Time really flies when you’re having fun. It seems like yesterday that audiences fell for Jason Statham in Guy Ritchie’s “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.” Of course, it’s been 15 years and Statham’s enthusiasm hasn’t waned one iota. The London native has gone from former model and stuntman to arguably the hottest action star around. The man best known for his sarcastic delivery and closed combat action scenes mixes a bit of tenderness in his new role as Phil Broker in “Homefront,” based on the novels and adapted by his “Expendables” castmate Sylvester Stallone. Jason recently sat down with us to discuss the role, Stallone’s influence and the topic of bullying.
Amazing performance in “Homefront,” Jason. How much of it do you attribute to Sly’s script, which he had originally written for himself?
JASON STATHAM: Yes, totally. You can only have a good shot if you’re doing something of quality. If the writing’s no good, then what are you going to do with it? You’ve got good things to say and the situations are right. It’s all about what’s on the page. It goes back to that every time. More often than not, I can’t get Sly right for me. (Laughs)
You’ve done his work before, but how surprised were you with the quality of the writing?
JASON STATHAM: I look back at “Rocky” and it’s a bit of a masterpiece when you look at the writing. It’s just great. I think people tend to forget just how many films he’s written and what a prolific writer he is. He’s done so many. I think he lost sight as to how good this was and I got in there at the right time. I got a bit lucky there. (Laughs) He’d always been giving me advice, saying, “You really need to do something that shows a different side.” I said, “What side?” And he said, “Have a read of this.” And it was almost advice, but here’s how to do it. (Laughs) I remember that as a great moment, as in, “Thanks for the great advice and for showing me how.” He’s great. He’s been a massive influence on me. I’m grateful. I’ve been on a great film with great actors. I’ve been cast with people who used to be hairdressers. Now, I’m cast with James Franco.
It doesn’t seem fair when you see Statham versus Franco. Do you ever think in that adversarial way when you’re cast?
JASON STATHAM: It’s so much more interesting, because he’s so much more dangerous. He’s totally unpredictable and that psychotic nature is much better than me standing in front of a big musclehead and then me having to chop him down like a big tree. He’s manipulating things which means far more. To have your daughter in jeopardy, it can’t get much worse than that. He’s torturing our pets. (Laughs) It’s pretty sick. Once someone starts messing with your animals, the stakes are higher. You need someone who has this eerie kind of weirdness and that unpredictability. It’s a much better choice than someone that’s going to duke it out with me.
You’re teaming back up with your stunt coordinator Brad Martin on “Heat,” right?
JASON STATHAM: Yes, he’s worked closely with another close friend of mine, J.J. Perry. They’re a good little crew and it’s nice to have people that you’re familiar with. You’re always looking for that unusual weapon to smash someone with. (Laughs)
In regards to stunts, have you started to be more selective as you’ve gotten older?
JASON STATHAM: For me, if there’s a big impact where you can get railed… For example, Sly took a big impact with Stone Cold Steve Austin and he literally had steel bolts in his neck just from getting rugby tackled. So, you have to think, “What’s the value in that? Do you want surgery in your neck from hitting the ground?” I mean, I’m not scared of hitting the ground, but you think, “Maybe that’s a good idea where it’s good for someone else to take that hit.” There’s too many sharp objects. There’s this, there’s that. So, if you’re going to take a whack, you really have to understand what that is and how that plays into the story. But any sort of physical fight, any kind of hand-to-hand skill, anything of that nature, I’ve been doing it since I was that big. So, I’m not going to let somebody do that for me and then me pretend it was me, so I’m going to do it because I can do it. I did it in “Transporter.” That was sort of the first big action movie for me. It’s from that point that I just said, “(Expletive) it.” While people were in drama school, I was learning how to throw punches. I’ve jumped from very tall platforms and I’ve done trampoline and do mad things. I’ve had years and years above any actor doing physical things, so I have a massive advantage over someone who has been learning how to cry. (Laughs)
What did you learn from doing this role?
JASON STATHAM: I learned how good it is to act with good people. To see great acting and be a part of it is good for me. Not to take anything from people I’ve worked with, but the best thrill for me is knowing that you’re doing quality stuff. I had some good times with Izabela. I thought she was great. You get to do things you don’t normally do. We get to be sweet and have a little bit of fun. We’re teasing each other. It’s all part of it. I love the rolling around and the punch-ups. We had a fight in the woods and we couldn’t even breathe because of all the soil and crap that got into our eyes. It’s good fun making a movie and there’s the downside of the recovery. (Laughs)
The movie touches on the subject of bullying and here the bully gets his comeuppance. What did you take away from that?
JASON STATHAM: Bullying’s a terrible thing. We’re subjected to it through kids at school, but people in offices that have the power are pushing people around. There’s physical bullying. There’s people bullying on the internet. There’s people who get violent with bullying. I don’t think it’s ever going to go away, because it’s people’s ego getting the better of them. They feel the power and they want to want to push people around and it makes them feel even tougher. But when it comes back to bite them in the hand, I think it’s the best thing in the world. To see a bully get their comeuppance, there’s nothing better. I wish you could put people in their place a bit more, because I hate it. If I see people getting pushed around, I’d love to (see it)… but you can’t here. It’s a lawsuit, right? (Laughs) I’m not promoting violence, but I think sometimes the only way you can make… Back in the olden days, people would resolve some stupidity by giving someone a clip around their earhole. Sometimes people get taught a lesson that they didn’t want to be taught. I think it’s great for this movie that we show the bully getting his piece and it escalates even more. The family gets abusive and they try bullying us. There’s only so much people can take. I think it’s really great how Sly keeps the Broker character trying to… as much as he’d like to flex the muscles and straighten everything out, he just resists. He tries to get out of town, but they won’t let him. Then, enough is enough.
Do you think the solution to bullying is to “be the better man” or to get physical?
JASON STATHAM: It’s dependent on the situation and a lot of bullying takes place in a private fashion where no one can see it. I don’t think physicality is always the best way. It’s a really hard question to answer, but I wish there was a remedy, because it does need to stop and sometimes it gets beyond repair. It’s awful.