Opening this weekend is director Taylor Hackford’s (Ray) Parker. Based on the novel Flashfire by Donald E. Westlake (published under the pseudonym Richard Stark) the crime thriller stars Jason Statham as the title character, a professional thief with a strict personal code of ethics. Parker doesn’t steal from people who can’t afford it, he doesn’t hurt people who don’t deserve it, and if you break his rules he will hunt you down and make you pay. When his team double crosses him on the job and leaves him for dead he tracks them to Palm Beach with a mission for vengeance. The film also stars Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Nick Nolte, Clifton Collins, Wendell Pierce and Micah Hauptman.
During the recent Los Angeles press day I got to talk with Statham. He talked about Hackford’s approach to the action genre, what it took to pull off the stunts, what kind of movie he’d like to make in the future, stepping into the role of producer on Heat, whether he’ll ever direct a film, and more. In addition, we got updates on Crank 3, Homeland and Hummingbird. Check out the full interview after the jump.
Collider: Tell me a little bit about how you got involved in Parker.
Jason Statham: There’s a writing department at CAA, which is my agency over there, and they send a script my way, you read the script, next thing you know it’s something that you just respond to immediately, “Oh, this is great I’d really love to do this.” And then with the right help you start putting things together, scripts get sent to directors. Taylor [Hackford] read it and decided he wanted to meet me and the rest is history, as soon as he gets involved the floodgates come open and all these great, interesting actors come to the party and it’s great.
This is Taylor Hackford’s first foray into the action genre, of course you have done a lot of action films, did you notice anything about his approach to the genre that was different than what you’ve seen in the past?
Statham: Well he brings a meticulous, believable restriction to what I’ve been given in the past. That restriction was something that made all the difference in making the character believable. For me to get beaten to a pulp and barely survive is not something that happens often and that is totally Taylor being specific and saying, “Listen this guy is not a fucking superhero, is not Superman that can walk into a room and beat ten guys up. No one’s going to believe that. This is real, we’re trying to have some authenticity a believable side to these people.” Parker is the guy that even when he’s on the brink of being on his last breath, he barely survives, and he still has further to go. He said, “The odds are stack against him and it’s not something we normally see and I want to see that.” He was instrumental in putting that in place.
Yeah, you definitely took more hits in this than I’ve ever seen you take before.
The stunt where you jumped out of the car looked rather brutal, can you talk a little bit about what goes into pulling something like that off so you don’t, you know, die?
Statham: [Laughs] Yeah, I’ve got three twin brothers. If I die they just bring the next one in. No, they’re difficult to orchestrate, you have to know what you’re doing. There’s a huge amount of faith and confidence in the stunt team. You have to know exactly what you’re capable of. You have to understand the consequences if it goes wrong and why you don’t have to do certain things in order to keep it believable. You have to realize that we’re not trying to kill ourselves on screen, on camera, so you have to keep it safe so you’re looking for experience people to put their heads together and say, “How do we make this safe and how do we film it?” But it’s exciting and when it works out it comes out great.
That one looks fantastic. You’ve said in the past that you would be open to doing other genres if it was with the right people, is there any genre in particular that you’re hungry to try out?
Statham: I’d love to do a comedy. I’d love to do a two-hander like the old Leathal Weapon movies. I love those, like an action comedy with the straight man and the funny man. I’d love to do one of those. I really would. Just got to find one, find a funny man that wants to do one with me.
You definitely got a little comedy in with Crank.
Statham: Yeah, I really like that film.
I do too.
Statham: I had such a laugh with those guys, they’re fucking crazy. Oh my god, [Mark] Neveldine and [Brian] Taylor, they’re mad, I love them. For me that was a movie that I really enjoyed. I got some great props from the man who started my career, Guy Ritchie, went “Fucking great, I love that film. Statham, that was a fucking good film, mate.” So you get the endorsement from him and you kind of know you did something well.
Has there been any forward movement on the possibility of a third Crank movie?
Statham: You know, as I’ve said before, these guys are just brilliant at what they do and if there’s a Crank 3 that they want me to be a part of then they don’t have to knock too hard.
Jumping back into Parker for a moment, this role has a lot of history behind it and has a bit more complexity than some of the roles we’ve seen you in before, coming into a role like this with a director like Taylor Hackford, did you prepare for this role any differently than you usually do?
Statham: I don’t think I had any different approach in terms of preparation. I kind of understood the different emotions that he was going through and why he needed to do what he was doing and Taylor’s such a good director he gives you all the information you need to be able to stand behind the words and have that right feeling. The storytelling part, I leave that in the capable hands. It’s definitely a much more intelligent story, a smart caper than things that I’ve done before. I think that comes from Donald Westlake and his sixty books that he’s written, twenty-plus have been written about this same character. So it’s a good character to fill the boots of.
You are credited as producer on your upcoming film Heat, why was that a role that you wanted to step into and how has your pre-production process so far been different from what you usually experience?
Statham: Yeah. I saw the original movie and there’s a lot of stories of how that movie got made and the antics that happened. I don’t think it ever maximized what they had. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the stories about what happened.
I heard a couple, I believe punches were thrown.
Statham: Yeah, and the director went away, and this guy got sent to the hospital, so it was a bit of shambles how it all came together. But William Goldman is one of the great writers and has written so many brilliant stories; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of my favorite movies of all time. This being one of his books was more than enough reason to go in on it. I thought it might be a great way to attract some talented actors. The rights were available and Steve Chasman, who I’m in a partnership with, he’s made a few movies with me, several movies; Transporter, The Bank Job. So we thought we’d give it a try and try to put it together ourselves. It’s been really, really rewarding so far. You only get one shot in your life and you might as well push yourself and try things. There’s so many interesting aspects of making a movie; the costume department, the set design, the casting itself, the locations. It’s a great, great thing to be involved in if you have the headspace for it, and I do. Try anything once.
As you step into the role of producer do you see yourself trying your hand at directing in the future?
Statham: I don’t think I’m there yet. Never say never. I feel that I have a certain amount of experience and I’m still learning so much. But a director’s job is so vast; they have so much to do with the preparation. You have to be great with all kinds of personalities and you have to be very patient, there’s a lot of skills I’m not sure if I have [laughs]. So I don’t know if I’m ready today to direct, but who knows what the future has.
I’m just about out of time with you, but you’ve got a couple movies coming up, Homefront and Hummingbird, what can you tell people about those projects?
Statham: Homefront was written by Sylvester Stallone, he actually wrote it for himself, which is, for me, an amazing privilege. To be handed a script by Sly that he wrote for himself, that he asked me to do. It’s like wow; this is a real career moment. This is an Academy Award winning writer. Yeah, he wrote it for himself and he handed it to me, so for me it was a tremendous thing. We wrapped it before Christmas, we shot down in New Orleans. It’s got James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth; we have a great cast. Again, I think you get quality actors and that’s all dependent on how good the material is. You get good writing and they all want to come and work. So that’s coming out. Hummingbird I made before Homefront over in the UK with a first time director who has a brilliant talent for writing, his name is Steven Knight, he wrote Eastern Promises. I’m really proud of that film; it’s a very gritty, down and out sort of drama. It really, really turned out pretty good. I’m so happy with that. Yeah, I’ve got a couple films coming out then I’m going to run away and go and make Heat. There’s talk about doing Expendables 3. So career’s not over yet [Laughs].