Chances are, you’ve read a few stories about Jason Statham—and that’s exactly what they are for the most part: stories. When I had the opportunity to sit down with Statham, we talked about how he’s been misrepresented by many media outlets, and it became clear to me that telling his story was something only his words could do justice.
MF: How do you think you became the man you are today?
JS: I look at my mom and dad—they get up, they walk every day, they do ballroom dancing, and they’re as happy as two pigs in shit, as we say. My mom’s always impressed upon me [to eat] good food, healthy food, and to just stay healthy. When I was growing up, my dad didn’t have weights, so he made himself a weight bench. Instead of a hand-me-down jacket it was a hand-me-down weight bench.
A hand-me-down weight bench and ballroom dancing? Well, you’ve obviously made use of the bench, but when are we going to see you dancing?
That’s not going to happen.
But it does run in the family? [Laughs]
Still, I’m not putting on the tight trousers. I appreciate a lot of things, but it’s not my destiny to spin around. [Laughs]
You could leave that to your co-star in your upcoming movie, Parker. How was it working with Jennifer Lopez?
In Hollywood, people get reputations, just rumors that are passed down. She couldn’t have been a nicer, more pleasant person to work with. She was just fantastic. She was just like a bubbly young girl. That’s what I remember about her—just a beam of light. I loved working with her.
There’s a fight scene in Parker that everyone will be remembering for some time. It’s a “holy crap” moment—one that many of your fans almost expect in your films. Do you look for things like that when considering a script?
No. Basic answer.
What do you look for?
The action-movie genre is a very difficult one to get satiated in terms of your acting bits. You just want to get behind the story [and] someone that has something good to say. I’m not trying to shy away from something I love and enjoy. Some of my favorite movies are action movies. You want something good to say. That comes from good writing. But writing is not a skill I possess, unfortunately.
What can we expect from you in Parker compared with what we’ve seen most recently in The Expendables franchise?
[Parker] wasn’t like I was getting stuck in with Sly Stallone and Randy Couture. You’ve got such a great collection of lads there, you sort of have to bring a little bit of your best side if you can. For Parker, it’s more of a drama—just a requirement of having some of the hand-to-hand skills.
Was there a lot of pressure taking on the role of Lee Christmas in The Expendables franchise?
It’s a huge role. Some people dubbed it a passing of the torch from Stallone. I’m conscious of his endorsement. It couldn’t come from a higher place. It’s something I really want to fulfill. If he sees me as someone that has the chops to fill that sort of position—I’ve always worked hard, [and] I’ll work hard to do justice to that.
Those are massive shoes to fill.
If I could get 5–10% of what he had for a career and what he has done for the film industry, I’d be over the moon. I mean, he’s an exception—he Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture for Rocky! The last movie I did was a movie [Stallone] wrote for himself called Homefront. He said “Listen, Jay, I’m not going to be able to do this. I’d love for you to do this,” and it was one of the greatest compliments I could ever get. Someone who wrote something for himself, who is a real class-A filmmaker, class-A screenwriter, just handed a project over to me. That was a great moment in my career.
Who do you consider your biggest influences, with regard to the action element of your career?
There’s Bruce Lee and then, of course, there’s Sly.
Any other on-screen heroes that inspired you?
Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood. It’s funny, most of my on- screen heroes are sort of the ones of yesteryear. I just thought they had a bit of a laid-back coolness to them.
A lot of your heroes have been in the business for decades. Do you plan to stay on screen as long as Eastwood and Stallone?
I never look too far forward. Will I be here for the next 10 years, 20 years—2 years? It’s a day-at-a-time thing for me.
You seem to be cast as the antihero in almost all of the roles. Are you actively seeking out these parts, or are they coming to you?
I think you can only eat from the food on the table. Every actor has a strength, and sometimes you just respond to things that you see yourself better at. I’m aware of what I can and can’t do. I don’t see myself as a character actor that spends months and months figuring out what to do. I’ve never had an acting lesson in my life. I don’t know whether that’s a good or bad thing.
Guy Ritchie has been credited for discovering you. How involved was he really in opening the door to your acting career?
He’s definitely most accountable for what I’m doing right now. He’s the one to blame. [Laughs] He was a great influence. I learned everything I had to learn at the beginning from him. Basically he taught me how to do what I needed to do in front of a camera. Acting Lessons 101 with Guy. If I’m bad, it’s on him. [Laughs]
We see you pummeling people on screen all the time. What’s fun for you?
I like to wakeboard, I like to [do] all those nutty things on a jet ski. Windsurfing. Waterskiing. I’ve done almost every kind of martial art along the way. I’ve tried so many things. If someone said, “Do you want to learn to go rock climbing?” I’d be there.
Is there any other adrenaline-packed pursuit that you’ve wanted to try but haven’t yet?
There’s one thing that I’ve never tried to do and that’s fly one of those wing [suits]—jump off a cliff and do that proximity flying where they take a layer of skin off their chin by flying close to the rocks. That stuff, it must be the ultimate adrenaline rush. And for me, that is the natural high. It’s the closest thing you can get to dying and living at the same time.
Is there anything that scares you?
Not in terms of physical sport, no. I’m always up for the challenge.
Do you have any phobias?
No, they’re all self-created, anyway.
What motivates you?
I don’t think I’ve got the personality that’s ever content, and I don’t know whether that’s good or bad. I’m content to a degree and then I find ways to motivate myself to try to do something else—learn a new skill or do something that I haven’t done before. There are a lot of reasons for that. And I get motivated by the sheer fact that I don’t want to go back to the f—king street corners and start selling watches again. So that’s a good motivating factor. I like the position. I like the job. I like what I’m doing. So if that goes away, it means I’m not motivated—I’m not working hard.
This wasn’t always the dream, though, was it?
As long as I can remember, when I was a kid, I was,“If I could be a stuntman one day, that’d be great.” That’s all I ever wanted.
And now you’re living another dream altogether. How did you make it all happen for you?
The best things in life sometimes happen spontaneously.
What would you tell someone who might get a spontaneous chance like you did?
Always rely on your gut. I think your intuition is the one thing that no one can influence. Your intuition is everything. [You] can always sleep well if you rely on that. And you can be responsible for yourself through that.