Have you been shooting today?
Yeah. I had literally one word to say!
It better have been a good word...
It actually was. "Good" - that was the word! Funny old day. That's how films get made, you know. You get on set and think, "Oh my God, all these people for just one word." But that's Hollywood for you.
Tell us about Shaw.
He's pretty badass. He has a military background - he's ex-Special Forces. He's a very clever, intelligent human being. Everything he does, he does with military precision. He's very cold-hearted. Everyone is replaceable. He has an agenda, you know? So they've never come across anyone like him in the films before. The villain couldn't just be a huge, muscle-bound guy. They wanted to turn it around a little bit and give the villain another layer. So that's why he's interesting, I guess.
He's very manipulative. He wouldn't think twice about getting someone killed, so long as the job gets done precisely and according to his plans. That's all he cares about.
Is he a bit James Bond?
The film does feel like James Bond kind of scale, yeah. He comes from that kind of background. He has the charisma, but also the British military background which he uses to run rings around these other guys. There's a lot of great twists in this film. They add so many layers to the story, which is very, very exciting.
Do you enjoy playing the villain?
It's very refreshing. I've played quite a few good guys. I've just played a hero in The Hobbit, which was really fun. But it's nice to step out of those boots and into a villain's shoes. It's what I wanted to do after The Hobbit, because it's the perfect platform to mix it up a bit. Keep people interested in what I'm doing. You don't want to play the same roles or do the same genre. Shooting guns, driving fast cars, instead of shooting a bow and arrow or galloping in a field on a stallion. (Laughs) And killing dragons.
What's your relationship with the stunt team?
|I asked them if they'd lend me a car so I could go home to Wales and visit my family, but they weren't having any of it.|
Why is Shaw such a threat?
Shaw is fully versatile in cars and other vehicles, which he has plenty of. He's a very successful villain as well - he's made himself a lot of money. So he has the best watch, the best guns, he has the best vehicles, the best computers. He knows how to work it all. So he is a real threat because of all those things.
Is it fair to say that the franchise has mutated?
That's right. And I don't think even these guys thought that would be the case. The way that Justin has taken it, it's evolving and it still has the energy and soul of the original. There's a family now that people care about. Now they're turning it on its head and adding a villain, which they've never really had before. All that stuff, they've landed with a very good formula. When you walk in, you feel they know exactly what they're going to do. It's cool.
What's it like to work with [director] Justin [Lin]?
Justin is great. I'm really enjoying working with him. He's very involved with the script. He's really aware that even though this is a big action movie, there's a great script here. It's well written, with brilliantly drawn characters. Justin works well on set - he keeps feeding you new ideas.
It's a surprisingly smart movie. It's taken it to a whole other level. It's a very well thought out story. It's not as straightforward as you would expect. It has many layers and many twists. The first time I read it, I got to a certain page and thought, "Whoa. I did not see that coming!" That's a big plus for a script.
Did you sit down and watch all the other films before you took the job?
I had seen all the other films. The only one I hadn't was Tokyo Drift, but I have now obviously. I love the first one. There's something about it - it's very LA. And I loved Fast Five. But they've all got great moments. You form relationships with these people in your head over the years.
Had you met any of the crew before?
And the only one I'd met was Michelle, at a party a couple of weeks before. So it was straight in - me being dragged down the steps by Dwayne, pushed into the middle of a circle surrounded by the whole team, punched in the face by Paul, and then had a stare-off with Vin. So it was like... "Welcome to the team!" Know what I mean? It was fucking terrifying. I kept it together and we got through it. That's how movies are. It was a scene near the end of the bloody film, and I've just got there! You're meant to be thinking about everything you've been through, which you haven't actually done yet. It's very odd. Very odd. (Laughs)
They're a really lovely bunch. Very welcoming.
Who is more formidable, The Rock or Smaug?
Well, one's breathing fire and God knows how big. None of us know how big he's going to be. You'll have to ask me next year when I've seen what he looks like in the flesh.
What was the hardest scene to shoot?
The action stuff is towards the end of the shoot. There's a huge sequence at the end, which just keeps going and going. It's a chase. There's an Antonov plane and tanks and cars. The plane crashes, we're in it, there's a fight on it - I mean, it's mindblowing. To read it on the page, it's just bullet-points going on for four pages. I don't know how you get your head around shooting something like that. So there's all that good stuff to look forward to. I'm not sure whether we're shooting that in Tenerife or Shepperton or God knows where.
What is Shaw's gang like?
We're an eclectic bunch. We've got Indonesian, American, Danish, Scottish... It's a real mix of hard-nosed, out-for-their-own criminals. And we're all on this team, but we're all out for what we can get out of it. It looks great when we're all together. I have the best cars, naturally. I've done some driving and it was very fun to come tearing out of Battersea Power Station at six o'clock in the morning. I asked them if they'd lend me it so I could go home to Wales and visit my family, but they weren't having any of it. I was like, "Come on, that's the whole point of doing a movie like this, so you can borrow the cars, no?" (Laughs) That was an Aston Martin, vintage. A beautiful car.