Jason Statham :: Far from ’Expendable’
A few years ago, Sylvester Stallone has a monumental idea. What if he could get all the great action heroes of the 1980s together with all the new action heroes and make a mega-action movie? "The Expendables" was a big hit, so now the sequel is even more the action hero dream team.
Jason Statham returns representing the new guard. In the film he plays Lee Christmas, the right hand man to Stallone’s Barney Ross. Also on the team is Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews and UFC champ Randy Couture. They team up with Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis (this time in larger roles than they had in the first film) to defeat a new villain played by kickboxing fight movie legend Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Enjoys the banter
The ruggedly handsome British movie star welcomed the opportunity to work again with Stallone, but not for the expected reason.
"I just wanted to have some of those funny scenes with Sly," Statham said. "I mean they are my favorite things, the banter that goes on and I could spend my whole two hours doing that with him. Obviously you have to satiate the people who are actually fans of action movies, so you have to come up with some interesting fight scenes and make sure the action is good. The chemistry is the fun stuff, the dialogue and the banter that he and I share. That’s my favorite stuff to do."
While Satham and Stallone rib each other in the middle of a battle zone, the classic action heroes get to say their signature lines, which fit into the film seamlessly.
"They (those signature lines) turn up. It’s a bit of a wink to certain films they’ve all done. Arnold comes in and says, ’I’ll be back’ and ’I am back!’ You know, there are all these sort of homage moments that come. I don’t think anyone is scratching their head to try and create a character. They’re characters already."
"Expendables 2" is also a reunion for Statham with the director of "The Mechanic," SImon West. Stallone directed the first "Expendables" but hired West to take over a large share of the production work on the sequel.
"I mean, it’s a big responsibility," Statham said. "A director’s work involves so many months. You’ve work the pre-production, the location scout, you’ve got rehearsals... You immerse yourself in a movie for two years. Stallone didn’t want to go through that again. (By hiring West) he could just pull back a little bit and place his influence where it was needed."
Stallone unfortunately was not available to promote the sequel because of the tragedy his family recently suffered. (His 36-year old son Sage died in July.)
His imprint is all over the film though. He co-wrote the script and every character comes from the world of hard-core male dominated action, of which Stallone excels.
"He’s the conductor," Statham said about Sly. "He likes to be that. No disrespect to Simon West because he’s the director of this film. But Sly creates these characters and writes them. He knows them inside out. If you ain’t hitting the right note, he’s the first to tell ya."
In the end, "The Expendables 2" is equal parts a Stallone movie and Simon West film, with Statham on hand to deliver the goods. "There is a great combination of two minds coming together. Simon is the director - he sets up the shots, but there’s a great collaboration that takes place, because Sly is a director too. If one of them isn’t seeing something, the other is going to bring that up. The collaboration is a great thing."
Fight fans will also look forward to a penultimate battle between Statham and Scott Adkins, star of the "Undisputed" films and "Ninja." (The final battle goes to Stallone vs. Van Damme). Statham, however, worries he and Adkins didn’t get to deliver enough for their fans.
"Not as much as I would have liked. Normally you get three or four days of rehearsals and then three or four days to shoot. We had no rehearsal. We had a day to shoot. It’s quite frustrating because Scott Adkins to me is one of the greatest onscreen martial artists there is. And I wanted a little bit more, because I think we could have done a bit more. You always want more. It’s one of those things, no matter what you’re doing, I think that’s what drives any of us. You never know when I’m going to fight Scott Adkins again so maybe we should have done more. I don’t know, maybe it’s fine. The analysis kills me."
Designing his fights
Statham was an Olympic diver before becoming an actor and spent two weeks advidly watching the Games from London.
"I love the Olympics. I have some good memories. But it sucked up a lot of my life where I could have been doing something more productive for what I’m doing now maybe. Who knows?"
What his years as a diver gave Statham is the iron man physique that’s been instrumental in his becoming an international action star. He is known to do his own stunts and fights, but quickly acknowledges the assistance he gets, mostly from professionals from the action and martial arts company 87eleven Action Design. They worked with the actor in films from "The Transporter" to "Crank" and even a scene in "The Bank Job." And they were brought on "The Expendables 2."
"I have a big influence on the fight sequences that I do on my own, because I rehearse and create them with a friend Chad Stahelski who works at 87eleven. He designs these fights; some things don’t work, some things do. But they are so good. What I have to do is find out what works for me. Simon is smart enough to step back and let us do what is good and time efficient. We know if something is going to work or not because we rehearse together, I train everyday up there at LAX with these people. So we know what works. We know the best angle, we know what’s going to cut together well. Again, it’s collaboration. When people really know what they’re doing, people let them guide that influence."
The teamwork extended to the cast too. With a gang of musclemen flexing and fighting for the camera, Statham said nobody tried to one-up the other. Rather, they all supported each other.
"The egos get thrown out of the window. Everyone has made their own stamp in some way, so there is nothing to prove. We just want to get stuck in together. So there is a good feeling about it. No one is trying to fight for the camera here because we’re there to push [each other.] The better everyone else looks the better we look. So it’s one of those feelings."
Statham will next be seen in "Parker," the third film adaptation of Donald Westlake’s character from novels. The previous two were "Point Blank" starring Lee Marvin and "Payback" starring Mel Gibson.
"This is the first movie that the character has ever been called Parker, because ’Point Blank’ and ’Payback’ were obviously the other Westlake films that were made. I hadn’t really read many of [the books]. I know Westlake is a pretty significant writer. He’s written quite a few decent things. Any adaptation of a book is always a good one."
If ’Expendables 2’ does as well as the first one, or better, Statham would be happy to stay on the team for ’Expendables 3.’ "Very much so. It depends if many people go and see this one. The audience dictates whether you’re allowed to make any sequels. They are the ones who control it.
"The Expendables 2" opens Friday.
Watch the trailer to The Expendables 2: