Interview: Jason Statham Seeks Redemption


Although known in the United Kingdom as “Hummingbird,” the directorial debut of screenwriter Steven Knight (Eastern Promises) comes to the US on VOD and in theaters as Redemption. The subject in dire need of being redeemed is a bloke named Joey Jones, a disgraced ex-Royal Marine who goes from homeless to hopeful thanks to the encouragement of Sister Cristina (Agata Buzek) and a life of criminal enterprise.

Playing Joey is the screen’s badass du jour Jason Statham, who shows off a more complex character than we’re used to seeing from him in the “Transporter” or “Expendables” franchises. Don’t worry, he takes down plenty of fools.

We talked to Statham about removing some of the martial from his art, displaying vulnerability onscreen, sex with nuns, as well as his future in Fast & Furious 7 and The Expendables 3. One of the things most people are probably saying is that this is something of a departure for you given the emotional vulnerability of the character, but it’s still YOU. Having said that, what is it about “Redemption” that you’ve brought to your other movies that maybe people just didn’t notice?
Jason Statham:
I dunno, I’m just finding different things. Thing is, you can only draw from what the story is asking you to draw from. We’ve all got emotions sitting inside of us. This guy’s more of a troubled, fragile individual. He’s tough, he’s seen some bad things and done some bad things. He’s trying to get away from that and he cannot escape this turmoil, this crap. He’s got this thing in his head, his conscience is just killing him. So he’s down on the streets, he’s cast himself down as a homeless person and thinks that’s the only place for him to be ’cause he can’t live in society. There’s all these things you can sink your teeth into as an actor. He tries to rehabilitate himself and finds that it’s a very dangerous individual he’s created. When he’s sober he does bad things but with good consequences. He’s giving to his estranged daughter and wife, trying to find some justice in the person that killed his close friend who was pregnant with his baby. These are emotional things to think about! As an actor it’s really great to get to have these things, because they’re deep, strong emotional feelings. It’s good. It pushes.

CS: Exactly. The pinnacle of the movie is where Joey breaks down to Christina about how he needs to anesthetize himself in order to keep the tiger from getting out of the cage, so to speak. Was that a trait you found in some of the ex-soldiers you interviewed when you did your research?
We met these soldiers, and they don’t know what to do with themselves. They carry a gun, learn to fire a weapon, they have skills to be violent. They have all these exceptional skills they learn to be great at and then they come back into society and everything they’ve learned is illegal. They can’t do any of those things. All that stuff you’ve learned? Now you’ve got to give it all away and be something that you’re not. It’s like a fish out of water. They find themselves in an awkward position. A lot of them find themselves almost at the frontier… every city has a frontier between legal and illegal. They’re doing things they shouldn’t be doing because all of the sudden those skills are useful again. There is a very strong parallel between the Joey character and real people who are coming back from war.

CS: I have a sneaking suspicion “Redemption” might get this rep as the “Statham has sex with a nun” movie, but that aspect is actually very tender. How did you and Agata work at that to make it seem grounded as opposed to an outtake from “Crank 2”?
(Laughs) Well it was always a tender thing, because Sister Christina was such a tortured soul. She says to him in the van about how she killed someone for raping her. You just want to care for that woman, she’s just so tender. You just want to love her. You couldn’t treat that in any other way than to be so soft with her, but it could never be over the newspaper stand like in “Crank,” it had to be something very, very different. I thought Steve Knight did a really good job of putting that together in a believable way, not a contrived way, something that was sweet, like two ships that pass in the night, one leaves, one stays.

CS: It’s interesting that Steve did this and wrote “Eastern Promises,” because there’s a lot of parallels between your character and Viggo’s character, how they both have these conflicted loyalties. Why aren’t you getting these roles that Viggo gets? Have you ever lost out on a role you wanted because producers are too focused on the Jason Statham-brand, the ass-kicker?
You know what, there’s a curse in everything you do sometimes. I’m sure some of the films I’ve done are not gonna give me the right springboard into something like “Eastern Promises.” All good things come to those who wait, and this one came my way. I’ve always been attracted to these kinds of movies, they’re the ones I want to see. I always like the big blockbusters, the popcorn movies, but these are really great films, and hopefully it’ll open a few doors in different ways. You never know. It’s not like I’m dying to do work that’s taken seriously and I’m not looking to become a thespian. It’s not what I’m looking for, I’m just looking to do quality work. I’m never gonna be the guy from RADA who only does certain things because all the rest is “just not good for me.”

CS: Hear that, Benedict Cumberbatch? Your roles are safe!
You can’t be pretentious about what we do, because at the end of the day movies are about entertainment, and if people get $10-dollars worth then that’s okay. People like “Crank,” some people like “Redemption.” I’m just happy to do things that satiate a different part of me, that test me a little bit.

CS: Are you aware that your cameo in “Fast & Furious 6” is making people go BALLISTIC?
Is that right? They go nuts for that, yeah?

CS: Is it gratifying to know that your mug for 5-seconds can bring the house down like that?
It’s fantastic. A lot of people have said it today and I’m like, “Really? Is everyone outside saying the same thing?” You must be number ten who said it today, they say it goes nuts. That’s just the best news I’ve ever heard, it’s fantastic to hear that!

CS: In “Fast 7” you and James Wan are gonna be the new kids on the block. How do you infuse new energy in a series with that big of a number in the title?
Yeah, it’s daunting. I can’t wait to sit with James. I just wrapped a movie over in Vegas, so I haven’t had a chance to sit with James. We’ve had a couple phone calls, I’m dying to sit down with him and we’re gonna figure something out. I’m really excited to be a part of that franchise.

CS: Will you use what your onscreen brother Luke Evans did as a template or are you gonna be your own beast?
I’m gonna do what I do. (laughs) Obviously we’re trying to work out now what angle to come from. Some people say, “Wait, are you gonna be the villain? The guy who threatens the world and wants to blow everything up?” No. “What kind of an antagonist are you gonna be?” I’m not gonna say what I’m gonna be. The spoilers are the worst, when people already know what you’re gonna do when you come and do it. “You told us last year that’s what you was gonna do and so you did it.” I’m gonna try and keep my mouth shut and not say what I’m gonna be doing.

CS: Can you just signal me to let me know if you and Vin Diesel are gonna knock your bald heads together at some point? Is that gonna happen?
(Laughs) We’ll have to wait and see. (laughs) I’m sure that’s what they want me to say.

CS: Is production of that going to interfere with “Expendables 3”?
No, we’ve worked it out. I’m gonna be able to do the two back-to-back. Let’s just say for the next seven weeks I’m gonna do nothing. I’m gonna lay on my back and do nothing, and then go to work. It’s great to have two ensemble pieces where the weight’s not on my shoulders, it’s just gonna have a little fun and enjoy myself.

CS: One other project that sounds interesting you’re doing with screenwriters David and Janet Peoples called “Grabbers.” They’re fantastic writers…
F**king superb writers, yeah! We had it a little while ago trying to get it into a place where we could get the finance for it. I really love that. We was looking for a director and couldn’t get one. They’re brilliant writers, and it’s one of those things we’re hoping to get on the fast track again.

CS: Is it a heist film?
It’s a heist movie, I love heist movies. It’s like a “Treasure of the Sierra Madre”-type thing. It’s really good.

CS: Are you the Humphrey Bogart counterpart?
(Laughs) I don’t know which part I’m gonna play. There’s two really strong parts, one guy who gets really manipulated, this cigar smoking tough guy… two really powerful roles, which one do you play? I love this story, it’s a great script, we’ll have to see if we can get it together. I just finished a movie with a William Goldman script, it’s called “Heat.” It’s an old one that Burt Reynolds did, and we’re really happy with that. The script for that was terrific, so these great writers they’re the movies to be making.

Redemption is available On Demand and in theaters this Friday, June 28.