Nearly 23 years after Guy Ritchie cast the unknown model and champion diver in 1998’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” Statham happily rejoined the British director for their fourth action collaboration, the revenge thriller “Wrath of Man” (opening Friday).
Statham, 53, now cracks wise and kicks butt among the world action elite with his cheeky tough-guy persona in franchises such as “The Expendables” and “Fast the Furious.” But there’s no trace of a smile in this latest Ritchie flick, which sees his gangster H working undercover to avenge his son’s murder.
“It’s quite a bit of a dark journey,” Statham says.
Somehow, Statham rallied the lightness to discuss being a softie father to real son Jack, 3, (with model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) and granting Post Malone’s onscreen death wish.
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Question: With “Lock, Stock,” “Snatch” and “Revolver,” you were Guy Ritchie’s mayhem museut it’s been 16 years. Why the delay?
Jason Statham: I’m always knocking on Guy’s Ritchie’s door. One, because I’m always with him. We’ve become very close friends over the years, and we share the same interests, including an insatiable appetite for competition. We always try to outdo each other. But I don’t know why we’ve left it so long. I was hoping to work with him much sooner. Everything is all about timing.
Q: I saw your recent high-stakes chess match. How else do you compete?
Statham: We used to have onset Olympics. How many pull-ups on that piece of scaffolding? How many push-ups with someone on top of you? We thrive on competition. It’s that silly, old gent-driven ego we’ve honed. We’re good losers and sometimes sore losers. But it’s the fun of the game.
Q: Where do you think you’d be now if Guy hadn’t cast you as Bacon in “Lock, Stock”?
Statham: That’s a very reflective sort of question that I’ve asked myself many times. What would I be doing if I wasn’t cast? I don’t even know. But I certainly wouldn’t be in the glamorous position that I am today. It’s paved the way for two decades of living a great life.
Q: How clueless were you on day one of filming?
Statham: It was a master class of baptism by fire. Like, here’s the camera. The other gracious actors were telling me, ‘You see that thing there? That’s a mark. You try and walk and land on it. Then the camera gets the focus and everyone’s happy.’ You gained confidence from everybody’s belief in you. Then we did another movie. After two, I thought that Guy’s going to get killed if he keeps using the same chap. But here we are, 20-odd years later, doing it again.
Q: Even in the ‘Wrath of Man’ trailer, H unflinchingly dispatches rapper Post Malone’s gangster. Was that music criticism?
Statham: Far from it. Post came in with this big enthusiasm for being killed that day. He’s like, ‘I can’t wait for you to kill me, man.’ I got sucked into that enthusiasm and he did a great job. It’s just a shame that it was a short moment together. But I was privileged to pull the trigger in our little scene.
Q: Any post-screen death music collaboration talk between you two?
Statham: He invited me to come make a record. I quickly relieved him of that bad choice.
Q: You and Guy are both fathers to young children. Do you both use that for emotional understanding for a father character who has lost his son?
Statham: There’s a reality that comes with being a father. I tried to imagine the unimaginable, try to feel how that might feel. What kind of a downward spiral that event would send any father. With Guy, you don’t have to say anything. You just think what there is to think. With the lens, the score and the sound, Guy captures an emotion with very little said.
Q: Are both of you tough guys big father softies?
Statham: You wouldn’t be far wrong. I’m putty in my small child’s hands. I try to be strong, to give the correct lessons. As they get older, you find it’s necessary to be a little bit firmer over certain things. You don’t want to spoil them. You’re trying to balance all the things you should and shouldn’t do. It’s tricky. That’s the difficulty in being a dad.
Q: Your movie action scowl doesn’t work in disciplining Jack?
Statham: He hasn’t seen anything that I’ve done in the movie game. But he loves to play around and battle me with those sponge swords. He’s a boy’s boy. We play fight and mess around. So he’s got the action frown going, not me.