With "Parker," Jason Statham continues his bid to be 21st century answer to his "Expendables" co-stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a purveyor of action films that can be big and loud but don't have to be dumb.
His latest finds him playing a crafty crook with a surprisingly strict moral code — even when faced with the likes of Jennifer Lopez.
METRO: Do you consider this in the same vein as things like "the Mechanic" and "the Italian Job," putting a modern spin on older action material?
STATHAM: You wouldn't be far wrong in saying that. Parker's a different sort of animal for me, though. He's a crook, he's a criminal, but there's something about him that makes you forgive what he's doing in some way, and I think there's an interesting aspect to that. You know, you're not supposed to like crooks or criminals. You know, he's devoted to his girlfriend. There's something about that, as well. Crooks and criminals usually haven't got many morals. They do whatever they can for their ill-gotten gains, all they want is the money. But this guy has a particular way of taking it, and he has a way of protecting what he cares about.
It's interesting, that girlfriend character, since you also have Jennifer Lopez in the movie, and people would assume, you two together on screen...
You'd expect something. When's it going to go off? I know, some people will go, "Oh, I don't believe it, it's stupid. How could he resist? It's f---ing Jennifer Lopez. What, is he blind? Is he stupid?" But [director] Taylor [Hackford] was insistent on keeping this guy true to himself and him having a strength in departments where other men were weak. (laughs) And again, he fulfills his promises. He keeps to his word, he's a man of his word. And that is something that people have to admire because, you know, I live in f---ing Hollywood. Your word doesn't mean much here, believe me. (laughs)
He's kind of an OCD criminal, particularly with one very detailed line he delivers before dispatching a bad guy.
Yes! "You were supposed to torch the hay bales behind the livestock pavilion!" Boom! I love that line. I'm glad you noticed that, I loved that line. When I read the screenplay, I was like, "Oh my God, I f---ing love this guy." Right to the end, he f---ing never let that f---er forget, you know? (laughs)
There aren't that many new action stars in the vein of your "Expendables" co-stars. How did you manage to become one of them?
I mean, to categorize myself in the same breath as Stallone and Arnold is a little bit beyond me, but I love their movies. I'm a big action movie junkie, and it's great to be making action movies. I think it's still the strongest genre and always has been. I think it gets a bad name for itself sometimes because sometimes they're a bit thin on story, and there are more often than not a lot of crap ones that get made. That wave just seems to wash over some of them. But I love being in the action movie genre. It's fun, and it's better than doing period dramas back in England. For me, at least.
You got your start in diving. What do you make of sudden popularity of celebrity diving specials?
Is it popular now? I need to see that. People are going to get f---ing hurt. Who'd have thought it, because it was a f---ing tiny sport when I was doing it. And it still is, as far as I know. It doesn't put together big crowds, apart from the Olympics, and that's only every four years. It's funny to hear it's popular now, because back when I started nobody knew what f---ing diving was. If I said I was a diver, they'd go, "Oh, how deep do you go?" So it would be very funny to see.