Jason Statham, 36, has established himself as one of the world’s biggest action stars with his formidable body of work to date, culminating in this summer’s DEATH RACE. After bursting on the scene ten years ago in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, Statham went to star in two wildly popular Transporter films and heist films of great acclaim – The Italian Job and The Bank Job. His 2006 adrenaline-rush turn in Crank cemented Statham’s place as an international star.
Now, with Transporter 3 and Crank 2 already in the can, he stars in 2008’s DEATH RACE, an update of the 1975 Roger Corman film Death Race 2000, in which he plays the driving champion Jensen Aimes, trapped into racing by an evil prison warden who frames him for the murder of his wife. Styled as a futuristic reality show, Death Race pits a series of drivers against each other until only one man is standing.
Q. What car do you drive and do you race and do you ever get speed tickets?
JASON STATHAM: I'm into all things German. Everything that I own is German. As far as cars, go anyway. I drive an Audi, an S8, and for fun I drive a Porsche GT2, the new 2008. It’s a lot of fun.
Q. What did you like about the movie? Was it the cars and driving?
JASON STATHAM: Yeah, I love cars. I love car movies, I love Bullitt and Mad Max. I’m just a bit of a car geek. I sat down with [Paul Anderson] and he showed me the drawings for the cars that they’d be using in the race and I was like, “oh my God”. It was just so impressive I just wanted to be a part of it.
Q. Paul just said one of the reasons he picked you is because in Hollywood they’re all pretty boys and not that many people like action stars from another era like Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson. You are, are you aware of that? Do you mind being compared to these fellows or are you actually a fan of them too?
JASON STATHAM: Yeah, I am. It’s more than a big compliment to be mentioned in the same sentence as them. A lot of my favorite actors are actors from a different era, like Paul Newman and as you mentioned Steve McQueen. I like Clint Eastwood, all those guys are the people that are in the movies that I watch time and time again: Cool Hand Luke, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. They’re the movies that I’ve been inspired by since I was a kid.
Q. Have you always been an action movie fan? What did it give you as a kid when you watched them?
JASON STATHAM: People like movies for different reasons and I just think these are the kind of actors that both girls and guys like. They just got universal appeal.
Q. You know some of these actors went to acting classes to find dates, right?
STATHAM: No, I never went through the traditional route of going to drama school. I kind of fell into it. Somebody put me in a room with Guy Ritchie and he decided to give me a part in a movie, so it’s not like I had a burning desire to be an actor. It just kind of happened by accident, which is one of those lucky right time and right place moments.
Q. But do you feel now that this is your calling?
JASON STATHAM: I’m very happy to be working in the movie industry. I love the movies I get to do, they’re all action driven and I’ve always been a very active kid. I’ve been interested in martial arts for years and competed as an athlete for 12 or 15 years for the country. I’ve always been interested in exploring in front of the camera. It’s a lot of fun for me.
Q. So what do your mates think of you becoming a thespian?
JASON STATHAM: What? A thespian, huh? I don’t think I’ve quite reached that title yet! But they give me a fair amount of stick. It’s par for the course living in South London. They keep you firmly grounded. They’re the first people to tell you if you’re getting a little bit above yourself. It’s great to have that relationship.
Q. Do you still live there?
JASON STATHAM: I actually live in L.A. at the moment. I've been there too many years, five years actually. Of course I've set my feet into California.
Q. So you prefer to live in California?
JASON STATHAM: Well actually, this is a very different place to live. London and L.A. are two opposites - I like the difference.
Q. You come across as being pretty cool in real life. If I wanted to impress you, what would it take? I guess showing you a pretty car wouldn’t impress you because you’ve got that. So what does it take to impress you?
JASON STATHAM: I don't know. I love people who have a good sense of humor, tell a good story, tell a good joke. That would impress me.
Q. What type of jokes did you tell while you are waiting for hours between takes in the car with Natalie?
JASON STATHAM: Oh, if I told you I’d have to kill you. (Laughs). No, we just talked. Natalie is quite a funny girl. She has a lot of testosterone coursing through her veins which just makes her quite funny. She’s super glamorous but she can mix it with the guys, have a beer, and I like girls like that - visually stunning with a dirty mind!
Q. You’re in such good shape in this movie. What was the training like?
JASON STATHAM: In terms of the training? It changed a lot. The training schedules were put together by a guy called Logan Hood he’s an ex-Navy seal who’s pretty intense. The good thing about his sessions is nothing was ever repeated. We’d hawk back to the old starlets of exercise, using everything that uses your own body weight and the very basic things like pull-ups and pushups and squats and dead lifts, power planes, that kind of thing, sprints, explosive power stuff.
Q. Every day?
JASON STATHAM: Six days a week, yeah.
Q. For how long per day?
JASON STATHAM: Not that long, actually. 40 minutes, 45 minutes, sometimes an hour.
Q. What kind of diet did you have during your shoot?
JASON STATHAM: It was lots of protein, lots of vegetables, fruit, nuts, berries, a little bit of dairy, no refined carbohydrates, no pasta, no bread, no sugar, no juices.
Q. Did you find that difficult?
JASON STATHAM: It makes me very miserable. But you know, it’s in for a penny, in for a pound. You do it for a reason and it’s part of the job, so it’s nice to have that focus and dedication.
Q. Where you up early to train?
JASON STATHAM: Yes, we used to get up at 5, and hit the running machine which is no fun. Then we’d do an hour and then get ready and start the film. It’s amazing how much energy you get once you get into the routine.
Q. What about the stunts in the movie? Any bruises?
JASON STATHAM: Yeah, you do an extra movie, I mean it’s usually the fight scenes that you get accustomed to having an injury, and nothing too bad on this one. No broken bones, no strained joints. Just a few bruised muscles and that was about it.
Q. Is there a stunt that blew you away that you weren’t allowed to do that you wanted to do?
JASON STATHAM: Yeah, some of the bigger set pieces, some of the big collisions, you want to try and be in the driver’s seat for, but the production doesn’t allow it. It’s the studio’s nightmare to have me in a big car crash.
Q. How fast did you go in the car?
JASON STATHAM: About 160.
Q. Well, like you said you had a couple of times to be scared because you did your own driving in the movie.
JASON STATHAM: Yeah, it was quite dangerous at one time because of the iron girders that were coming out of the ground. If you hit one of those at high speed, they don’t move anywhere and it’s just curtains. It’s, very dangerous.
Q. But you wouldn’t have done it if you didn’t know you could pull it off
JASON STATHAM: Sure. I used to ace my friends as kids. When it snowed we used to get into a car park and do hand brake turns. We used to learn to drive in icy conditions and throw the car around and everything. I've been lucky enough to go to driving school and have extensive lessons. I’ve put in many hours and you build up a confidence and there’s no substitute for that experience. I feel it’s one of the reasons that Paul wanted me to be one of the drivers.
Q. What’s the most impressive car stunt you can pull then?
JASON STATHAM: I can do a flying 360. You drive at about 90 miles an hour, and then you pull on the hand brake. It stops and you go into a 90-degree spin. It hits the 180, you flip the wheel the other way, turn the front wheel so it goes that way, and then you keep it going in second gear.
Q. How many speeding tickets have you had?
JASON STATHAM: Recently, not many. But as a kid, a lot. I’ve learned my lesson with the law.
Q. Are there other directors you’d like to work with?
JASON STATHAM: Many. Scorsese is one of them, and Michael Mann.
Q. Would you be willing to skip the action to move from there?
JASON STATHAM: Absolutely. Listen, the kind of films that they make are always interesting. Just to work with those people would be a massive privilege.
Q. I loved Crank so I look forward to Crank 2. Can you talk a little bit about that? And also about Transporter 3.
JASON STATHAM: Transporter 3? That’s another one in the bag. So I’m a man of many sequels. I finished Crank 2 not so long ago, it’s pretty crazy.
Q. The first one was great.
JASON STATHAM: Yeah, it’s quite mad. It’s everything you’d expect it to be with Neveldine and Taylor at the helm. They’re lunatics.
Q. Driving is a passion of yours. What about the other passions that we haven’t seen yet from you on the screen?
JASON STATHAM: I’m interested in snowboarding and scuba diving. My two indulgences.
Q. When you feel stressed, how do you de-stress? Just by doing action or do you meditate?
JASON STATHAM: I like to meditate. But I get rid of my stress at the gym.
Q. Do you still have hope that one day you will be able to return to the UK or is America your home how?
JASON STATHAM: I’d love to go home. I’d get great enjoyment if I could make films in the UK. I recently did a movie with Roger Donaldson called The Bank Job and it was great to go and work back on home turf. I haven’t done a movie there since Lock, Stock and Snatch. I love working with the English crews, eating food on the double decker buses and that kind of stuff.
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