Jason Statham is a surprisingly self-aware guy. Maybe that's the wrong description. Maybe "wisely calculating" is a better description.
I've always wondered why Statham doesn't take more risks with his career -- maybe change things up a bit and play a less action-orientated type of character. Statham is so in tune with what he does, his answer to this question left me thinking, Well, that makes sense. But what impressed me even more is how, right in front of me (and quite on the spot), he worked out the pros and cons of co-starring in a Resse Witherspoon romantic comedy.
In the action-thriller "Safe," opening this weekend, Statham plays Luke Wright, a down-on-his-luck ex-cop who is hated by the Russian mob, his ex-police colleagues and, well, just about everyone else -- as those that are down-on-their-luck are wont to be. By chance, Luke meets a mysterious young girl named Mei who is being chased by the Russian mob, the Chinese mob and the police. So, these two wind up having a lot in common.
Here, Statham discusses the fighting (or, in one case, the lack of fighting) in his new film, how often he's challenged to fights in real life, and whether he'll ever make that romcom. (Spoiler: The ball is in your court, Reese.)
So, I just saw your movie.
Did you watch it in the morning, afternoon or night?
At ten in the morning.
Fuck! Bang bang bang.
It woke me up.
I'm wondering if people can get into it at that time in the morning.
I was skeptical, but I did. It was a nice wake up call.
I'm sure a lot of people get repelled by that morning "bang bang."
There are a lot of shoot-outs on the streets of New York in this film. If I didn't live here, I'm not sure that I would want to visit.
Yeah, good point. A lot of street fighting.
Is it fun to film on the streets with the public watching?
It's quite tough to orchestrate that. It became frustrating. You know, people are poking their heads into the camera shots. Every single person has a camera phone and the flashes just destroy each take. So, to try and have this military operation to soften that bullshit is not easy. You need hundreds of people working for you to create a barrier.
You're 44 now. Are the stunts getting harder as you're getting older?
Well, you have to be more smart with nursing the injuries. And try and strengthen around those injuries so they don't get tweaked again. So, yeah, you have to get a bit more focused.
There is a scene where you think there's going to be a big choreographed fight, but it doesn't happen. Were you like, "Thank goodness"?
Yeah, a whole new fight scene. Another two days of beating each other up. Yeah, I was very pleased about that. But, on the other hand, I wonder if people are going to feel shortchanged by that.
Personally, I enjoyed it.
There is a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" swordsman feel to it.
Ah, I love that scene. But, it's true. You think, Well, people spent money to go to the cinema. They want to get what they want. And you think, Well, do they want a fight scene? And I'm so pleased that you're saying the right thing there.
There are plenty of other fight scenes.
Yes, there are a lot.
You do a lot of action movies. Do you ever find yourself wanting to do a different genre?
Yeah. You know, we're looking for that. I mean, we're not looking for that specifically to give my bones a rest. But I was talking about this the other day: It's so risky unless you've got a great filmmaker that's going to turn in a quality film. A lot of people who make an art house film or some indie film -- it's just drama. And it has to be done so well. Otherwise, people will go, "Why did he do that? I like to see him do the other stuff." And just to do something for the sake of doing something different, it doesn't always work for people. I'm a big Bruce Lee fan and if I saw Bruce Lee try to be some namby-pamby lawyer, I'd want my money back. Not that I can compare to Bruce Lee or anything like that, but I'm just saying: my strength doesn't lie in playing something way off the radar, so it depends what it is.
Have you been offered anything?
I'm doing a film now with Taylor Hackford called "Parker" that we've got coming out. And it's much more of a dramatic part for me. I'm doing a film now ["Hummingbird"] with a tremendous writer, Steven Knight, who wrote "Eastern Promises" -- and this is a fucking drama. There's no doubt about it.
You used the word "risky." Are you worried if you made a film that you're not known for doing, you'd have trouble getting your action-movie audience back?
Well, you don't know. I mean, there are only so many bullets in the gun. If you end up doing too many things that don't work, I'll have to go back to selling jewelry on the street. And I don't want to do that.
I have a feeling that's never going to happen.
You know, I'm prepared to take risks. And every movie that I do is a risk. No one knows what the movie is going out turn out like. And if the movies don't work, that's it, on to the next guy.
OK, let's say Reese Witherspoon calls and asks you to be in her next romantic comedy. Would you consider that?
[Pauses] I think I would. Yeah.
See, that's interesting. Why?
Because she's not going to work with a director who doesn't know what he's doing. So, with that great sort of pedigree that she's got -- winning an Oscar; she's very talented -- she's going to choose someone great. And I'm going to get the benefits of that. So, of course, I would love to do that. But, my phone is right there and it ain't fucking ringing.
We need to make this happen.
[Laughs] But I would never sacrifice what I'm doing in order to do something just to show people I can do something else. It would be nice to combine the two: do a little bit of what I can do good, then throw in some content with some great drama. And if Reese Witherspoon wanted to do a movie, I would fucking definitely do a movie.
Because of your on-screen persona, do you ever find strangers wanting to challenge you to a fight? Like at a bar, "Hey, Mr. Tough Guy, why don't you buy us a round of drinks"?
You know what? I've been very fortunate -- they want to buy me a drink. On that note, I'm very pleased because it could quite easily go the other way. I did "The Expendables" with Sylvester Stallone...
With a second one coming.
Yeah, with a second one coming. One of the toughest guys in the world is Randy Couture -- he is the true epitome of what a tough guy is. And he's had people say to him, "So you think you're that tough?" And he goes, "I didn't get these ears playing ping pong." It's the wrong guy to pick on! I'm just trying to illustrate that there are some fucking silly people out there. To pick on Randy Couture is the stupidest thing you could ever do. So, if I bumped into that person who was asking, "You think you're tough?" I'm sure that same idiot would say the same thing to me.
I feel that you can hold your own.
Heh, it depends who's asking. That's why I always wear sneakers, in case I have to run.
Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com and GQ.com. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter