Brit-born Jason Statham gained a strong cult following thanks to his work in martial artsheavy action films like The Transporter and working-class comic turns in Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. His latest is Crank, a high-octane comic action flick that required Statham to do all his own stunts—including a jaw-dropping sequence in which he hangs out of helicopter flying over Los Angeles.
Originally a diver for the British National team, Statham didn't set out to be an actor and was working as a fashion model when he auditioned for Lock, Stock. But considering the 33-year-old's busy work schedule—he has a Jet Li action flick set for release next year and is reprising his co-starring role in a sequel to The Italian Job—it looks like he's finally found the right career.
What was your reaction when you first read the script for Crank?
I said, "There's no way they'll shoot this; it's too silly." I just thought, First-time directors? Yeah right. You need someone with experience to handle something as silly and wacky as this. [The directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor] came up to Canada to see me and explained their crazy approach. I was sold. I wanted to try to do justice to their little vision.
Was the R-rating of this movie more in tune with your sensibilities than the PG-13rated Transporter films?
Yeah this to me was a chance to do stuff that we'd be able to see on the screen. It's a bit of fun, this isn't a horrible guy running around killing people gratuitously. It's a comedy in a way. I like that the violence is undiluted, it's an aggressive film and it might be a bit squeamish for some people. It might not be everybody's flavor but I know there'll be some people who'll get a kick out of it.
Did you think twice about doing the helicopter stunt yourself?
Yeah, I did. But we didn't have the luxury of millions and millions of dollars to shoot a worthy green-screen sequence and I never thought it would look good shot that way anyway. You can always tell it's fake. I thought we'd get something really good. It felt right. We wanted to do something most moviemakers don't do.
What about running around the streets of L.A. wearing nothing but a hospital gown?
There was [even more] in the rushes that didn't make the final cut, it was funny to see. You jump over a barrier in a hospital gown and it all flies up. The whole film was very consistent in having me embarrassed. It was a crazy old time.
Is there anyone who tells you not do some of these crazy stunts?
I usually tell all my loved ones after I've done it. I'll call them and say, "You'll never guess what I did today, I was in a helicopter 3000 feet above L.A.!" All they can do is provoke doubt and worry. It's best to just do it and talk about it after.
You were an athlete. Are you one of those people who need an adrenaline rush every so often?
I don't know if I need it but it's certainly good when it comes. I don't go searching for it. It's not like I'm a junkie jumping off tall buildings. There're certain people who are and I love those people, but I don't think it's conducive to making films. If it goes wrong that's the end of you.
Now that you've been acting for awhile are you eager to try something other than action movies?
What's frustrating is you need someone to give you an opportunity to do it. A lot of people want to give you what they've already seen you do; to them it's an easy sell. What you're really looking for is someone to say, "You know what? This is nothing like what you've done beforecome and try this." That's basically what I'm looking for. But you don't want to lose perspective of your own strengths. People like what I do in the action genre, and it's good to do what you do well.