By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Hollywood’s biggest action stars—old and young—return for another round of big screen action and witty banter, playing off their iconic images in “The Expendables 2.”
Among them is Jason Statham, who at 41 is one of the younger members of this ensemble cast that includes the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li and other muscled stars of the silver screen.
After “The Expendables” became a box office hit in 2010, it became apparent that a sequel was in order, but the question was how to top it. Simple. Add more action hero stars into the mix, including Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris and handsome up-and-coming action hero Liam Hemsworth of “The Hunger Games” fame.
Statham, who’s starred in his share of big screen action films including “The Transporter” franchise, the remake of “Death Race” and Guy Ritchie’s classic “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” says it was fun reuniting with his “Expendables” colleagues and getting to spend more time with Schwarzenegger, who merely had a cameo in the first, but has a larger role this time around. The British actor also enjoyed doing what he does best—kicking butt in riveting action sequences.
“The Expendables 2” also gave Statham an opportunity to reunite with Simon West (taking over directing responsibilities in the sequel from Stallone, who pulled double-duty on the first), who previously directed him in “The Mechanic.”
Front Row Features: How much easier is it to do the second film with the first film behind you and the set up taken care of and the chemistry established? Was it a lot easier to just jump right in and have a good time?
Statham: Yeah, absolutely. You know what you’re doing. You know the characters. You know what’s required and you know what works from the last one and what doesn’t.
Front Row Features: Was it fun to have Bruce and Arnold a little bit more hands on this time around?
Statham: Yeah, they did a cameo in the last one. It was a day’s work for the pair of them. This time they had a good innings.
Front Row Features: How long did it take Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris to adjust to being the new guys?
Statham: They know what they’re doing. It’s a bit of a wink to certain films they’ve all done. Arnold comes in and says: “Hey, I’m back!” There are all these sort of homage moments that come and I don’t think anyone is scratching his head to try and create a character. Their characters have already been established.
Front Row Features: This is your second time working with Simon West. Is there anything different this time around?
Statham: He had a lot more on his plate. (He laughs.) (It was) a big responsibility to manage that lot and keep everybody happy. It’s a big mountain to climb.
Front Row Features: What did you want to do differently with your character this time?
Statham: I just wanted to have some of those funny scenes with Sly. They are my favorite things. I could spend my whole two hours doing that with him. But you also have to come up with some interesting fight scenes and make sure the action is good. The chemistry is the fun stuff. The dialogue and the banter that he and I share—that’s my favorite stuff to do.
Front Row Features: What did you discover the second time around working with Stallone? Did he surprise you?
Statham: I spent a lot of time with him already. We made a movie and then we did a big press tour and we went to many places, so I’ve shared a lot of stories and a lot of time with him. He’s a good friend. I’m not going to try and spill any secrets because he doesn’t have any. He’s just a regular guy who happens to be a great filmmaker and a brilliant actor. It’s nice to know someone like that.
Front Row Features: Is it Stallone’s sensibility to hit all those right notes? He’s kind of the captain of the ship, isn’t he?
Statham: Absolutely. He’s the conductor. He likes to be that. No disrespect to Simon West because he’s the director of this film. Sly (who wrote the first “Expendables”) creates these characters so he knows them inside out. If you’re not hitting the right note, he’s the first person to tell you.
Front Row Features: Was it kind of a relief for Sly to have Simon come in?
Statham: Yeah. I mean it’s a big responsibility. A director’s work is so many months. You’ve got the pre-production, the location scout and so many rehearsals. You eject from living a life and immerse yourself in this movie for two years. He didn’t want to go through that again. It was great so he could pull back a little bit and give that great influence in the places that it needed.
Front Row Features: He seems such a multi-tasker and a control freak to begin with so was he able to pull back?
Statham: There is a great combination of two minds coming together. Simon is the director and he sets up the shots, but there’s a great collaboration that takes place, because Sly is a director too. If one of them isn’t seeing something, then the other one is going to bring that up. The collaboration is a great thing.
Front Row Features: How much went into the fight sequence with you and Scott Atkins?
Statham: Not as much as I would have liked. Normally, you get three or four days of rehearsals and then three or four days to shoot. We had no rehearsal. (He laughs.) We had a day to shoot. It’s quite frustrating because Scott Atkins is one of the greatest onscreen martial artists there is, and I wanted a little bit more, because I think we could have done a bit more. You always want more. No matter what you’re doing, I think that’s what drives any of us.
Front Row Features: When the cameras are not rolling are the older guys trying to keep up with the younger guys?
Statham: You never see any signs of pain. If someone has got a twisted whatever, no one is going to show that sign. A lot of the stuff that we do, the ego gets thrown out of the window. Everyone has made his stamp in some way, so there is nothing to prove. So there is a good feeling about it. No one is trying to fight for the camera here. The better everyone else looks the better we look.
Front Row Features: Are you looking forward to a third installment of “The Expendables?”
Statham: Very much so. It depends if many people go and see this one. The audience dictates whether you’re allowed to make any sequels. They are the ones who control it.