MANILA, Philippines – Jason Statham was once a member of the British National Diving Team and finished 12th in the 1992 World Championships. He was also a fashion model, securing the audition for his debut role in Guy Ritchie’s
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), through French Connection, for whom he was working. He teamed up with Ritchie again for Snatch (2000) and then Revolver (2005). Other notable movies include a trio of Transporter
films (2002, 2005 and 2008), the blockbuster remake ofThe Italian Job (2003), Crank (2006), War (2007), The Bank Job (2008), Death Race (2008), The Expendables(2010), The Mechanic (2010) and last year’s Killer Elite. He is now shooting the action-thriller Hummingbird . In Safe, he plays Luke Wright, a man who loses everything but who learns to live and kill, again.
Below are excerpts from an interview with Jason:
You’re in the middle of Hummingbird, which sounds a bit mental. What’s it all about?
“It is a difficult one to talk about. How can I put this? There are a lot of different ways that you can say what the movie is about. I think the thrust of it is a guy whose encounter with a nun has a very significant impact and I don’t want to say much more than that, but it is a terrific script. Steve Knight who has written it has done some brilliant screenplays. This is just full of really emotional stuff that I never get to do, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Did you fancy getting a bit emotional?
“Yes, yes. It is a good reason for doing it and the shoot is at home with good locations. I always want to come back and do a film in the UK because you get so wrapped up in working away all the time. When you come home you realize, ‘Hang on, this is a great way of making films.’ The crew is so small that you get more intimate and you learn everybody’s name in two minutes. There’s not like 10 cameras running at the same time. We are running on one camera, which is very unusual. The DP is an old school sort of a chap, using single cameras. It is a quite a head-scratcher; you never usually see that.”
In Safe, Luke is a very hard man but has an air of vulnerability about him. That must be one of things that attracted you to the film?
“(Producer) Lawrence Bender was the chap who said, ‘You have never done anything like this,’ and he was right. I normally play the indestructible hero who doesn’t have much to get down about so, yes, this is certainly something that I don’t get to do that often.Hummingbird, though, is another step beyond that — far more dramatic. For me, there’s no question. We are only three weeks into shooting that film, so we still have a lot to do. I don’t want to jeopardize anything.”
Safe has emotion as a driving force, as much the action, maybe?
“Yeah, this guy has lost everything he has and is on the verge of giving up. But a chance encounter gives him a reason to live again. I liked that idea.”
After Lock, Stock you went on to become a major Hollywood star. Did you set out to be an action hero?
“There was no conscious effort to try and go down a pathway where I could form a niche. No. As soon as I did that Transporter film people saw that I could beat a few people up, do some fancy moves, do some stunts and risk my neck and then, all of a sudden, people liked that and I got to do another and then another. And to go to work and be the guy who was working almost every day was great. There is nothing better than turning up every day and going to another location and you get into a rhythm and it was great. I was so happy to be doing it that I thought, ‘Maybe action is for me.’ Then if you have a certain success you can go and make another one; people offer you a chance. The Transporter movie made money so other people want to do something like that as well. The next thing you know you are doing more movies from that genre. I wasn’t getting any other movies other than the ones that made a few quid!”
As a kid did you idolize the hard men of the era, the Slys and Arnies?
“I did grow up on action films; I love all the Die Hard films. I grew up in the ’80s and it was the big thing. Rocky, Stallone, Rambo.Stallone and Rambo were two of the biggest franchise of movies that anyone could ever know. So, to think that Sly just assembled all of those guys for The Expendables is amazing.”
Did you have to pinch yourself doing The Expendables and then The Expendables 2?
“Yeah, we just finished The Expendables 2 and I was stood there thinking, ‘What the f*** am I doing?’ There was Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, a whole row, and I was obviously the youngest there. It was like, ‘Get out of the way, kid.’ For me, it was an amazing place to be. I kept the call sheet because I was so proud of it. I was like, ‘Look I am on the call sheet with the most amazing action heroes of my years growing up!’”
Would you call Sly your buddy now?
“Yes. I would like to call him that. He is very intelligent. I have so much respect for him. And for him to include me in those movies, man. I am really, really grateful to be one of them. It was so big.”
Can you spot a good action movie just from the script?
“Yes. I think so. You can only go by that. If it is on the page you have some element of potential. An action script has to have at least some pull with the characters. If they are there, the action is the easy part. It is when you give a f*** about the characters. And that is on the page or it is not. The running around, shooting, beating people up, we can do that easy but you just have to have the relationships. I think that’s why The Expendables works because they are always arguing and they are a bunch of useless idiots really. When they all get together they don’t know what they can do!”