In 1992, Jason Statham was cast by French filmmaker Luc Besson in the title role of Frank Martin in The Transporter, which brought him international fame, leading to roles in The Italian Job, Crank, Transporter 2, The Bank Job and The Expendables.
His latest film, The Mechanic, is a remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson thriller. In it Statham portrays Arthur Bishop, an elite assassin. When his mentor and close friend Harry (Donald Sutherland) is murdered, his next self-imposed assignment is to track down the killers.
But this mission will be different, because Harry’s son Steve (Ben Foster) is determined to assist Bishop is disposing of his father’s murderers, and a deadly partnership is born.
Why did you want to do a remake of this movie?
The screenplay really appealed to me. I thought it was very smart. I’m always looking to make a grown up action movie and this script definitely fit that bill.
One of the things I liked about Bishop is he’s smart. You see all of the research he’s doing for his job – how important is that to you?
To play someone with a little bit of intelligence is great. I liked the idea of him being able to conduct these hits and not leave a trace. I remember seeing the original and I loved the script. It’s difficult to try and get good action and a smart character and a decent story, so we’re always trying to do our best to figure out which one to do, and this made sense.
Can you talk a little about your memories of watching the original?
I’ve always been a big Charles Bronson fan and for me he’s one of the very few old school guys who doesn’t have to say much; he says a lot without doing anything. It’s hard not to get influenced in some way by an old remake, and for me it was more important not to re-watch it after I’d signed on to do it.
I know they wanted to really make an attempt at making this a little more up-to-date and modernized. The original screenplay for me was really something that I wanted to try to keep a lot of. Does that play in a normal, modern day audience? It’s something that I’m not in control of, so things stayed and things didn’t stay.
The ending of the original was very bleak.
It is a very bleak ending. The thing about doing a remake is do you really want to do the exact same carbon copy of the original, and the important thing is how do you make it end? You can either end it the same way or you can do something completely different. It’s not something that I was in control of. There were a lot of producers, and they were the ones that had the last say in how they wanted it to end.
It’s so interesting to see you and Ben Foster play off of each other – what was that interaction like?
He’s just a riveting actor with great energy. He does his homework and he’s full of great ideas He’s very different to me, and I think it was a good balance. He’s a fantastic actor and he’s very instrumental in refining a lot of the scenes that we did together.
I think in some ways he’s a great writer because a lot of the stuff he brought to the table were great changes and thank God we had a responsive director like Simon West who was willing to listen to some of his great ideas. To have someone that’s constantly pushing himself for me is great.
Were you surprised he could keep up with you?
He really pushed himself beyond the call of duty for the role. Some of the stunts we were doing were scary at the best of times, even for someone like me who does stunts for a living.
I was shocked because he’s so brave, he’s got a fear of heights and we did a crazy stunt where we dropped down the edge of a building, it was like 360 feet, and he has a fear of anything above 4 or 5 feet. We strapped him in and he was overly brave. His total commitment to his job and his work is outstanding, above all of his fears.
Doing so many action films was the building stunt hard for you or did you have the stuntman do it?
No, because I think if you’re confident enough to do it, you should. The rigging is pre-tested, it’s all safe, the only reason you wouldn’t do it is if you’re scared in some way. There’s a great doing those kinds of things. It allows the camera to be close to you and it puts you in all the stunts.
Years ago I wanted to be a stuntman and I didn’t want to bypass an opportunity to be lowered at high speed down a side of a building. For me it’s a great opportunity and I love doing those kinds of stunts.
What do you think this story has for a modern audience?
The story has great universal themes of revenge and redemption, but the main intention was to make an action movie, an action thriller, that we could all be proud of. There are die-hard fans of the original who will obviously want to see the film, but now there’s a whole new generation of people out there who will be introduced to this great story.