Jason Statham is about to have a great summer. Not only is he excellent as the main antagonist in James Wan’s Furious 7, he’s also extremely funny in Paul Feig’s Spy. While Statham is mostly known for his action roles, I think people will see him in a new light once Spy hits theaters in early June.
With Furious 7 about to open around the world, I landed an exclusive interview with Statham here in Los Angeles a few days ago. He talked about the great reaction to Spy at SXSW, working with Paul Feig, being part of two big movies, collaborating with James Wan, fighting Dwayne Johnson and why he’s a great action star, what he’s thinking about doing in the future, and a lot more.
Collider: Let’s start off with the most important thing. We’re going to get to Furious 7, but I spoke to you at SXSW prior to seeing Spy. You’re fantastic in it. I laughed my ass off. What was it like for you at SXSW with that and everyone just really digging the movie?
JASON STATHAM: Well, like I said, I hadn’t seen the movie, so I was pissing myself. I fucking love Melissa McCarthy. Everything she does is brilliant, but she was so good in this, and Rose Byrne, literally we were crying in the fucking aisles, we was laughing so hard. And you know, I attribute that to Paul Feig, you know, he’s such a good writer. The material he fucking throws at you is just brilliant. And everyone is just so good at what they do. And so you just get dragged into that world of goodness. And yeah, I fucking loved it. It was the most enjoyable six weeks I’ve had in well over ten years.
I think what really surprised me was I expected you to play this bad-ass spy, and you don’t. Was that what appealed to you about the role more than anything?
STATHAM: You know, it’s like an organic fucking thing with Paul. He gives you a role and he says, ‘Listen I want you to be this spy, this, that.’ And then he starts writing it, and it just sort of organically grows. A lot of the scenes were never that long. You just have to go with it. He said ‘I never want you to look stupid. I never want you to like humiliate yourself.’ He said ‘I want you to look cool. I want you to be funny.’ I just thought you were gonna have me slipping on banana skins and just being a goof. He said ‘no, I’m not spoofing this. I want to play it really really straight. I want you to be really really intense. Really, really fucking believe in your madness.’ And that and his self-belief and that intensity, and him streaming off his list of things he’s done that shows that he’s the super spy, it was just hilarious. And there’s so much material, I can’t even think what’s on the DVD. I think he said he’s gonna put all of it on the DVD.
I want to get into Furious 7, but there are some great exchanges between you and Melissa. I was in the theater, I heard everyone laughing. I couldn’t hear dialogue.
STATHAM: You can’t hear, it’s kind of amazing. You get one line that’s funny, and then ten lines that could be funny, and they’ll step all over six or seven of those lines.
Yeah. Crazy. So, obviously you’ve done a lot of movies, but this is a big summer for you. I mean, you have Furious and then you have Spy. Talk a little bit about the summer you’re about to have. Both movies are excellent.
STATHAM: Yeah, I mean it’s great. They’re big films, they’re proper studio movies. A lot of the movies I do are independently financed, you know they go to the markets, they raise the money, the budgets are you know…I was thinking probably half of my career could be jammed into the budget of this Fast and Furious 7. Literally if I’ve done thirty films, fifteen of them or twenty of them could be done in this fucking movie.
I think that’s probably true.
STATHAM: [Laughs] I kid you not.
Yeah, they spent at least five dollars making this movie.
STATHAM: Yeah, it’s ridiculous. So it’s great to be in big movies with a big campaign behind them, and people are gonna get to see them. The most important thing for me is to be in a film that people are gonna like and people are gonna go and see, you know maybe once, maybe twice. And maybe you get the chance to run and hit the ball again with Paul, and maybe the same thing with this lot.
What has it been like for you entering this franchise? The fans are very passionate about these characters and these movies, moreso than a lot of other franchises I’ve watched from the outside. What has it been like for you meeting fans who are just very passionate and wanting to talk to you about it?
STATHAM: Well, you know what, I have not met many of the Fast fans yet because we’ve been stuck out here. [Laughs] The movie’s not out. You know, since SXSW, I’ve been in Thailand. I haven’t really had any exposure to any fans.
You went to Thailand from SXSW?
STATHAM: No, being in Thailand filming a movie out there. So I haven’t really had any fan exposure to get any feedback of me being in Fast, but I know they’re really passionate. I know they care about these characters, hence they’re at number seven, you know they relate to these people and girls like nothing else, they really have that connection with them. So thankfully I’m coming in from a different angle, whether people want me dead or not, I’m not gonna give the ending away [laughs], but it’s always good not to die [laughs].
I’m a big fan of James Wan, and he’s proven himself in another genre with horror movies about how excellent he is. He’s just a really great director. He comes into this, and he steers the Ferrari, if you will, and lands it. What was it like collaborating with him, and what did you take away from the experience of working with him?
STATHAM: Yeah, he’s amazing. He’s one enthusiastic individual. He showed no wavering and even when it was at its darkest…obviously he had his moments where he was like ‘Jesus, I don’t know how I’m gonna get this together.’ I can’t imagine the pressure, the pressure of just on the back of a movie that took $800 million. You know, you better make sure you do a good job here. And people are saying that, but with a smile on their face. There is an undeniable pressure, but you look at his movies, and you see his attitude.
He shows zero—it’s like water off a duck’s back, because he knows he’s good at what he does. He knows what works, he’s so clear with what does and doesn’t work, it’s like ‘no, no, no, no, trust me, this is what I want’. And you know it shows in his moviemaking. So the pressure he was under is huge, and then it became just like being buried by Mt. Everest with the demise of Paul [Walker], and the difficulties of how you’re gonna manage to pull this out of the mud and try and do something so respectful and in a way to honor the guy. And apparently people are just saying he’s done an amazing job at handling something so delicate.
That’s what I took away when I saw the movie was that I really think it honors Paul. I don’t know how he did it, I don’t know how James pulled it together, because he really did.
STATHAM: It looks like it was written this way from day one, right?
STATHAM: That’s what people are saying.
I give him mad props. One of the things I really liked was his use of camera. In the action scene with you and Dwayne [Johnson], he lifts up and then he turns, like some really cool shit. When you were filming that, when did you first realize he’s gonna do some cool shit with the cameras?
STATHAM: I realized he was up to experimenting from day one because he had me on the phone and he said ‘listen, I’ve got an opening sequence, you’re gonna fucking love it.’ He said ‘it’s one camera, one take, and it’s for five fucking minutes long.’ And he says ‘this is how it goes: you’re at the bedside, and you’re looking out the window…’ And I was listening going ‘gee, this guy’s a fucking filmmaker, he really, really has got this down.’ So he was very ambitious about trying new things. Every single of these movies, it opens on a car chase. Every single one, it’s like cars, it’s the formula. He says ‘I’m gonna own the fucking movie, and you’re gonna be like coming out and the whole thing is gonna establish who you are.’ So you know he took brave and bold chances that true fans might go ‘where’s the fucking car chase, man?’ So my hat’s off to him for being brave in those areas.
I think that’s one of the reasons why the movie is strong is because you can’t keep on doing the same thing. And he brought his own take to the material. Of course, I have to ask you though: fighting Dwayne. Was it a blast? Because he’s a big fucking dude.
STATHAM: He’s a big dude. Yeah he moves like a middleweight, but he’s a fucking super heavyweight.
He used to play football. He’s a big dude.
STATHAM: His athletic fucking prowess…I mean, he bounces around and he’s got such fucking timing. Like movie fighting is a real skill. You know I’ve had movie fights with real fighters and they don’t react because they’re not supposed to react. They ride the punch. And you just ‘go well if you don’t react, and I’m not hitting you, this is like…we need physics to happen here, you know, action, opposite reaction.’ You know he’s really good at selling stuff, and he’s just got this great timing, and he’s got a real explosive power. He doesn’t mind taking a punch, you know, Bam!, you know he’ll sell it for you, and you need that. You know big guys usually have an ego like ‘oh, if you hit me like that, I wouldn’t move’. He’s got really great skin and that is used to getting whacked, he’s used to selling that, you know doing what he does. His dad did that, so he’s got skills that are extraordinary for a man of his size and he’s got an exceptional ability in that area. So to do a fight with someone like that…you know, it’s like fucking Christmas. You’ve got everything you need, you’ve got precision, you’ve got the timing. And so you whizz through it. You don’t have to do fucking twenty takes where some guy can’t fucking throw a punch. You know, I’ve had those situations. You know, get the stunt double in, he can’t do it, bring the fucking double. And that’s what happens. More often than not, you do twenty takes with a fucking actor, and you go ‘this guy’s a useless piece of shit, so bring me the stunt double’. And then obviously, that ain’t the case with Dwayne.
No, no. But also he’s hard to stunt double.
STATHAM: He’s very, very hard.
You can tell if it’s not – you know what I mean.
STATHAM: You’d have to navigate the globe fifty times to find a good one [laughs].
The thing I’ve taken away, like I’ve spoken to him a number of times and the thing about Dwayne is that he’s a professional, and he’s just super nice. I think that that’s the secret that a lot of people don’t realize in the industry, the secret is you have to be a professional.
STATHAM: Yeah, he’s a really cool character. You know, I met him one time and that was it. We actually met on the fight sequence. I met him actually at an event years ago, but it was very briefly, but you only get to know someone when you’re working with them for a spell of time, and he was a very, like I said, regular guy. Just fucking…he’s an athlete. Most athletes don’t have an ego, they’re fucking confident in their own skin, they know what they’re good at and they don’t try and prove anything.
100%. I have to wrap with you, but I’m definitely curious: what are you thinking about for the future? And obviously not romantic comedy, or maybe you are, but like, what are some of the things that are bubbling up for you?
STATHAM: Eh, I don’t know. I’d fucking, you know, I’d remove an arm to do another movie with Paul Feig. I’d definitely do that.
So have you called him about Ghostbusters?
STATHAM: Ah, there’s no room for me in that. But whatever comes…that was just a great experience. What’s coming up for me? I just did a movie in Thailand, The Mechanic Resurrection.
What was the experience on that?
STATHAM: Yeah, I mean, we’ve still got a couple of little days to finish. But you know, Thailand’s a great place to go work.
I’ve never been there, it’s on my list.
STATHAM: Yeah, it’s fantastic. So I could talk to you about that next time.
Sure. So you haven’t booked anything else for the rest of the year?
STATHAM: No, I’m booked off. Well, not booked off, but I haven’t booked anything yet. Nothing’s riding me out.
I would say that after Spy and Furious 7, I think that you will definitely have some meetings. I really believe that.
STATHAM: I really hope so.