Interview: Jason Statham on KILLER ELITE, Why He Does Action Films, Snatch 2??

Throughout the entire thing he was very pleasant, honest and funny. There were a lot of laughs to be had and he was very physical, he looked very much like a schoolboy, swinging on his chair, clearly just having the time of his life in the film business... as it should be!

Killer Elite is the new action packed thriller by first time filmmaker Gary McKendry that was premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. One of the main attractive features of the film is the stellar cast attached. Myself and a few other plucky journos€™ were lucky enough to sit at a round table and interview four people related to the film. Here€™s 3 of 4. It was evident very early on that Jason Statham was just a really good guy. Despite his stratospheric rise in the action stakes after films like The Expendables, which saw him standing his ground against action icons of old, he still seems to be a pretty normal dude. He hasn€™t let the fame get to his head yet and still considers himself as €œone of the lads€, which is very amicable indeed. I of course mean that in the best way possible. Jason walks in, fists raised €œGary said you lot are trouble. Which one of you needs sorting out?€ He cracks a huge smile and laughs, taking his seat and deciding to make general conversation before proceeding with formalities. When I told him I was from London he beamed €œThere we go!€ In this interview Jason discusses a range of topics, from talking about action scenes, what it was like to work with Robert De Niro, to how busy he€™s been and his refreshing perspective on his career. Throughout the entire thing he was very pleasant, honest and funny. There were a lot of laughs to be had and he was very physical, he looked very much like a schoolboy, swinging on his chair, clearly just having the time of his life in the film business... as it should be! We kicked things off by discussing the infamous chair scene in the film, which caused him to do a little physical comedy (which unfortunately cannot be conveyed well in a transcribed interview) Enjoy! (remember our questions in bold, his answers not); Chair. Do it for us.
(Mimics being tied to a chair and struggling with straining noises) That was quite difficult that chair scene...
Was it?
Well yeah, you€™re tied down, you see... There€™s not much you can do. You like that scene?
I love that scene!
There you go!
How many injuries do you receive in shooting?
Well, we get a few you know... We€™ve lost count over the years... It€™s great though, to do an action scene with Clive Owen... It€™s a big, big privilege. He comes with all the intensity that you could ever get. Gary€™s so keen on doing something that€™s realistic and believable and yet at the same time, rough around the edges... It looks messy and scrappy.
Are action scenes starting to become routine for you or does every film bring a new experience?
Well, they keep sticking €˜em in there! I mean, if I was gonna do a romantic comedy they€™d probably have to stick some action in there... might be under the sheets, but somewhere... (laughs).
I€™ve seen that! But there were no sheets...something about Chinatown... (laughs)
There you go! (laughs)
One of the things you just said about €œmaking it realistic€... Is that an interesting balance when you know you want to entertain the audience and bring them something that€™s not everyday life, but you want to be able to say €œOk, how would this really happen?€
Yeah, well there€™s an element of... Sometimes what happens in real life is not as exciting as what you could provide, if you want to entertain a crowd of people sat in the audience... So you have to embellish that and give a little bit more. Who knows if I could have really got away with that chair gag... But it looked so good. It€™s important to try and impress the audience and give them something visually impressive and at the same time make them wonder if it could really be done. It has to sort of fall on the line of, €œdid he, or could he have really got out of that situation?€
The director just talked about you and he compared you to Steve McQueen, because of your stillness...
Wow, that€™s really nice of him... But he€™s a baldy too so we€™re good pals. (Laughs)
(Laughs) But he€™s really impressed by that with you... That€™s one of the reasons he said he really wanted you, besides the action of course...
Well that€™s really nice of him! I think, I mean we REALLY got along... We have a lot of similar taste in films and, you know, I€™ve never met anyone that has the ability to do... You should see this guys storyboards! They are... artistically as valuable, that I€™ve ever seen. They€™re picture books! They€™re brilliant! So, not only can he write, he can do the best storyboards, he directs, he€™s just incredibly multi talented and you know, especially because it€™s his first feature film... It€™s a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant accomplishment.
Did you know each other before?
I saw his short film yeah, but this is his first feature.
No, no you two, do you know each other from before?
Oh, no. Na, no.
Did he ever ask you for a specific way of acting, like €œbe quieter, faster, restrain your emotions€ etc?
He€™s a great director, he gives you everything. Whatever he needs from you, he can give you the best direction to get what he needs for the scene. He€™s completely there, everyday and you€™re never at a loss when he€™s around. You€™re never having to guess what the scene needs because he always knows.
He gives you your own space and freedom?
Yeah! He€™s just so easy to work with, you know? It€™s a walk in the park with him. It€™s confident. He knows what he wants.
One of the things that I think poses an interesting challenge for you is that it€™s not clear cut. We don€™t know if you€™re the good guy or the bad guy... You obviously want the audience to be with you, no matter what side you are of €œright€ that you€™re on, but do you need to know that? Do you need to have a sense of what he€™s doing is for a purpose and for a positive outcome?
Yeah. Yeah, no I love the fact that it€™s good guys doing the wrong things for the right reasons and no one is going to know who the good guy is, or who the bad guy is because everyone has their own agenda and their own terms on why they€™re doing this and what they feel is just. It€™s all mixed into a world that keeps the audience in a place where they€™re guessing. Making their own assumptions... He did a great job of balancing that.
If you ever had an opportunity to ask one of the real SAS people, they don€™t talk about...
They do not talk. They don€™t talk that much, yeah...
So, do you seek them out to research it? Or do they come up to you and say €œYeah man, you got it right.€
Gary is like a library of information. He€™s had this script for seven years and he knows everything about every element of this story; and if you€™ve got a question... You may as well go to the man. Yeah, he€™s so well prepared.
Is it great travelling the way you do in this film, that must be so appealing...
Yeah, it€™s good! It€™s always good to have different colours and different cities... I love international movies like that... That have that different shades of colour.
Did you actually shoot in London and Paris and etc...?
No, we didn€™t! (Laughs). Sometimes we can€™t afford to take everybody over there... We faked Paris... We did a lot of faking, but that€™s movie making!
You€™ve already talked about your action roles... Are you comfortable with them? Would you be looking to expand? Like into comedy?
I like what I€™m doing, you know... I think a lot of actors are always frustrated, they want to try and do things that are different, they want to test themselves... They want to do things that... You know, character actors are always looking to do the opposite of what they did the last time... and you know, I love doing what I€™m doing. Stallone made a career out of doing things that he was good at and everyone has a strength. Clint Eastwood, one of my heroes... He did a TON of Westerns... No one ever questioned whether he got bored of doing that... Putting on the same hat, you know. John Wayne, how many westerns did he do? You know, they were good at what they did. People liked seeing them play to their strengths and we now remember them so well. I€™m along with that kind of a feel. If I€™m better at this, then keep doing what you€™re good at... If you are any good at it (laughs)
Would you like to direct?
Na, not there yet. It takes a lot of hours from start to finish for a film. I saw Gary put so many, so many hours, it€™s very taxing.
Is De Niro also one of your heroes?
Yeah! If not THE hero, yeah.
So was it intimidating? Was it...
It€™s everything! It€™s intimidating, it€™s you know... It€™s one of the greatest situations. A life time of an experience. You know, you€™ll never forget that day where you€™re onscreen with one of your heroes. It€™s just great.
This may seem like a stupid question... But was there any €œstage fear€ about working with him?
Ah no! You know, he€™s just absolutely brilliant at what he does!
Yeah, that€™s why I€™m asking...
Ah, but you know, he€™s just a normal guy! You just try not to turn him into something he€™s not, you know? He€™s a regular guy, but he€™s just so brilliant at what he does. You just want to treat him the way he wants to be treated.
That being said, I imagine that escape scene must have been fun for him because he got to do the kind of action he doesn€™t normally get to do. People want him to dialogue, so people want to give him that...
Yeah! That€™s the thing though that Gary said to me, just whatever he does he€™s good at! If he picks up a gun he€™s brilliant, if he€™s talking he€™s brilliant... Whatever he€™s doing, it€™s just... He€™s so believable! Like, if he punches someone in the head, you know, that scene at the end? Where he comes down the escalator and whistles and the guy looks and he goes crack! (Simulates fist and punches himself in the hand to make a loud sound). It€™s just soooo good, it€™s just so believable, like when he kicks that knife away... People love seeing him do that kind of stuff and he doesn€™t do it everyday. He€™s so good at it.
Now, there€™s a real change of pace with Danny€™s relationship with Anne (Yvonne), where the whole background get€™s erased for that relationship. Do you think that she would have had to have found out eventually? Do you think he could of, in an ideal world, could he have kept it a secret?
Gary shot a scene where she found out...
Yeah! Yeah... (nods), but it didn€™t stay in the movie. Yeah, she found a thing in the trees where he used to go to throw knives and she started asking questions and it was a really great scene. It was in the rain in Australia, in the forest and she was crying and it was just... It was a great scene for us. One of the great ones... But it just took away from the pacing of the film and it€™s sad to see it go, because it was such a brilliant scene for Yvonne... A brilliant piece of drama for her, and for me too...
How do you feel when some of your hard work doesn€™t end up making it into the film?
It€™s sad you know, but at the same time it€™s all for the greater good and that€™s the movie. You can€™t be selfish about your scenes, it has to make sense for the film, but... Yeah, it€™s always sad to see something good gone on the floor... And I know there was a brilliant scene with Clive Owen where he beat the crap out of these guys and he threw a card on the floor and it showed you his group of people and how tough they were. His calling card, you know, was a card with a feather on it... and, yeah it was such a good scene! When it didn€™t make the final cut I was like €œAh, I would have been so pissed off if that was me!€ (Laughs) But, you know that as an actor and you understand that there are elements that are always going to take a precedence and the pacing of the film has to be good.
Can you tell me about your physical plan? How you keep up with it all... Whatever you do for all that?
We train hard. Everytime we do a film we cut out the crap and start eating good and stop drinking...
So it€™s not all the time?
(Laughs) No.
But tomorrow you face adding another year... Isn€™t tomorrow your birthday?
No, no. That€™s the fake birthday. They got my birthday wrong, my real birthdays in July! (Laughs) Ah ok. I just wondered, because we all have this odometer that€™s always turning and every year you find that things hurt in a different way or it takes a little bit longer to recover from things or you know... Do you look at that and say €œOk, I need to pace myself differently.€ Or can you really keep this up? Like you said, Clint Eastwood, he still did action films on into his sixties... Yeah, he€™s great, because people have seen him be tough and know that he can be and he has the intensity and the, you know... Who knows how long before these knees give out, and... Just keep going till they do I suppose!
You€™ve had a pretty busy year, and you€™ve still got Safe to come...
Are you excited about the release of that one?
Yes! I think they got a new release date in March of next year... and with Laurence Bender who€™s produced a ton of Tarantino€™s films and Boaz did some good stuff and he was a great man to work for. Yeah, they€™re showing the movie and people like it, so... Yeah, it€™s a different tone so I€™m excited about it! I€™m actually excited about what I€™m doing right now... Filming with Taylor Hackford over in New Orleans a little movie called Parker.
Is Helen there?
Helen€™s not there no. (Laughs)
What€™s it about?
It€™s based on a Donald Westlake book, you know... Lee Marvin played him in Point Blank. It€™s a great script and it€™s going really well.
Is Chev Chelios set to return in the future?
(Ridiculously huge grin and face lights up at this) I LOVE Chev Chelios! I LOVE Neveldine and Taylor, you know... I had a blast doing those films. I would love to do another one. They€™re great lads and you know, 5 or 6 weeks of mayhem like the other two took, would be welcome by me.
Yeah, because the Crank films just look like the most fun...
(Grins) They ARE the most fun. There€™s no question! (Laughs)
They certainly don€™t waste any time...
Yeah! There€™s no serious side to that filmmaking, it€™s just, it€™s everything that it€™s supposed to be you know? You€™re not supposed to take that seriously, but it€™s just... They€™re so creative and talented those two guys, very original and I love €˜em. A lot of people enjoy them. It seems to be you either love €˜em or you hate €˜em, but I love €˜em!
What about Guy Ritchie?
Guy Ritchie!
Do you have plans to maybe work together again?
I€™ve got many plans to work with him again, but you know, how many films does he want to do with me? He€™s the controller of that. He gave me a career. I owe him so much. I love his films, I love the way he makes movies... I€™d love to see Snatch 2. I€™d love to see Snatch 2...
No plans for it?
I have a LOT of plans! (Laughs)
You mentioned the €œmovie magic€ and the idea of faking places like Paris, but you talk about shooting in New Orleans, and there€™s a place that has such flavour; that you want that to be part of the story...
Yeah, Taylor€™s very pleased about that! Taylor Hackford has been very pleased with shooting in New Orleans because it€™s such a vibrant place and there€™s so many great locations... You know, we€™ve rang the bell in many brilliant locations and it€™s a great place to go to work, the people down there are great. There€™s no paparazzi following you around. It€™s great.
How do you keep up your training with the food down there because, you know...
Stay away from the restaurants! (Laughs) You have to be careful because the food is so good! It€™s amazing down there, so you just have to be strict.
Thanks Jason for your time, Happy Fake Birthday!
(Laughs) Thanks guys. God bless.
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