While the first Transporter film (2002) was directed by acclaimed martial arts choreographer Corey Yuen, French director Louis Letterier took the helm for its follow-up, Transporter 2 (2005). This week newcomer Olivier Megaton takes the wheel for a bigger, faster Transporter 3, with Yuen returning to choreograph a leaner (and often shirtless) Statham in the film’s impressive action sequences.
Rotten Tomatoes spoke to Statham about his favorite films of all time, which surprisingly include a few Paul Newman classics and unsurprisingly include a Bruce Lee film. As our conversation continued, we also discussed the different feel of Transporter 3, Corey Yuen’s diminished role in the film’s action scenes, and his recently announced film, The Expendables, in which he’ll star with action legends Sylvester Stallone (who will also write and direct) and Jet Li.
I saw it years ago, when my mom and dad made me watch it. And I was like, “This guy [Paul Newman] is just the coolest dude ever.” He just had such charisma. It just really spoke to me, and it’s one of those films I can watch time and time again. Paul Newman! It was like, Oh my God, look at this guy, he’s so cool! It was pretty much the first time I saw Paul Newman and I’ve been hooked on most of his movies ever since.
It’s just quality at its best. Fantastic writing, an amazing caliber of acting; just beautiful, everything about it. The details of the clothes, the sets — just a masterpiece. Again, I can watch any of the trilogy time and time again. [RT: Even Godfather 3??] Well…(laughs) Listen, the first two are so good.
If we want to talk about the movies that have made an impact in what I do in the action realm — Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. I’ve watched that countless times. That is a standalone pioneer in action movies, and anyone that was inspired by Bruce Lee…I’m sure everyone that has ever done an action movie has just drooled over how full of talent Bruce Lee was, and how unique he was.
[On the first time he saw Enter the Dragon]: I was a kid; my brother had posters of Bruce Lee on the wall. My brother’s you know, punching me and he was a lot bigger than me; I was like, what? I couldn’t see the movie, I was tiny. But as soon as I was able to steal the VHS and stick it in, it was like, Gee, this guy is just…so avant-garde, he’s years above, so far ahead of his own time. So that made a massive impact in my life.
Next: Jason Statham on Transporter 3, Corey Yuen’s diminished involvement, and his plans to team up with Sly Stallone and Jet Li.
I hear you visit Rotten Tomatoes…
Jason Statham: Sometimes, yeah! You’re making all these films, and sometimes – hey, listen, it can be quite depressing or it can give you a big head for all the wrong reasons. So I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but sometimes you spend so many hours making these films…people are going to give an opinion on them, and everyone’s entitled to an opinion. There’s always good and there’s always bad. So it’s best not to take it too seriously, but at the same time it’s nice to know people support what you’re doing, and at the same time you also get the ol’ custard pie. “That was a piece of crap!” But at the end of the day, no one tries to make a bad movie. And people really do work hard. And there are a lot of people involved. And sometimes it doesn’t end up the way it was supposed to end up. So to think that some people just say, “Well that was a piece of shit…” It’s quite harsh when you read that. But at the end of the day, it’s just us trying to do good.
And you’re just a part of the whole picture…
JS: Yeah, you’re not solely responsible for the finished product. But it is what it is; people like feedback.
The Bank Job got great reviews.
JS: I know! I was like, hey, somebody likes a movie of mine!
JS: Oh, God. Bruce Lee was just so lightning-fast. People try to emulate him in whatever way they can, but to try and do what he was doing…you’re just inspired by it; you’re not trying to say, look, I can do that. No one can do what he did.
And Corey Yuen, by the way, is the one that creates all these sequences. [Yuen directed the first Transporter film, served as second unit director on Transporter 2, and choreographed the action in Transporter 3.] He’s ultimately responsible for those choreographed pieces.
Now, Corey directed the first Transporter; the second film was by Louis Leterrier (Incredible Hulk). In the third Transporter, you’ve got a new director, Olivier Megaton. How different has it been working from movie to movie with these different directors?
But Corey still choreographed the sequences?
JS: Yes, but usually if you choreograph it, you usually edit it, too. But you know, Olivier has a very certain style of filmmaking, and it’s very stylistic and cool; I think he’s done a great job. But it is very different to the previous two. A lot faster; doesn’t have the silky-smooth feel. A little bit of timing was lost. But at the same time, some people like that; it’s a little more contemporary. It’s all about flavor, it’s all about what you like.
Can you talk a bit about The Expendables, which was just announced?
JS: Yeah, we’re gonna team up with Sly, who’s going to write, direct and star in The Expendables movie and I’m going along for the ride. With Jet Li as well! It’ll be a powerhouse combo – get out of the way, motherf***ers! (laughs) That’s what it should be called.
Will you be fighting each other?
JS: No, we’ll be on the same squad. There’ll be some ass to be kicked. I’m looking forward to it.