was an Olympic diver on the British National team, a black market salesman and, eventually, a male model. It was the modeling agency that first suggested Statham for the part in Lock, Stock. From that film, he has gone on to become one of the most popular action stars in cinema with memorable parts in The Italian Job, Cellular, Crank and the Transporter franchise.
Statham is about to add a third entry in the Transporter series, this time with legendary French filmmaker Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Professional) taking a more active role as producer. Chev Chelios from Crank will also be returning for the tentatively titled Crank 2: High Voltage which will indeed be a sequel -- not a dream or a prequel -- which might surprise those who enjoyed the intense ride of the first movie. Finally, the busy Statham recently wrapped on the remake of Death Race, which will be out later this year.
Statham's latest movie is a bit of a breather from the high octane heroics of his recent filmography. As Terry Leather in The Bank Job, Statham returns to familiar territory as a thug looking to make a quick buck as the leader of a ragtag group of part-time crooks all hoping to land a big score from a bank vault heist they got tipped off about. The problem is, these small-timers are about to rob far more than they bargained for, suddenly thrust into a long-hidden British scandal that involves the mob, Parliament and the Royal Princess Margaret in the flesh (literally). Based on actual events too preposterous to be fake, The Bank Job is the greatest heist story you've never heard of.
During a brisk exclusive interview with ReelzChannel, the fast-talking, foul-mouthed-but-still-charming Statham ran through The Bank Job, Crank 2, Transporter 3, Death Race and still had time to ask me about the multi-track recorder I was using for the interview.
JASON STATHAM: I was gonna buy this thing. It's decent isn't it?
JEFF OTTO, reelz.com: Yeah, the sound quality is pretty good.
JS: Double jacks, it's got the whole thing. Okay, enough about that.
JO: So how did you get involved with The Bank Job?
JS: I got a script from my friend Jason Flemming, who'd read it. He said, "I've got this thing, it's called Baker Street." That's what it was called at the time because that was the original location of the Lloyd's Bank. So I read it and said, "Yeah, it's really good..." Just chit-chatting amongst friends. Next thing I know, I met with this director that was originally attached... I had a meeting with the writers and this new director...
I really wanted to play it, this was years ago. I said, "Yeah, I could do a really good job with this, Terry Leather, I think I could nail it." And, you know, it went away. They couldn't get the money, don't know what happened... I was disappointed because it was quite an entertaining ride.
A couple of years had passed... My agent sent it to Roger Donaldson and then I had a meeting with Roger and he went, "Yeah, I love it, I love you for it, it's great!" We just clicked... He was excited, I was excited. I'd seen all of Roger's movies so I thought, "F***, if he wants to work with me, I've hit the jackpot." Next thing you know, we've got the money together and bang, off to London.
JO: Were you involved in the characterization of Terry?
JS: You know, it was an easy part for me to play really. You know, car dealer, it wasn't a big stretch. It wasn't like I had to do something that I hadn't seen done or speak in a dialect that I didn't know... It's a world that I know -- Wheeling and dealing, cars, people that you know... It's easy... It was a regular guy, so it was easy for me to play.
JO: Of all the characters you've played, which would you say is the most like you?
JS: Lock Stock. That was just me doing what I do...
JO: Okay, so you're about to do Crank 2. Now, let me know if I missed something, but at the end of the first Crank, you fall from the sky to your death, bounce off that car and you're done. Does this start with you just getting up?
JS: No, they come in with a big shovel. It's so funny. I don't want to give it away, but literally, that's the f***ing start of the next film. Right there, bang, on the street. [He makes a shoveling motion]. Woosh, straight into the back of a black van.
JO: Shoot Em' Up came out a few months back and I thought it sort of took a few of its ideas from Crank.
JS: Yeeaah. I was like, "F*** man, Giamatti and, I don't know." It just didn't quite do it. It was good, it was fun but yeah, I don't know...
JO: And where are you at on Transporter 3?
JS: We've got the whole crew back together. I think Luc [Besson]'s getting involved with this. He's got a bit of time so he's really pushing himself on the creative side. He's going to be very present because we're shooting in Paris, so he's going to keep us all under the reign of his creative side. There's nothing more appealing than that because I've watched Luc's movies millions of times. La Femme Nikita, The Professional, I love it! To have him hands on with Cory Yuen coming in to do the action. I'm training every day. I'm already in great shape.
So, you know, we've got an amazing chick handpicked by the man himself. She's never acted, she's just completely fresh. I think he has an amazing skill to pick great girls like Mila Jovovich, Natalie Portman. Every chick that he picks is always an undiscovered thing. He says, "You've got to see this girl. She's like, ridiculous. Just weird looking and very quirky." He's been putting her in acting school for the past six months, so she's working away. He's very excited. He loves this one more than any of the others.
JO: When is the start date?
JS: It starts in four weeks.
JO: And what's the part you're playing in Death Race?
JS: I play the character Jensen Ames, who is an ex-racecar driver. He basically has a misspent youth and he's found himself a lovely wife and they've had a beautiful child together. He's escaped his prison days.
He gets wrongfully framed for the murder of his own wife and ends up in a prison run by this corrupt warden played by Joan Allen. She runs this race and all the people within the prison make their own cars. They put machine guns and missiles and napalm and smoke and ejector seats. These are the most tricked out, armor plated, Mad Max wreck tech style cars racing to the death. If you win five races, you get parole.
He gets banged up, put in prison, gets to deal with all the racist s*** within the prison. They've got the Aryan Brotherhood, the Mexican Mafia. They're all there and they're all in their own style cars... It's very cool. I think you'll enjoy it. [Paul W.S. Anderson] (the director) is cutting the trailer and he says, "You're gonna s*** yourself. It's really f***ing good." The cars look bitchin'!
If you can't get a bit of fun out of that then you don't know what fun is.