In the deceptively entertaining new thriller "Homefront," Jason Statham plays a man who relocates to the Tennessee Williams-y deep south, with his young daughter, after the death of his wife. Thinking that he left his life of law enforcement behind (in the movie's prologue, you see him embedded with a group of deadly, meth-dealing bikers), he instead runs afoul of a small-time gangster named Gator (played by James Franco) and finds himself fighting for his life.
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Moviefone chatted with Statham about what drew him to the material, with a script written by Sylvester Stallone from the novel by Chuck Hogan ("The Town," Guillermo del Toro's upcoming TV series "The Strain"), how he maintains what a "Jason Statham movie" is expected to be, and what we should be expecting from "Fast & Furious 7," "Expendables 3," and "Crank 3." It should also be noted that, for such a tough guy, he's unexpectedly warm and inviting, seemingly less likely to throw a punch than wrap you in a giant bear hug.
Moviefone: What drew you to this material?
Jason Statham: It was a personal project that Sylvester Stallone had written for himself. You can only go by what the first read is. It either hits you or it doesn't. And I really liked the story. I thought it was great. I thought the bad guys were great and the whole backdrop -- a guy goes to this picturesque town and it looks so pretty and fluffy and have a great life for your daughter and get away from the tragedy and lurking underneath is this sinister group of small-minded nutters. It's great! You have really great drama and these great moments of suspense and action. It's perfect for me.
You've worked with Sly a few times. You're in "Expendables 3," right?
I'm in that one!
What do you like so much about working with him?
He has a wealth of knowledge. He's a brilliant actor. You watch "Rocky," you can watch it today... When I say, "Have you seen 'Rocky'?" And they say, "I've seen 'Rocky' twenty times!" It's hard to have a movie you can put on and on and on and relate to the character. He writes with a lot of heart. People really do understand and relate to the type of material he provides.
How did the role change once you took it on?
Well, you had to make him a Brit.
I was kind of hoping you would do that weird Cajun thing through the whole movie.
Yeah, it really didn't work for me. It wasn't really important to how he got to be where he was. Obviously, he was a transplant from the UK, and he was a part of a certain group who infiltrate biker games, which is incredibly dangerous. But as long as you can put on the accent, that's the most important thing.
When people go to see a "Jason Statham movie," they're really getting a specific thing. How have you engineered that?
You know, I'm just trying to do good work. More often than not, it's hard to try things in a different way. But at the same time, if I'm going to try and persue roles that I don't have a strong point for, there's something silly about that. As an actor, it's always good to be spreading yourself into different areas and trying to be a chameleon, but I don't see myself doing that. I'm not a character actor. I don't have five years of drama school. I don't know how to play MacBeth. With any kind of acting, you just have to be authentic in the part. And the fact is that there are a lot of strong roles that have the hero, and I try and gravitate to those movies and think, Oh, yeah, that'd be really cool. Because when I would see Sly play Rambo in "First Blood," I would think, Yeah, you're the cool dude. It's best to be the hero.
Inside of me, there's a drive to play those kind of roles because they have a physical edge to them and I spent years learning how to throw a punch and jumping around, so I can do that. And I can probably do it better than this guy. So why would I try to compete with him on something he's better than me at? So know what you're good at and see how far that takes you.
Franco is amazing in this. How did he get involved?
He's such a great actor. He plays this unpredictable, unstereotypical bad guy, a sort of airy, sleazy villain. There's many different things he brings out in this character and he gets busy with a baseball bat and can be quite dangerous. He rings the bells in all of those areas. He's a tremendous bad guy.
And you're going to be a bad guy in "Fast & Furious 7."
Well, I am doing something for the "Fast & Furious" franchise, but I can't talk about what that is...
We saw you kill somebody at the end of the last one!
Ahhhh! The cat's out of the bag! You'll see. The studio's like, "Don't talk about 'Fast'!"
But working with Franco must have been great.
Yeah, he's such an actor's actor. He's very focused on his job. It's not like he'd come on set and we'd be cracking jokes. And it pays off. It's why he's the guy who's so respected.
It seems like every other movie you're in Louisiana.
Yeah, I've done five f*cking movies there...
But it seems like this one utilized the area well.
Do you have any Southern Gothic favorites?
Yeah, there was a great movie that starred Charles Bronson called "Hard Times" with James Coburn. So good! And I loved that, and it was set in the South.
Was that always part of the plan -- to use the landscape?
Yeah, we wanted to because it was written that way. It was like great, we can get the tax credit, everybody likes working down there, the people are great...
But after five movies...
It's like somebody keeps pushing egg and chips at you every day, you say, "Jesus, can I have something else?"
So you've got "Expendables 3" coming up. Can you talk about working with the new director, Patrick Hughes?
He's so f*cking prepared. He's so good. I was blown away by how confident and how interested he was. We'd shoot scenes and he'd have music on and say, "Oh, this is what I want for the scene," and it was just on a take. A take of me walking towards the camera and he'd have this music on. He'd create the whole atmosphere and totally in his element. And such a hard grafter. It's going to be the best one.
And all the new actors!
Yeah, it's been great -- Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas. And we've got some youngsters, as well. I won't give the story away but there's an MMA girl, and Kellan Lutz... It's a big, big movie.
Have you shot "Heat" yet?
Yeah, it's done. It's in the can and we're trying to figure it out now.
What happened with De Palma? Because he was going to do "Parker" at one point and then was set for "Heat" but neither happened.
Yeah, yeah... For some reason things didn't line up in the right way. Without putting it all out for public consumption, things just didn't happen for us. And "Scarface" is one of my favorite movies of all time -- of all time! -- and it was like, No! It's not going to work with De Palma!
Is he somebody you still want to work with?
Of course, of course!
What about "Crank 3?"
Ha! I love the chaps -- Brian and Taylor are two lunatics whom I love dearly, and I want to make another film with them but we've been talking about putting him in another position without the gimmick being overcooked because it could end up being the same thing with another gimmick. We have to find something that people won't frown upon.
Can you talk about working with John Carpenter?
That was my first Hollywood movie. I love John Carpenter. He was great. I flew to meet him at a festival and he gave me the part of the Ice Cube character, but the studio wouldn't approve me so the next thing you know I had to take a lesser role. Courtney Love was supposed to be in that movie at one point. John Carpenter is such a f*cking dude. I love him. We laughed.
Do you think you'll re-team with Guy Ritchie?
The sooner I re-team with him the better it will be for me. [laughs] I love what he does. He gave me a career. I was on the streets until I met him. I don't know what kind of percentage he's expecting but...
"Homefront" hits theaters Wednesday, November 27.