The assassin at the center of The Mechanic is a man of precise action and few words. The 1972 original starred, naturally, Charles Bronson. Now the current remake recruited an actor who’s perhaps destined in fill Bronson’s shoes: the reticent Transporter and Crank star, Jason Statham.
The new version features more explosions and gunplay — gotta update for modern sensibilities, of course — yet the main character is still one who’d rather express himself with a weapon than with words. Here, though, he chats about what compelled him to do a new Mechanic, how he loves to do his own stunts, and why you’ll probably never see him in a romantic comedy.
OLSZEWSKI: What made you decide to remake The Mechanic
STATHAM: I count Charles Bronson as one of my favorite actors. I like the original “Mechanic” and it made sense to do it now. I signed on to do the original screenplay, exactly, but we tried not to get too attached to anything Bronson was doing — it’s very difficult with a remake not to repeat, but at the same time pay homage to, what the original was. I tried not to watch the movie and be influenced by Bronson’s performance. I’d seen it a couple times, but it was a few years before, so it wasn’t that fresh in my mind, which was probably a good thing.
OLSZEWSKI: You’re famous for doing your own stunts. Talk about the film’s most stunning piece of action, you and co-star Ben Foster free-falling from a very, very tall building.
STATHAM: That stunt was particularly fun because I got to do it with Ben. He’s a man who’s very fearful of heights. So to see someone’s face quivering in the wind [laughs]…but he was very brave. He’s got a certain-sized ego that will push him beyond the limits he’s normally used to.
Those kinds of situations are full of adrenaline and they’re very exciting to execute. You always question whether they’re safe. There’s no guarantee that something can’t go wrong, so there’s always a thrill to it.
OLSZEWSKI: So no green screen for you?
STATHAM: I hate green screen, personally, because there’s nothing that can allow you to experience the full adrenaline of dropping down the side of a building unless you actually do it. To pretend you are, flailing your arms, is so fake to me. It’s good to excite the heart. And I always work very closely with the stuntmen. I’m very involved from start to finish. You know, my opinion counts for a lot since I’m going to be the one doing them!
OLSZEWSKI: How hard do you train for these stunts?
STATHAM: There’s no drinking in the bar every night and waking up hungover. We do a lot of martial-arts training, a combination of everything — punching, kicking, kickboxing, jujitsu. It’s not specific to a certain martial art; it’s movie martial arts, and it could incorporate any array of moves. We’re not trying to portray a guy who did kung fu all his life.
OLSZEWSKI: You have experience as a competitive high-diver. Were you always a bit of an andrenaline junkie?
STATHAM: I wasn’t running around the tops of buildings, but I was always throwing myself around, doing silly things.
OLSZEWSKI: You got introduced to acting in an unusual way.
STATHAM: My days of selling jewelry and working on street corners was very significant when I first started acting because Guy Ritchie was looking for someone authentic who lived that lifestyle when he made Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. The transition was very easy there, but for a movie like this, there’s nothing I could bring from that world. The only thing I could bring was the experience I’ve gained working in the movies I’ve made and learning moves from action choreographers.
OLSZEWSKI: Do you consider doing, say, romantic comedies?
STATHAM: Usually the good stuff from that genre is always going to the right people — Ben Stiller and all the people that are so good at it. The stuff that comes my way from those areas are not so good, so I tend to stay away from it. Most of the offers that come my way are driven by action. I just did a movie with Robert De Niro and Clive Owen. It’s got a great story, good characters, and some great action, and we really ring all the bells.
But I don’t think I have to prove anything to anybody by doing a comedy or a romance just to say I can do something else. I’m not driven by trying to impress people with all the things I can do. Action movies have given me a good life. It’s definitely better than what I was doing before.
OLSZEWSKI: Where do you call home? Are you bothered by paparazzi?
STATHAM: I keep a place Malibu, but I still keep a place in England. It’s always good to go back and see my close friends. The paparazzi do tend to chase me — I guess I need a faster car. But there are so many of them these days, they’re like flies. You can’t get away from them. They’re radioing each other, and you get rid of one but then there’s another. It’s an impossible job to shake those bastards. They’re trying to make a living, and I respect that, but they’re still a bit of a bugger.