I am not ashamed to admit that I am a very big Jason Statham fan. Most, if not all of his films are included in my Blu-ray or DVD collection. From Turkish, to Frank Martin to Chev Chelios, Statham comes off as just one of the guys. The type of guy you can go to the bar with, have a beer and catch a sports game with. On top of that, he seems to have a knack of kicking ass with a tremendous amount of style. This August, Statham plays the cult classic and re-imagined role of the masked Frankenstein in Paul W.S. Anderson’s Death Race. While on the set, we had a chance to speak with the film’s main driver:
Jason Statham: Having a decent day? Seeing a stunt or two. Better than the mini coopers aren’t they? Obviously the little minis don’t go very fast. These here have a bit more range. More toys to play with.
ComingSoon.net: We saw the inside of these cars.
Statham: Ah, they are all the best things you know? There is the nitrous oxide system, 150-horse power, we’ve got napalm. Smoke ejector seats. Even a crappy stereo that plays CD’s. So yeah, it is great. To get to drive something so potent as one of those things. I mean it is so unique. I have never seen anything like it. General electric mini guns on there, fires out 4,000 rounds a minute. One that can tear a car to smithereens within a couple of minutes. It is amazing. You should go on YouTube and see what one of those guns does. It will blow your mind. So yeah, these are the most tricked-out cars you can ever imagine.
CS: Have you seen the original?
Statham: Yeah, but Paul has said not to pay too much attention to that. This is more an homage to that. This is not a carbon copy to any stretch of the imagination. This is completely different.
CS: Can you set up your character and how he ends up in prison and ends up in this race?
Statham: Well, without giving too much away he… Oh God, how much can I give away? Something happens, he gets sent to prison, and it is all to do with the murder of his wife. He has his young daughter been taken into foster care. So he is in prison trying to clear his name the best way he can. And no one is interested in this you know that story, so the only way he knows to exit that hellhole is to win 5 races. And he takes on the persona of Frankenstein, which is a creation the evil Hennessey who has brought to everyone’s attention through the Internet. So he has to take the place of Frankenstein.
CS: Do you have to drive with that mask on?
Statham: No. That would have been a bit or a burden.
CS: The car windows are mirrored?
Statham: Yeah, the windows are bullet proof and smoke and mirrored so you can’t really see what’s happening inside so we can take off the mask.
CS: You have quite an adversary in Joan Allen.
Statham: Oh, she is a cold and chilling villain, believe me. Oh, but she is amazing. You don’t get nominated for Oscars for being average. She is as good as they come. So to act across from somebody as great she is was for me a major step forward. Unbelievable. She does a job and a half.
CS: What about McShane?
Statham: Again you know, Golden Globe winner Mr. McShane. Fellow countryman, working with somebody like him it just raises the bar considerably. It just gives it that credibility Gives it all the drama, all the weight.
CS: Can you talk about the relationship between your character and all the other racers?
Statham: There isn’t much of one; I mean it is a very competitive environment in the prison. Machine Gun Joe is on his way to winning his freedom too so it is a bit of a competitive environment, so there isn’t hand shakes or no pats on the back. So you will see he is a bit of an evil bastard, lets put it that way.
CS: You have a navigator. What is that relationship like?
Statham: Well you will have to wait and see. (Laughs) I mean they bring all the women in from the female prison to pop up the ratings or to do a good job navigating the bad track we have to drive around.
CS: When we spoke to her earlier, she said you to had to have a very short hand language that you needed while racing around the course.
Statham: Yeah, well I come from the U.K. and I am very familiar with Rally Driving and how it is a 50/50 job with the navigator. I mean, it is very short-hand. The corners come up so quick and you have to give a number for the acuteness of the corner and it is all very, very fast talking. It is a communication that has to be very, very strong so that is like the track this is. It is not a Formula 1 track, where the navigation comes from inside the pits and you get familiar by the pre-laps. This is a bit more reckless track that we are subjected to.
CS: So how do you think you would do in a real Death Race?
Statham: I don’t know but I would give it a good go. I don’t know? I would like to think I would do very well. (Laughs)
CS: Can you talk a little about the fighting involved in this? Is it much different than the stylized fighting was in “The Transporter”? A bit more down and dirty?
Statham: Yea, well no one wants to be repeating themselves and this character is a different kind of person. This character is a bit of a bad boy turned good, got his act together, found himself a lovely lady. I don’t think he has much skill in the military or the martial arts environment so we couldn’t take any of those skills on him. He is a bit more of the brute force or street style fighting guy and we are picking up weapons instead of doing round houses.
CS: What’s the working relationship like with Paul Anderson? Is he very hands on with you or does he let you go off?
Statham: I have never been working with someone who is so ahead of the game. He is so detailed orientated. This whole movie he has already pre-shot it in his head. He is a bundle of good energy. Every change he has had has been a positive one, script changes, every refinement of the day has been a great one. I have massive, massive respect for him and you will see the finished product. I think it’s going to be an amazing job of this. I am really, really pleased.
CS: The “Crank” guys recently started a sequel in April. What can you tell fans of that one?
Statham: F*cking ridiculous in a nutshell. If you thought the first one was a bit crazy this next one is a bit ridiculous. I mean it is mad but in a good way. I couldn’t resist. Working with those chaps again and doing something in that vein and again it is something very unique. I think it gives it a chance for people to go wild in the isles.
CS: What about “The Italian Job” sequel or “Transporter 3”?
Statham: I mean, yea they are in talks. I have had a massive yearning to do a part 3 with Luc. We have just been waiting for the script to be in a good spot. I think that will happen. Luc is actually coming up here in a week or so and we will have a little talk about that . “Italian Job” has been floating around for years. I mean, they are trying to get their fingers there. I don’t know what you call it apple pie or something. So they are going to try to get that together. I don’t know what is going to happen with that one to make that happen or not. Because there is more elements in trying to get together, Charlize is busy. Wahlberg is a busy man. Everybody is busy so there is too many moving arts for that to come about quickly.
CS: Backing up, I don’t think we have asked you what attracted you to this role in the first place.
Statham: My meeting with Paul. I sat and had a lunch with him and he showed me the concept drawings for the cars and I was like “ooh this looks really nice.” (Laughs) I mean, I am a massive car geek anyway. And most of the same chaps I grew up with come from the same ilk. But obviously, that is not enough to make a movie, having a good meeting with the director, seeing how cool the cars look so he gave me a script and I phoned him the next days saying it was brilliant. We hit it off and it was a combination of great ideas from Paul, I mean the start and finish of the movie was already presented to me by him that day and the script was great and I really liked him and thought I could do a good job with him.
CS: Did you have any ideas with the character that you shared with Paul?
Statham: Yeah, we talk about all that stuff. We talk about how we want it to look, of the physicality adjusted. I had to stop eating the pies and stop drinking the beers and start getting into prison shape.
CS: Yeah, I saw those pictures. That was amazing. That really must have been a tough regimen.
Statham: Yeah, I was a very miserable bastard around the set. Take away sugar and you become a bit of a nasty person. It was bit of a sacrifice for me but it was part of the job.
CS: What has been you most challenging scene or your favorite scene so far?
Statham: Well I have enjoyed most of my scenes with Joan because she is so smooth and intense and she just has this aura so I would have to say my scenes with Joan. Or good old Ian McShane. You know he has been a great mentor to all the young lads as well. A man of many, many stories. He is just, you can’t get enough of him. It is sad to see him go. So a combination of those two.