As everyone knows, Jason Statham is the last action hero. He’s more than that, though. Before his screen debut in “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” (not an action film), he was a member of Britain’s National Diving Squad, a model and worked on the black market. He’s still versatile: His latest, “Redemption,” made by “Dirty Pretty Things” and “Eastern Promises” writer Steven Knight, is a drama (with some action) in which he plays an ex-soldier with PTSD who lives on the streets — until he steals someone’s identity and falls for a nun.
“Redemption” concerns homelessness, class warfare and other serious issues. What drew you to it?
I thought it was different but not so different that it wouldn’t be enjoyable. There’s a limit to doing something just for the sake of being different. And I like dark tales, I like thrillers. I thought this would be the kind of movie I’d want to see, so I might as well be in it.
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Were you consciously seeking out something that would be different from most of your action films?
It’s not like, “Oh my god, here’s my chance to do something so different!” It’s never like that. It’s more that this is a quality story. This is a quality movie. I want to do that. It just turns out that it’s a bit different from some of the others I’ve done.
Did you do much research?
We met some of the soldiers who have been in the war and came back, and a lot of them have disabilities: They lost an eye, lost a leg. You think, “F—, that’s really out there, we never see that.” It’s not an exposed subject, these soldiers who come back from the war. Ten percent of the homeless people [in London] are from the military forces.
You didn’t start out as an action actor. How did you get into it?
I just kind of tumbled into it. I never had an idea to do it. I had a ton of years of experience in marital arts and gymnastics. My dad was a gymnast and a boxer. When I started I was just like, “OK, now I get to throw some silly stuff around. Let’s see if I can do it.” The next thing you know it worked. I wasn’t being cast in period dramas back in England. You have to figure out some other way to make money.
You could still do that, though. You could do something Dickensian.
I don’t know how many thrills I’d get out of wearing those tights every day.
Is “Crank 3” a possibility?
Everything’s a possibility. [Laughs] Never say never in Hollywood, right? If something lands in my lap and is brilliant, I’m gonna do it, for sure. And those chaps are great fun, [directors Mark] Nevildine and [Brian] Taylor. We had such a laugh doing those two films. F—ing hilarious. I’d be mad not to do it. But they’re busy, I’m busy. Who knows? Someone has to go, “Right, f— it, I’m writing the script, and it’s gonna be great.” If the script was great, I’d be in there like a shark.