Jason Statham is arguably one of the best action stars of our generation. He’s the modern day equivalent of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jean-Claude Van Damme. After dominating the action scene for years, the seasoned actor wanders into familiar territory with Parker. There have been many adaptations of Donald Westlake’s novels and it seems fitting that Statham would tackle the character. We recently spoke to the actor about doing his own stunts, and collaborating with a director who’s new to the action genre.
What was it like collaborating with director Taylor Hackford, considering he’s never done a film like this before?
Jason Statham: He’s so driven by everything being authentic and believable. He gave me a chance to do something that I don’t normally do. I get to play a more realistic chap that isn’t the guy who could take on 10 guys. He was instrumental in pushing this guy to be barely making it through these action sequences. Just surviving enough to get to the next part. He pushes himself to this extreme sort of level that he can only do. I think that’s all character-driven so I have to take my hat off to Taylor for being the driving force behind that. The execution of the physical stuff is something I know very much about. So rest assured I could say this will be easier if we do it this way. So it’s a great collaboration.
Was it an easy working relationship?
Jason Statham: Yeah. I mean obviously the collaboration comes from just I know shortcuts to get to how things work and if it’s not working for the camera, we can show you. It’s not anyone trying to say look, this is how I do it. It was a great way to team up because it works just so well. We just work good together.
One of the really fascinating action sequences is the opening with the SUV. Did you ever think you’d be calling on your driving skills again to go diving through a window at 55 miles per hour?
Jason Statham: I’m just the man for it, yeah. [laughs]… It was very claustrophobic. There’s not a lot of places to put a camera and it’s, again, we’re dealing with how we could make this believable. We grab the gun and we start like this guy’s going to shoot his friend’s ear off. So I had to grab the gun and pull it which makes him pull the trigger. You have to get the details right so it’s all realistic, believable and everybody’s doing their thing at the right time. You have to play this whole thing through and have it really feel realistic and everything has be believable and the timing has to work. And then obviously you have to jump out of the window. So that’s to me, that’s a 3, 2, 1 go. That’s how you deal with that.
You had Clifton Collins Jr., Michael Chiklis and Wendell Pierce, who aren’t really action guys. So in choreographing that sequence, did that add an extra layer of difficulty for you?
Jason Statham: Well it wasn’t too complicated to a point where, ‘Oh my God, is everyone going to get their things right?’ They’re really experienced actors and you’re in the hands of people who do this everyday. Michael Chiklis has been in The Shield, and nobody knows how to rough somebody up better than him. We know what’s coming. So yeah, you get to relax more when you’re in the company of experienced people.
Did you have an accent coach for when you did the Texas accent?
Jason Statham: Taylor was my accent coach, so if it’s bad you can tell him. Yes, he was responsible for my good or bad accent.
Your character Parker gets hurt and stays hurt up until the end of the movie. Is that somebody you’re used to playing? Somebody who’s actually injured in the line of duty?
Jason Statham: No, no. Yeah, it’s difficult because I’m so used to not doing that. I’m used to being efficient and a guy that can do more than the average guy can. So it was a new place for me to go.
What was it about Parker that you responded to or liked?
Jason Statham: Well I like crime-thrillers. I like heist movies. I like action movies to settle those elements all into one. A chance to do something that comes from a great stable of writing. Donald Westlake’s written countless books about this, over 20. 60 books in total he wrote in his career so this guy knows how to write. So I’m getting to do an action movie with all the greatness of a storyteller like Donald Westlake.
Did you go back and look at any of the books? Did that help inform your character or did you just stick to the script?
Jason Statham: I kind of just stuck to the script because at the end of the day Taylor has an interpretation to make, and he will guide us through the story. These characters are slightly expanded upon that were different to what was in — because the book was called Flashfire, we have 90 minutes to tell a story from books that take a dozen hours, matters how fast or slow you can read. We just have to go with the vision of the director. When Jennifer [Lopez] comes in she’s got things she wants to say and things about the character that she wants to bring or take away. Everyone has their sort of fingers into the pie and then you end up with something very different to the book maybe.
What was the chemistry like between you and Lopez? How was it like working with her?
Jason Statham: Yeah, we got along like a house on fire. We were just from the get-go. There was no try-hard things for us. When I meet somebody, it doesn’t matter who they are. I don’t have any pre-conceived ideas about who they are, how they’re going to behave and rumors. I don’t listen to all that crap that comes with it. She was as sweet as they could ever be. She’s just a bundle of fun. The relationship between Parker and the character Jennifer played was good because it was trying to be sexual but it never could get there. There’s a lot of tension there. It was nice to play with that because she’s so playful anyways.
What are you working on next?
Jason Statham: Homefront! It’s a film that Sylvester Stallone wrote for himself. So to have a screenplay presented to me by him that he was intending to star in himself was just a career point for me. He’s a great writer and it’s a really, really cool story. It’s based on a book written by Chuck Logan. He adapted it to suit me. It was like a tailor-made suit. Sly did all the sewing. Fantastic!
Has Stallone talked to you at all about The Expendables 3?
Jason Statham: No! I saw him on stage at the Golden Globes. He gave me that look. He hasn’t said anything but I’ve heard rumors, and I should never go with rumors, because they’re often not correct. I hear Jackie Chan might be coming to the party and that would make me very happy because I do like Jackie Chan.
We also learned Nicolas Cage is coming in. Dolph Lundgren says he’s back but hasn’t seen a script yet. Arnold Schwarzenegger is saying he’s back.
Jason Statham: “I’m back.” I’m back regardless. I mean there’s no question. You have such a laugh in those films, and the action is just… you can get away with anything. It’s so over-the-top. What we sometimes lack for in story comes back in something else. There’s just people lining up to be a part of it and it’s great.
Is there anyone else you’d like to see in it or is Jackie the biggest star you’d approve of?
Jason Statham: I like Jackie because I’ve been a fan of Jackie’s forever. He’s broken every bone in his body for his commitment and dedication to doing his own stunts, so he’s the real deal. I like Clint Eastwood as well. The thing is, the magic wand comes from Sly. He’ll either yes you or no you. So yeah, The Expendables 3, here we go.
Parker hits theaters January 25th.