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Interview: Jason Statham (Revolver)

Jason Statham made his onscreen debut in filmmaker Guy Ritchie’s own feature film debut, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and followed it up as part of the ensemble cast in Snatch, the writer/director’s sophomore effort.

Jason Statham made his onscreen debut in filmmaker Guy Ritchie's own feature film debut, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and followed it up as part of the ensemble cast in Snatch, the writer/director’s sophomore effort. Since then, he’s proven himself as an action star with films like The Transporter and Crank, but also displayed some serious acting ability (his performance as a straight-laced banker moonlighting as a coke dealer in London was one of the film’s only redeeming scenes).

In Revolver, Statham plays Jake Green, a longhaired, out-of-style conman, gambler, and chess master whose path to revenge becomes a life-altering path to enlightenment when he is rescued from a mob hit by two enigmatic loan sharks (played by Vincent Pastore and Andre Benjamin).

Revolver is Statham’s third time around with Ritchie as director. With a concept that delves far deeper dramatically, emotionally and artistically, than their previous collaborations (and arguably, deeper than the majority of filmmakers ever dare to venture) and a decade’s worth of acting experience on his resume, Statham delivers the first tour de force performance of his career, and in the film’s final moments, he achieves a level of intensity so fierce it nearly derails the celluloid from its reels.

I had the chance to speak with Statham during a roundtable interview in NYC in anticipation of Revolver.

Jason Statham


Question: Are you glad the film has finally made it to American audiences? You’ve seen a few versions of the film now…
Jason Statham: Yeah, I’ve seen about two versions now, yeah. This one I particularly like. I mean, I like the other one as well, but I think this one is a little more concise, a little bit easier. And hopefully everyone will see that too. Have you seen the English one?

Q: Yeah, but a while back. What was cut out?
JS: Well, the story about the three Eddies, basically the story about these guys, what I used to do for Dorothy Macha, how I used to do a lot of this trading, a lot of this conning. But it was just an additional piece that didn’t really have to do with the real the story. So really it was just a bit of extra fluff. So now it’s tightened up, and there’s a different ending, which I think is a bit more of a whallop at the end. So, yeah… I like both versions, but I think this one is a little quicker.

Q: How was it working with Guy this time around. You’ve done three movies together, but there was a gap of a few years between Snatch and Revolver. Was anything different this time?
JS: I had just come from Transporter 2 in Miami, literally had a week off, flew back to London and started on Revolver. So one movie to the next, it was completely different. Guy has not changed anything from the way he directs, even the people he used. It was the same bunch of people, the same DP, the same sound technicians… it was like an old band getting back together playing a few of the old songs, you know?

Q: Was it easy to get back into that world?
JS: Yeah, it was such familiarity, with all these faces that you know. But Guy has got such an easy way of directing. It’s serious and then it’s not. He gets the job done and then we have a bit of fun too. I particularly like the experience of working with someone who can change dialogue as we go, if it doesn’t sound quite right, ‘No don’t, say this.’ It is a great relief being in the company of someone who can do that, who can give you quality changes on the spot. So it’s great, we have a great understanding of working together now.

Q: Of the Guy Ritchie films that you’ve been in, which one is your favorite?
JS: Well you might be surprised that this is my actual favorite. But it’s hard to say, because I’ve got such a fond memory of Lock, Stock because it was the first movie I ever did. So I feel that that is the most charming. Snatch was the funniest, and I had such a great experience on it, I met Brad and Dennis Farina, and Benicio Del Torro who are all these Hollywood people coming to London, it was like, ‘Geez, this is amazing.’ So I have such a fond memory of those two. And yet this was such an ambitious, personal movie for Guy, and I know Guy so well, that this meant so much to me too. So I can’t really pick and choose, they all have their own significant importance to me.

Q: How do you see yourself as having changed? You have a lot more experience now as an actor.
JS: Revolver has just given me a completely different perspective on life itself. And it’s been really life changing, for me. And I think it can be for anyone if they want it to be, if you want to look through this pair of binoculars that this can allow you to. It can really be something else. And not to take that too seriously, like we want to sell something that will change the world or whatever. It’s not that way. But as an actor, I’ve done a few films now and I’ve learned about… you know, where to stand… Every movie you learn something new, something different about yourself, and you gain more confidence, and I don’t think there’s any substitute for experience. You have to live it and feel it to become a better actor, and I’ve come all this way. Ten years now I’ve been acting. And I never thought I’d do another film after Lock, Stock, it was just one of those movies I’d get to show the kids and say, ‘Your dad was an actor once.’ And it did really well, and got me another part, and more and more, and next thing you know I met Luc Besson and all of the sudden I’m throwing punches and driving cars and living the dream.

Q: In the movie your character talks about rules of the game. Which one do you think is the most important rule?
JS: [Pause, thinking] I think that one is, ‘The opponent will always hide in the very last place you will ever look.’ There’s no such thing as an external opponent. It’s all upstairs.

Q: You look a bit different in this film.
JS: [Speaking to the bald gentleman to his right] We go to the same hairdresser! [Laughs] Yeah, it’s funny to adopt a bit of head hair. Yeah it’s fun.

Q: Weird pair of shoes too.
JS: Nasty shoes, see-through socks. It was a specific look that Guy was very particular about.


Q: It’s not really a commercial film.
JS: Sure. I don’t think Guy ever made this to be Transformers or something a bit more commercial. This is… he’s never going to make a movie like that, Guy does something a bit different. Even Snatch and Lock, Stock were never going to be frontrunners to steal the weekend.

Q: Has the film enlightened you in any way?
JS: God yeah.

Q: Can you elaborate on that at all?
JS: Well I think it’s sort about awareness, you know? If you’re being a bit of an idiot, or being a bit too selfish, if you’re aware of that, you’re on a good side. I know a lot of people that have problems, whether it be with gambling, drinking, drugs, women, infidelity… whatever their problem is… horses… everyone’s got a weakness, and you best acknowledge that. Don’t think you haven’t…. I think you all might have something you might be susceptible a bit, have a bit of a weakness towards. And I think if you understand you have that vulnerability within you, and understand where that comes from, then you can only become a better person from that.

Q: Everyone’s seen you in these action roles, and I think everyone loves to see you kick ass, but do you intend to do anything different, a comedy, a family film, a musical?
JS: With my Gene Kelly shoes? I’d love to, I used to watch musicals all the time when I was a kid. I love Singing in the Rain and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, West Side Story. I grew up on them, my mom and dad were fanatics on musicals. I don’t think they work now, although the romantic-comedy side of me hasn’t been exposed… I don’t know why they’re not making them anymore. Can anyone answer that?

Q: Vincent’s in Chicago.
JS: Chicago, is fantastic, I really do like Chicago. But it’s not like they’re making a lot of them, is it?

Q: Have you seen a script for Crank 2?
JS: Yeah, I have read the script, that’s why I said I’d do it. And I have to say that it’s completely fucked up.

Q: You die at the end of the first, how are you going to be back?
JS: I’m not going to tell, they told me they’d skin me alive. [Laughs]

Q: Will it be more over the top than the first one?
JS: It’s so over the top, so over the top. But in a Nevildine way. It’s so over the top.

Q: And the Brazilian Job?
JS: It’s been on ice for a long, long time. I don’t know what’s going on with that.

Q: Do you have any preferred opponents onscreen? You’ve said in the past you liked working with Jet Li?
JS: You know, I’ve never had success doing a movie with Jet and I don’t know why, he’s like one of my favorite martial artists, and both the movies I’ve done with him have been so disappointing. I don’t know why, it’s such great potential, but there’s more reasons to another that they haven’t worked. But we won’t go into that.

Q: What kind of martial arts training do you have?
JS: I used to do a lot of kickboxing, my dad used to box. I do a lot of grappling now. And you know, the movie martial arts, if you like.

Q: I heard you ran a marathon on a dare once…
JS: Yeah.

Q: Care to talk about it?
JS: I regretted it. I ran it in 3:50. But I couldn’t walk for four days afterwards.

Q: Did you do anything to pay him back?
JS: I had to buy him a beer, he’s one of my best mates. But again, it was my ego getting the better of me, ‘Oh yeah, I can run a marathon, sure.’

Q: Are there other challenges you want to meet?
JS: I’d love to jump off of… do some free falling from a cliff, a base jump. First of all I’ll try a parachute from a very high airplane.

Q: Your character in the film has a fear of elevators. Do you have any phobias yourself?
JS: No I don’t have any phobia, no. I mean I get anxiety about things, but when you get it, you can reason with it. You can shut the window, you know?

Q: How much did you improvise in this film?
JS: Pieces, not tons. The elevator stuff, yeah, a ton of that. But not a lot. On the other films more so, but this one was less improvised. But there’s always room for it, I’m trying to recount, it’s been quite a while since we made it now. And I always forget about the improvising stuff. But he’s got stuff where you can throw in lines here and there, and sometimes they stay in, and sometimes they don’t. You just do it to make him laugh, really.

Q: Did Guy draw inspiration from your own games of chess?
JS: Yeah. The game of chess was so relevant. We played daily. Every day.

Q: Who won?
JS: I won a few and he won a few. But I’d say in the end, total, he won more than me.

Q: You had a great dynamic onscreen with Andre and Vincent. What was it like, the three of you working together?
JS: Yeah, a very unusual trio. It was funny because Andre was learning how to play the saxophone, he was driving everybody mad. I was trying to stuff that thing in the cupboard. But Vinnie is Big Pussy, we know him from The Sopranos, and it’s like, you want to work with a wiseguy, you work with Big Pussy, you know? So yeah, I was really happy.

Q: I though Andre was very good too.
JS: Very good. So smooth, so calm and collected. And such a good choice, you’d never think to put him in there as that…. He’s a great actor. Very confident. Very cool.

Q: How do you combat your own weaknesses?
JS: Daily. [Laughs] I won’t tell you what they are…. I think…. I had a four month spell, I had gone to Canada to train for Death Race and I never touched a single beer. There was no alcohol, that was the cleanest I’ve ever lived. And you know, you’d have people going out and they’d say, ‘Come on, just come and have a beer,’ and there’s a weakness there, because I come from England, but I wanted to try and stay on the tracks. I wanted to work really hard at what I had disciplined myself to do. But there’s always someone tugging on your back saying, ‘Come, let’s have a drink,’ and you’ve just got to be strong.

Q: What kind of training did you have to do for Death Race?
JS: I did a lot of physical training because I played a convict and we went up to Kirkham Prison, we saw the state, the physical shape of these people, and they are dangerous, they’re like training to… it’s all segregation, not a happy place. Prison in the U.S…. Well, prison in any part of the world is not a good place. But you go into a prison and you see how segregated everyone is. You’ve got the blacks here, and the Aryan brotherhood, and the Mexicans. And they’re just literally waiting to go to war against each other. And it’s just a horrible place. 

Samuel Goldwyn Films releases Revolver in theaters this coming Friday, December 7th.

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