It's no secret that we're fans of Jason Statham's particular brand of cinematic machismo, so when The Stath said he had time to come into the Empire Podcast studio, we swiftly gathered around a group of microphones to talk about his latest, Hummingbird (out June 28), as well as his history with Guy Ritchie, working with Tom Cruise and good ol' Nottingham forest. Here below is the text transcription of the interview - to hear Chev Chelios the way he was meant to be heard, click this way.
We are delighted to be joined in the pod booth by Mr. Jason Statham, star of Hummingbird, hello sir. Hello to you.
You filmed not too far away from here, the last time we saw each other was on set in Covent Garden. Yeah, driving away from a little girl with a knife. (laughs)
It feels like you're often coming back to London to make movies - Blitz, Killer Elite and so on - as if for every Expendables, you do one British film. Is that important or is that just coincidence?
In the UK I always seem to have an amazing experience, and I wrap myself around really good people.
No, it's very important. The whole experience of making a film at home is very different to making a film out in Hollywood; it's a much smaller unit. I always think the quality is also much better, in my experience. In Hummingbird, you've got Paul Webster and Chris Menges, extremely talented people. I don't know why I cant get myself in and amongst that kind of heavyweight sort of crowd out in the States but in the UK I always seem to have an amazing experience, and I wrap myself around really good people.
Its interesting that you mention a heavyweight crowd because I love the story of how you came to be involved in Hummingbird. [Hummingbird writer / director] Stephen Knight was telling me that David Fincher recommended you for this role... is that true? (laughs) According to Steve, yes. You know, Dave Fincher's one of my favourite directors, and to even believe that for one second... sometimes you have to think, 'Am I pissed? Am I a little bit too drunk? Is he really saying that?' So, apparently it's true. I've met Dave Fincher a few times, and my good friend Jason Flemyng has actually worked with him, so when I met with David not so long back we laughed about my friend J-Flem because he's a complete clown.
Is that his official nickname now, J-Flem? J-Flem, yeah. He's like a singer like that, isn't he?
How are you planning on getting more heavyweight acting work in the US? You know, if I had the answer I'd be doing it right now. I mean you can't carve your way into someone's psyche and just say, 'Listen, I'm doing your film whether you like it or not.' Unfortunately, that doesn't work. It might be easier if it did (laughs). Just turn up and say, 'By the way...'
So anyway, it's really difficult to make somebody want to hire you for a particular role – that's just the way it is and I think it will always be that way. You just have to do good quality work and I think the work speaks louder than any other thing, and I think once you can break through that door into a world where all the best people are hiring you then it's fantastic, but... (pauses) You know, I feel I did that here. Steve Knight is one of the most sought after writers in the world, what a tremendous directorial debut. It's one of the most confident experiences I've ever witnessed. I mean the guy was just beyond confident, and just so at ease with himself.
What are the chances of there ever being a Crank 3? Ha, there's a lot of people in Germany that keep asking this one as well, I think... I never say I'm never gonna do one of those because they're such a laugh to go and film those. I mean they're shot on video cameras and roller skates. It's like making a student film on steroids. There's nothing more ridiculous and at the same time more fun to do than doing that kind of stuff, it's brilliant. Neveldine and Taylor, they're completely mad and to be thrown into that sort of world is great, but at the same time how many times... I mean at the end of part 2 I got burnt to a crisp, didn't I? I mean, what are you gonna do? If you've got a good idea maybe we can present it to the two of them...
Starring alongside Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Expendables 2
You've got three Transporters, a couple of Cranks, you've got three Expendables... what's the key to a Jason Statham franchise and is there any character in your past that you would have liked to have played again? I always wanted to do another one of the Guy Ritchie films. There were talks way back, years back, of doing Snatch 2. There is a story there, but that was ten years ago or more. So that never happened, but in terms of the franchises that we're doing, you know you're always looking for a franchise. A franchise is dictated on the success of doing one film right, so if you can get it done correctly, you've got a chance of something else, but sometimes it just doesn't work that way. Ideally it's insurance for the future, if you can do something, if you can find a character that people really do like, then you're very lucky.
I'll tell you who I'm intrigued by: the beginning of Collateral, that guy. He's credited in the movie as 'Airport Man'. He's the guy who hands the briefcase to Tom Cruise. That's right! You know, I'm a huge Michael Mann fan. I read for the taxi driver - I obviously didn't get it - but it was great because Michael says, 'Listen, will you just do something for me please?' You know, 'I'd love for you to not have wasted your time by coming in.'
Now, one of the phrases you've delivered on film that people often say is, 'Scared ze Germans will get ya?' Which of your lines do you get quoted on the street the most?
I think people have really enjoyed the Guy Ritchie films. They were such classics and to be a part of them is a great privilege.
That's probably the one that most people come up with. It doesn't happen every day, believe me, but occasionally there is a... You know. I think people have really enjoyed the Guy Ritchie films. They were such classics and to be a part of them is a great privilege. There are just so many great one-liners in there. Did you ever see Snatch Wars? It's Alan Ford's voice the whole way through over Darth Vader, it's really good, it's amazing.
Do you have a favourite between Snatch and Lock Stock? I like them equally, though Lock Stock had more of a significant impact on my life because it was my first film and who knows, if I had never done that, what would I be doing today? And by the way I just thought that it was a quality film in every respect. I really did. But it's very hard for me to choose which one is my most preferred out of those two. But a reboot? I'm not in reboots, am I?
Well, you could be one of the bad guys... Yeah, course, as if I'm gonna do that. (laughs)
You know you come in for a day... Fucking hell, some chance...
I think it's time for us to apologise. We may be the guys that came up with the so-called nickname, "The Stath". The Stath? (laughs) Well J-Flem calls me 'Stath' and he has done for a few years so you've had parallel thinking there.
We added the word the. (Laughs) Yeah, you got the "the". It's amazing how much you can blow up your chest with the "the". But yeah, Flemyng, he calls me Stath, so... he can take half the credit. But, to be publically labeled that, I think you're responsible, sure. I can think of a lot worse names that you could have coined for me.
There's a moment in Hummingbird where you threaten someone with a spoon. What's it like to shoot a scene like that? There's a point where Joey Jones, the character I play, is in trouble. Things are reeling through his head and he's trying to make some breakfast, some cereal, and this is at the turning point of making a decision to solve this problem with the chaps that beat him up severely and are responsible for the death of this girl he was very close to.
So at the time he makes the decision to go and do that bad deed, he's holding a spoon, so that seemed to Steve Knight to be some really obscure weapon, and so much more fun than a knife. So as weird as it was, it just seemed to be... different. And this is a guy who's been trained and has a real physical ability, so we wanted to keep it short and sweet and hit people where it counts.
This isn't the kind of movie where he deflects a rocket with a tea tray. Yes, or wrap someone up with a fire hose.
Jason Statham as Joey Jones in Hummingbird
Did you find any common ground with Joey? There's a real rags to riches element of his storyline. Was that something that chimed with you? He's the everyman, he's the guy who was a working class Englishman that's served for his country. I've never served for my country but you try and embody roles in your own particular way. It's not like I'm Daniel Day-Lewis. I don't go and immerse myself and transform myself into these complicated brilliant fucking performances - I have to work within what's intuitively right for me. But yeah, I think there's a little bit of me in Joey Jones. You know, the bit where I'm bawling my eyes out. (laughs)
Anyway, I think we're all sensitive, everyone has a certain way about themselves that people don't like to let their emotions out too often. I think people tend to suppress them and hold them in so, I think there's a bit of that in me.
And speaking of suppressed emotions and holding them in, we wanted to ask you about life as an Nottingham Forest fan. Do you let your emotions out often as a Forest fan? I'm not a Forest fan.
You're not a Forest fan? No, where'd you read that?
It's all over the internet man. We have a thing on the podcast called 'The IMDBunker' where we get people to debunk facts about themselves on the IMDB and you've just debunked that. On the IMDB, it says: 'Jason Statham is a keen Nottingham Forest ticket holder.'
It's not like I'm Daniel Day-Lewis. I don't go and immerse myself and transform myself into these complicated brilliant fucking performances.
Look at that. I'm selling my tickets, anyone wanna buy? (laughs)
Do you support any football team in particular? Not really, no. I'm more into MMA than any other sport. I watch a lot of the UFC fights. I have since it first came onto the scene. A lot of that stuff is what I look up to and we try and use elements of what they're practically doing in the movies because it's one of the biggest growing sports. It's huge around the world. In countries all over the place, and they're practicing Ju-Jitsu and striking and kickboxing, all kinds of things. Basically, it's the amalgamation of all the best aspects of all the martial arts put into one fighting style. And for me, I love that stuff, it's brilliant.
I could see why you prefer that instead of supporting Nottingham Forest. Well said.
They just lost their most famous fan, it's a bad day for them. Sorry Nottingham Forest.
Well, it's been a pleasure having you on the show, thanks very much, best of luck for the future, the Stath. Cheers.