He jacked loot in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, jacked loot in The Italian Job, and jacked loot yet again (okay, technically a kidnapped woman) in The Transporter. But actor Jason Statham, 39, just faced his greatest big-screen challenge yet: pulling off the ultimate act of PDA in this weekend’s Crank, a thriller about a guy looking for a rush to stave off death. EW talked to Statham about these new survival skills, as well as how he endured a shoot with embattled German director Uwe Boll — famous for his craptastic videogame adaptations such as BloodRayne — for the upcoming In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So Crank is basically like Speed — only the bus is a dude!
JASON STATHAM: It’s a great idea, isn’t it? I play this guy who’s a hit man. And he gets poisoned and it kind of binds with his blood. And the only way to sustain his life is to pump up his heart rate, which raises his adrenaline.
And that would create challenges for you as an actor, because you’re literally running around?
Yeah, [my character] Chev Chelios gets very creative on how he can sustain that pulsating heart. It’s sort of the comedy value of the movie. It’s a desperate man doing desperate things. I don’t know how you describe it. We never set out to make a funny film, and still some people are laughing constantly at some of the stuff within it. It’s a guy who’s running around L.A., trying to get the guy who killed him. And he has a certain amount of time to do so, and if he stops he dies. You could imagine how crazy that was. It was 30 days of filming. We were getting pretty tired sometimes.
How do you train for something like this?
Well, you can’t really. If you can run a little bit, you just kind of get in there and go for it.
Aside from all the running, what’s the most absurd thing you had to do in this movie?
The sex scene. [Laughs] I’m not giving too much away, but we had to do a sex scene in front of 250 people.
Don’t they usually close the set for that?
This wasn’t a closed set. There were, like, people there with kids.
What were the kids saying?
I don’t know! [Laughs] I was concentrating on what I was up to. I mean, the most challenging thing was because it was uncharted territory for me. I’ve done a lot of things in action films, but I’ve never had to do what we had to do in this movie, me and Amy [Smart, his costar]. Oh god! I have to take my hat off to her because you know she really did indulge herself, with no princely attitude — she was really game!
Now that might come off in a weird way?
It’s like in for a penny, in for a pound; completely letting go. ”Let’s not think about it, let’s get on with it and see what happens.” And it was f—ing hilarious. I was more nervous about that than anything else. Because you don’t know what you’re doing. You can’t really rehearse that kind of stuff.
I haven’t seen the movie yet. What exactly does this sex scene entail?
I can’t tell you. I’m not going to tell you. [Laughs] I’ll tell you about the other stuff. I became a producer’s nightmare because of the safety issues of going up in a helicopter. Shooting a fight scene outside in a helicopter 3,000 feet above downtown L.A. It’s not usually what they want to do. They want to shoot it on a greenscreen. We got to do that kind of stuff, which is brilliant.
I’m really excited about Dungeon Siege, the Uwe Boll movie you’re in. Have you finished filming?
We’ve done it — and we got Ray Liotta from Goodfellas, who I love.
Was his directing eccentric?
Um, I don’t know. He’s got his own way of shooting stuff, doesn’t he? To me, it was a difficult thing because I had a bad ankle for the whole thing. So I was in pain a lot of the time. But we had some long days. I mean, it’s a big old thing. We had tons of extras. Sometimes it was a slow-moving wheel…. But he was great. He came onto set, and had four stray dogs he’d picked up in Prague. He’s like this liberal animal lover. He’s mad. I love it.
Were the dogs barking while you were shooting?
They ran through camera. And we cut.
Since they were strays, were you afraid they could bite you and give you rabies?
Nah. They were the coolest things in the world. And he’s got this most laid-back attitude. He’s the coolest thing in the world. Nothing gets him upset.