Jason Statham got his big screen break in Guy Ritchie‘s first two films Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, before hitting Hollywood with starring roles in kung-fu film The One with Jet Li, as Frank Martin in The Transporter and in the hugely successful remake of The Italian Job. Jason has become the go-to guy for tough action characters with charm and humour, and has recently wowed critics with starring roles in Crank and The Bank Job, as well as two sequels to The Transporter franchise, and his latest role as Jensen Ames in the retooling of Roger Corman‘s Death Race 2000, Paul W.S. Anderson‘s Death Race.
RT caught up with him to learn more about the film and grill him on upcoming turns in Crank 2, Transporter 3 and the possibility of an appearance in Nick Love‘s version of The Sweeney.
Were you a fan of the original before you signed on for Death Race?
I was aware of it, but I never actually saw it. I bought the DVD, but its still in the cellophane. I remember sitting down with Paul and I said, “I bought the original.” He said, “Don’t worry; you don’t have to watch it.” The only similarity is that it’s a race to the death and it’s got Machine Gun Joe and Frankenstein – they’re two characters from the original – the rest is more homage. We didn’t get too tied down with trying to nail ourselves to the original. I mean, it’s 30 years ago now.
So there was no chance of it having any influence on how you would play it?
Exactly. He wanted to keep it fresh and not muddy the water, so that’s one of the exact reasons I didn’t watch it.
The cars looked awesome – how were they to drive? Did you get to do much driving yourself?
Yeah we did. They juiced up a couple of the ‘hero’ cars – they’re the ones that aren’t built to such a high extreme level, but one of them was 650 horsepower, and because they’re so heavy – they’d bolted on all these exterior plates, armour plating and all the other shit like the mini-guns – they needed to give it some extra juice so you can throw that thing around. But the vision out of those things is the worst, you know, there’s a little slit in the windscreen, no rear view mirror, no side view mirror, it’s a nightmare in terms of awareness of where your fellow drivers are. There were a lot of collisions, bumps and bangs but still a lot of fun.
We’re big fans of Crank at RT, can you tell us anything about Crank 2? How was it to film?
It was great. Six weeks of madness. Neveldine and Taylor are the nuttiest directors I’ve ever worked for, and I’d repeatedly work for them time and time again, because they’re just so out there.
It’s so offensive. Whatever the first one was, this one’s more – just completely rude, offensive and plain mad in every way. It’s great, there’s no movie like it and they’ve exceeded all expectations. To go and do that – balls to the wall – with no worries about trying to tone anything down, or to try to make it believable, you know, it’s just like a video game. There’s nothing more fun to do than to go and make something like that kind of a film, it’s pretty unique.
Where did you film it all?
It’s all in LA again. We’ve got David Carradine and he plays ‘Puon Dong,’ this really mad Asian Mafia guy, that… well I don’t to give too much of the plot away! It’s got Dwight Yoakam in it again, Amy Smart’s back and there’s a couple of other nuggets that I’m not gonna tell you about, keep those as a surprise. Chev Chelios is running around with a plastic heart. They’re farming him for his organs, because he’s the man that cannot die, so they give him an ‘Aviacore,’ a totally artificial heart, and he’s trying to find his heart. I’m giving too much away now! [laughs] Step back… step back!
Is there any truth in the rumour that you’re appearing in The Sweeney? Were you a fan of the original?
Yeah, I loved The Sweeney. I think Nick Love is a great filmmaker and the fact that Ray Winstone‘s in it – he’s one of my favourite actors and always has been – I’d crawl over broken glass to work with him. But I don’t know what’s happening with it, I don’t know whether they’ve got the script in the right spot that we want it in, so who knows?
Are you excited about Transporter 3 coming out?
Transporter 3 I’m very excited about. I know from what we’ve shot, it has potential to be the best of the three. I’m going to see it next Friday for the first time, so I’ll know a bit more then. There’s a new girl, that Luke literally found on the streets of New York, she’s the new chick. We’ve got Corey Yoen back as the action choreographer, so there’s some great fight sequences, and Frank Martins just doing the same old thing.