Jason Statham Admits Meaty ‘Redemption’ Role Was ‘Testing Ground’

MTV News talks to the actor about how his character is helping him open up to different styles of film.

After 15 years as an actor in such films as “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” “The Transporter,” The Italian Job,” “Crank,” and “The Expendables,” Jason Statham has proved there are few people working today who can kick as much ass as he can. But in his new film “Redemption,” Statham stretches more than his muscles, offering a complex and dramatic turn as an ex-special forces soldier who steals another man’s identity, in the process finding an opportunity for, you got it, redemption.

In the latest installment of “Unedited,” MTV News’ Josh Horowitz sits down with Statham for a candid conversation about the past, present and future of his career. Below are some highlights from the conversation, where Statham discusses “Redemption,” assesses some of his strengths and weakness, and talks about the prospect of working with, of all people, Will Ferrell.

MTV: The movie is called “Redemption” in the U.S. but it was originally called “Hummingbird.” Which do you prefer?

Jason Statham: Hummingbird is slightly more specific because it refers to a military drone, which is like an all-seeing eye. Basically Joey, the character I play, it’s his conscience, and it drives him to live on the street because he can’t escape the atrocities that he’s been a part of.

MTV: This film seems to offer you more to chew on as an actor than some of the thrill rides you’ve been in before. How do you differentiate this film from the others you’ve done?

JS: I think it is a hybrid. There is a certain physicality to the role which is something I’ve been time and time again asked to do, and I’m not trying to steer away from that, but there’s a great quality that’s involved with this. Steven Knight is a very sought-after writer, and he refers to this film as part of a trilogy. The stories aren’t connected, but there was “Dirty Pretty Things,” “Eastern Promises,” and now this. They’re stories about London, sort of dark tales of things that happen in the city. I am conscious of it being sort of a testing ground for me to play a bit more of a damaged character with a bit more meat on the bone.

MTV: The writer-director said that David Fincher recommended you for the part. Do you know him?

JS: I’ve met him several times, but it’s not like I’m asking him to go and get me parts. I think it came naturally — and I didn’t believe it at first — but it’s one of the best compliments you can get.

MTV: At this point do you know how to direct the action better than some of the directors you’re working with?

JS: I’ve had that feeling, but it just depends on who you’re working with. In this particular case, Steven Knight knew what he wanted to do. And if there was something that didn’t fit right for me, obviously I’m going to highlight that. It’s a collaboration at the end of the day. But I have had situations where some suggestions were made that this piece of physicality is going to look good, and it really isn’t. So you have to stick your neck out and in some polite way try and make them understand that it isn’t really right.

MTV: Do you enjoy watching your own work? Is it easier or more difficult to do so as the years go by?

JS: It’s hard to look at yourself on screen and go, “yeah, that’s good.” I mean, it’s a disaster if you ever think that. I mean, particularly if I’m part of an ensemble, I can enjoy them kind of films because it’s all about the banter and the fun.

MTV: You’ve been evolving as an actor. How far do you think your range can extend as an actor, and to even stretch that much? For instance, it’s surprising you haven’t done a comedy yet.

JS: Yeah, that’s something I’m keen to do. I love a lot of the action comedies. I was trying to get something together with Will Ferrell, and that would be brilliant. That for sure is something I’m keen more than ever to try and get going. But as far as trying to play, I don’t know, some broken-down lawyer, I don’t know. …I don’t think that’s my strength.

MTV: In that case, what is your strength? Or what do you bring to the table that others can’t?

JS: Uh, I don’t know. It would be a little conceited to try and answer that. I think I’ve ended up doing what is basically my strength — it’s sort of found its own course. And I’m very happy with it; I enjoy what I do.