Jason Statham Interview, Transporter 3Posted by: Sheila Roberts
MoviesOnline sat down with co-writer and producer Luc Besson, co-writer Robert Mark Kamen, director Olivier Megaton, and actors Jason Statham, Natalya Rudakova, and Robert Knepper at the Los Angeles press day for their new film, “Transporter 3,” directed by Olivier Megaton. The cast also includes Jeroen Krabbe and Francois Berleand,
In this third outing of the Transporter franchise, Frank Martin (Statham) has been pressured into transporting Valentina (Rudakova), the kidnapped daughter of Leonid Vasilev (Krabbe), the head of the Environmental Protection Agency for the Ukraine, from Marseilles through Stuttgart and Budapest until he ends up in Odessa on the Black Sea. Along the way, with the help of Inspector Tarconi (Berleand), Frank has to contend with the people who strong armed him to take the job, agents sent by Vasilev to intercept him, and the general non-cooperation of his passenger. Despite Valentina’s cynical disposition and his reluctance to get involved, Frank and Valentina fall for each other, while escaping from one life-threatening situation after another.
MoviesOnline: We talk to a lot of actors who tell us that after they do a role, they like to go back and refine and tweak it into something different. Now that you've had two opportunities to do that with this character, can you talk a little bit about how you've refined him?
JASON STATHAM: Well I think on the third one we found his weakness. And it all lies within this lovely female here (points to Natalya and laughs). You know, obviously it's about the creative aspects of how are we going to make this one a little more interesting, how do you make Frank Martin more vulnerable? And at the same time, you always have to try and exceed what you did in the previous two, which is so difficult these days, because there's so much to live up to of what Luc created with the character in fact. So, there are always challenges and hopefully we've made this one interesting enough.
MoviesOnline: Do you have to condition yourself as an actor for this movie due to the physical challenges?
JASON STATHAM: I wouldn't say there was anything, we actually learned a lot with what you have to get ready for physically, I mean the fight sequences always pose a certain challenge and if you're not physically sort of ready, if you don't hit the gym and you're not stretched out, you're going to get injured very quickly. So, it's basically, you learn that from making the first one, that you have to be very efficient with your preparations. So, we try to give as much time as we can, way, way before we start the first filming.
MoviesOnline: Jason, did your swimming experience help you in terms of the underwater scenes you did?
JASON STATHAM: Absolutely not, no. (laughter) I can remember I used to do diving years ago, but there's, you know, you have to hold your breath for about two seconds, you dive in and you come straight to the surface. So, I actually learned to scuba dive for the first one, with a good friend of Luc's, Jean-Marc Bour, (laughs) who's probably the best person you could ever learn to scuba dive with. A little bit unorthodox in his techniques, in his teaching techniques, I was thrust into a cave and the mask was ripped off, but you gain confidence very, very quickly and it was the best place to learn.
MoviesOnline: I’m curious about the strip tease scene. Is there going to be more of that on the DVD and how many takes did it take? (laughter)
LUC BESSON: We're going to put it in slow motion on the DVD. (laughter)
JASON STATHAM: Luc should answer that question. (laughter)
LUC BESSON: I loved the scene.
MoviesOnline: Were you nervous doing it or did you have fun with it?
JASON STATHAM: Natalya, do you want to answer that? (laughs) You made me do it.
NATALYA RUDICOVA: Well actually I had a lot of fun doing that. We had this mood together. It was kind of kinky, a little. It was really fun. (laughs)
LUC BESSON: It was just freezing, freezing. (laughs) And she was very courageous. (laughs)
NATALYA RUDICOVA: We started shooting during the winter and I had this little dress. It was really cold but we had a lot of fun during the shooting.
MoviesOnline: How was it shooting your first feature film?
NATALYA RUDICOVA: It was cold first of all and we had to shoot at night sometimes, but most of the time people helped a lot so that kind of helped me.
ROBERT KNEPPER: Can I just say something about you in the shot? It was really fun to watch somebody who's never done a movie before, (laughs) because you were so innocent about so many things. The thing I remember most about shooting with you is you would go up to Olivier and say, “No, no, I want to do another take. No, I really think we should do another take,” and Olivier would say, “No, we have to move on,” “No but, no but, you see, I really want to do it.” It was so cute to watch. (laughter)
NATALYA RUDICOVA: I remember that.
MoviesOnline: I love the conversations Jason and Natalya have in the car, particularly what was the inspiration for the one where she says, "She wants to make sex one last time?"
LUC BESSON: The food thing is more him. (laughter) No, you always ask yourself this question, you know, if you still have like five minutes to live, what you will do, you know? Calling your mom is thirty seconds, then you still have four and a half minutes (laughter), and yeah, probably one of the most beautiful things in life is love. So, you know, if you have to end up in five minutes, you know, just grab someone, (laughter) Hey! We have five minutes! (laughter)
MoviesOnline: She phrases it in a sort of childlike way.
LUC BESSON: Yeah, the character is very Russian, very, oh whatever, you know, very instinctive and fatalistic.
ROBERT KAMEN: Luc and I divide up everything we write. He takes care of all the sex stuff and I do the food stuff.
MoviesOnline: How did you get Robert Knepper, did you watch Prison Break, were you a fan of his work?
LUC BESSON: Yeah, yeah I was a fan. I don't know how it's working on Prison Break, and how many days or things, but we met in Paris, and he's very, very well known and appreciated in Europe, and we just met. You know, the good thing with actors was, the same with Jason, there's something about the skin or the voice, but you know after like a minute if you feel good with an actor or not. It's chemical almost. And it takes thirty seconds with Robert, you know, after he says a few lines, and you smile and you say, okay, I'm going to work with this guy. (laughter)
MoviesOnline: Robert, can you talk about how your world has changed?
ROBERT KNEPPER: My world? Oh, thank you Prison Break. (laughter) It's been great. We all have those individual moments in films or television shows that make us go, yeah, life changed at that point and it was great. If I hadn't done Prison Break, if I had just auditioned for this, I'm sure my whole experience in Paris would have been all so very, very different. I would have just said, oh my god, I'm shooting a film in Paris. And I would have looked up and no one would have known me and it would have been another experience. This time it was oh my god, I'm in Paris and everybody knows. The power of television is amazing, so it was great. I also want to say about Luc that I could, you know, I always call Luc like the King of France. He's the modern day king of film in France, (laughs) and the great thing about him in rehearsal, Jason and I were rehearsing and I think Natalya was in the rehearsal as well, is, he's a guy who just likes to rehearse. And he just comes in the room with you and he's just a writer and director as well and Olivier, and we were all in the room, Jason was great, we just immediately cut through the shit, and we just started rehearsing and it was great. There were no egos, nothing like that, it's like, what's good for the scene, and then boom, we went off with it. It's great.
LUC BESSON: It's a way of, you know when you write the dialogue, you want to be sure that it will be played that way. I don't mind after in fact if Olivier changes it. But at least I want to be sure that the way we play it, is listening by everybody. So, I always do that. It's almost like a reading and telling everybody how we wrote it first. Then, Olivier you know, when sometimes he wants to change things, then he has the freedom. He's the director, but I just want to be sure that everybody gets it the right way, you know. For example, when you write, when you read, I give you ten seconds to change your mind. I give you five seconds to put your hands out of my jacket. If you don't play the time, you know, between the thing, then the scene is not even funny. You know, if you play it well, if you have the real stop at five seconds, and the look on the hand, and the look on the guy back, and if it's slowed, then it works. If it's not slow, then it doesn't work. So, you just have to give that to the people, the actors and actresses and director that are going to do it, and then after, they play with it.
MoviesOnline: Natalya, what was it like being the only female on the set? How was it working with all the guys?
NATALYA RUDICOVA: Well I was excited actually because they paid a lot of attention to me and they helped a lot. They were so protective so it was lots of fun and just seeing how they worked and to bring life and some light into the movie, because they have all muscles and all power, and to bring this gentle touch by woman, that just felt amazing. It felt really great.
MoviesOnline: Where did the idea of the BMX sequence come from?
LUC BESSON: It comes from, first you know, you have this trick. You say, okay, the guy has a bracelet, if he goes more than a certain distance, then he's dead. And then you say, okay, so what can we do with that? And you try to imagine every type of situation, and some of them you put it in the garbage, but some of them you like. So, you say, okay, what happens if the guy is kicked out of the car, and someone is stealing the car? And then you say, okay, he's going to run. If he's on the freeway, it's going to take two seconds. Alright, so let's put him on a market, where you know, you can't go too fast, and then you say, okay, he's not going to be able to run for too long (laughs) so, what can he bring, what can he take? A bicycle could be nice, yeah, a bicycle could be good. And then okay, what can we do with the bicycle? Then you watch a couple of films, you know, World Champion of like things, and then, you know, that's how you go.
MoviesOnline: Jason, what do you think it is about this character that appeals to people and makes them want to come back for more?
JASON STATHAM: I think Frank Martin is like this guy who would always like to, you know, talk his way out of a situation. But I think he has this good moral code. What he does is not necessarily on the right side of the law. But what he really does instinctively is something that is good. He has a good judgment of what is really deep seated and correct and respectful. But, there's also a great amount of respect too for someone that can deal with, you know, these very intense situations that don’t necessarily go as planned. And how do you get out of those situations with minimal amounts of damage. And it's not like this guy who just, you know, waves a gun around and shoots people in the head unnecessarily. He's trying to do the least amount of damage possible, and you know, he's not looking for conflict, he just wants to have an easy life. And, at the same time, the way he protects that is to not get involved with people, and live a very, sort of quiet, lonely life if you like. But at the same time it's quite different to most of us and I think that's why we find a bit of interest in that. Because, you know, generally, we're much more sociable and much less inclined to deal with situations, than someone like Frank Martin.
MoviesOnline: To follow up on that and to go back to what you said earlier, you said one of the differences now is that, he meets this woman, and he becomes maybe a little more vulnerable. Well having been more like, for lack of another term, a cold machine in maybe the first two films, how vulnerable does love make you? I mean, can you relate to that? Is that something that resonates with you personally?
JASON STATHAM: Personally? I'm not going to answer that! (laughter)
MoviesOnline: Why do you think it makes it interesting for a character? Why do you think that vulnerability of somebody falling in love alters who they professionally have been or would be?
JASON STATHAM: Well, because it upsets the apple cart. I mean, if you live a certain way, you're protected, you know, you have your rules. If it doesn't fall within these rules, then you know, you're protected and you’re safe. But once you integrate something that becomes within an emotional bag, then everything gets upset, and then you can't function properly and that's why these sort of military guys have a certain regime that they like to stick to and you know, they don't have their wives you know, at an arm’s reach and you know, they have this solitary existence, and it's a protective existence. So, when you have someone that you care about deeply, it really affects your mind set.
MoviesOnline: But as we've seen with James Bond, do you think having a love interest softens the character, or gives him a different edge?
JASON STATHAM: I think it makes him more likeable, more human.
NATALYA RUDICOVA: Yeah, like a human being.
MoviesOnline: Olivier, with all of these action sequences in this film, what was the most difficult for you to choreograph and put together?
OLIVIER MEGATON: The love scene. (laughs) No, it was not difficult because each timeâ€¦ We had really a great team on the set. Everything was so prepared. Even if we did not have a lot of time, it was not really difficult. The only thing is that afterwards, when you’re ready to film, not to miss anything. It’s like a puzzle. You have all the pieces on the table and you say well, what is the little shot that I forgot. It was not easy but we did not have a great complication to make the scene. Maybe the scene under the water was a little more tricky because under the water, when you shoot something, it takes about four, five times moreâ€¦you know, it’s longer, everything is difficult, and so on. But otherwise, I had the best team in France so it was just a pleasure every day.
MoviesOnline: Robert, as antagonists go, was it more fun for you to kind of play a big picture mastermind like in this film, or a more street wise guy like T-Bag on Prison Break?
ROBERT KNEPPER: I like that it's just different. You know, beware of the bad guy in a suit and tie. I think they're worse, they're more conniving. T-Bag is kind of, you know, he is what he is, these guys, these kind of surreptitious, covert, cloaked characters, they obviously exist around the world, they put out their little forest fires, so that the guys in the government positions don't have to, you know, look bad. So it's just an interesting thing, Olivier [and I], we talked about this thing with the voice, on the phone. The phone was a really key thing. We talked about Kiefer’s character in Phone Booth. You know, everybody knew that was Kiefer, but there was also something really interesting about his voice. The power of that thing when he's in the phone booth, and he's realizing, oh shit, and the car is taking off. I just also want to say really, the other fun thing about this movie from being the first one, is that they're used to it, they know the game of it, but to come into the third one, it is, it's fun to have a vulnerable character and you see him so you know, torn between what I know I need to do, from my job in control, and also the vulnerability of love, but there is something super heroic about this guy. (laughs) I mean one minute he's crashing through a window and then he's crashing into his car and, you know, the guy's falling out of the car and he can turn the car on it's side. I mean, when we saw the film, my agents and manager, I couldn't wait to get out of that parking garage and do it in a really fast way. I mean, you just, zoooop! You just (laughter) want to zip around and it's a great escape.
MoviesOnline: Olivier, can you tell us a little about casting Natalya and what it was like as a newcomer when you have Luc and Jason who have the two films experience going into this project?
OLIVIER MEGATON: Working with Natalya was cool because normally you work with actresses who have made a lot of films before so they arrive on the set with a lot of things, you know. And working with her was, like Robert said, she’s very naïve so she’s pure and everything was very easy. You have to explain all the scenes very precisely and sometimes it’s very cool to explain the small things when you’re working on set. After working with Robert and Jason and all the others, each time is different, you know. When you work with Jason, you know, what I like very, very much in Jason is the fact that in this one he’s got a big charisma. Just turn the camera on and film it. He’s got such big charisma, the little phrase, the little sentence, he said, it was huge and so on.
Robert was totally different because Robert is like a big kid, you know. We talked about the first time he arrived in Paris and we saw each other the first day and he had an idea and I had something in my head for the character and we talked about Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man and therefore we tried to find all the details, for example, the glasses and so on and so on, and we went together and shopped in Paris. It was a mess because everybody knows Robert in Paris so it was very funny. So, each time is different. Each character, each actor is a new way of working.
MoviesOnline: How many people did you see to cast the leading lady?
OLIVIER MEGATON: The thing was not like this because we talked with Luc and we did not have a lot of time. We cast a lot of people to have a precise idea on Sasha because it was a meeting between Luc and Sasha six months before. We wanted to be sure, so she came to Paris and we made tries (?) and so on and so on and afterwards we had a back-up, Sarah Backis (?) but we decided to go on with Sasha because that was her. She was Russian. She has that kind of naïve reaction which is something we needed in the film.
MoviesOnline: Jason, for those in the room who have been talking to you since Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, you have created a character that is consistent, doesn't change that much, and just gets better. Where do you think you and this character Frank overlap? How are you similar to him?
JASON STATHAM: He's much cooler than me. I'm a bit of a fool deep down. I mean, Luc is ultimately responsible for the creation of Frank Martin, and you know, for me being in Hollywood right now, I mean if it wasn't for Transporter 1, I don't think I'd be in this position. So, I mean, it's the first movie I ever did where I played a leading part and certainly the first action movie I'd ever done, so you know, it's great to have such a huge opportunity to do something like that. And you know, it takes a lot of balls to gamble on somebody that doesn't really have anything to sort of back that up, so to answer the question of am I like Frank Martin, apart from I'm able to put on a black suit and I have the same haircut, probably not. (laughter)
MoviesOnline: Where were you Tuesday night? Election night?
JASON STATHAM: Where was I?
MoviesOnline: Yeah. How did you spend it?
JASON STATHAM: I was actually at a friend’s house.
MoviesOnline: I want to know what that experience was like for you?
JASON STATHAM: The TV wasn't on because we were doing some work. (laughs)
MoviesOnline: So, you didn't watch the election, but what do you think of our new president?
JASON STATHAM: Can we ask something about the movie? You don't want to get me involved with all this kind of stuff.
LUC BESSON: Can I answer a question that you don’t ask me? The question was for Jason, but on Tuesday, I was in the bar here watching TV and I cried like I’ve never cried for the last 10 years. And I was so proud to watch history and I’m so proud of you guys, so proud of you, because the entire world was expecting for this type of move and we are so proud of you and thank you so much.
MoviesOnline: Luc, what's going on with District 13, what's their next adventure going to be?
LUC BESSON: They're shooting right now in Paris, with another young director, I love that in fact. I love to find a, you know, we were talking about experience sooner, but it's like, you know, one day, you see this new tennis player and you say, oh my god, this guy is so good, but usually he works fifteen years before to get there, and it's kind of the same, you know. Olivier, I know him for like ten, twelve years, assistant, commercial, second unit director. He was, you know, working on Hitman, and working on a lot of stuff. He'd done two French films before, so when he arrive finally on Transporter 3, he's ready. He's ready to kick some ass, as we say here. (laughter) And so District 13, the second one is another new director (laughs), a friend of mine who is my assistant, he was my assistant already on Big Blue I think, yeah, The Making of Big Blue, so he's an old friend of mine. He made two films, two French films, and he's dying to do some action, so he's happy. (laughs)
MoviesOnline: Are they in another walled city? Where do you take the adventure to?
LUC BESSON: It's a neighbor of Paris, and there is a big conspiracy, and they want to blow up the bad neighborhoods, because they don't know how to deal with it. We have this problem almost everywhere. (laughs)
MoviesOnline: Jason, you mentioned this year at Comic-Con about wanting to do a reboot of Daredevil, any chance of doing that perhaps with this team or any other team?
JASON STATHAM: Did I mention that?
JASON STATHAM: I think someone saw me in a bar with Frank Miller (laughter) and put two and two together, and thought you know, it would be a good combination, and I said, maybe it would. And you know, I'm a big comic fan and Daredevil, the one that got made not so long ago, I thought they could have done a better job with that. And you know, if they want to put me and Frank Miller together to do one, let's have a look at the script.
MoviesOnline: Just curious, Crank 2, playing Chev Chelios again, I’ve heard first Frank Martin, now Chev Chelios, what can we look forward to with that?
JASON STATHAM: Oh god! We've got plenty of time to talk about that movie, but it's probably what you'd expect it to be. A little bit wacky and far out.
MoviesOnline: Question for Robert, when you play a villain like in this movie or your character on Prison Break, is it tough to switch off at the end of the shooting day and leave it behind?
ROBERT KNEPPER: No. No, it's just called acting. (laughter)
MoviesOnline: Does this feel like a happily ever after moment for everybody, or can we hope for a Transporter 4?
LUC BESSON: The first rule, because you know, Frank Martin has rules, the first rule (laughs), which he always breaks, is a good idea first, and we waited for the third one because we couldn't find, you know, it's almost a responsibility, when the people love it, and they say, yeah, the guy is cool, the character is good, you know, do another one, oh my god, okay, another one, but you know, you want to at least, you never know if you will succeed, but you want at least to try to do it better, and it's always my goal. I don't say that I always fulfill my goal, but I try at least, I'm honest on the try. So we will have a fourth one if we find a good idea, you know, that's the first step.
MoviesOnline: Jason, we know you like to do your own stunts. With the action in this movie, can you tell us which scene was the most difficult or pushed you the farthest? Was there a moment where you wanted a stunt double?
JASON STATHAM: It's hard I mean because we had so many, I mean it's difficult because we have to try and do something new and we've got Olivier with like a trolley with a camera on it, thinking of new ways, new angles. It's difficult how you try and improve on what you've already done, and what you haven't already seen, you know, in movies that are rather new.
LUC BESSON: The stuff doesn't come from him. The stuff comes from us. Where we say, no, you're not going to do this stunt. (laughter) Alright? It's a double that's going to do it. And then he's screaming, fighting, “C’mon, let me do it. I can do it.” “No, you won't do it.” (laughter)
MoviesOnline: Does it give you an adrenaline rush when you're in the middle of these action moments? Do they take you to a whole different level?
JASON STATHAM: I mean, it wouldn't be possible to do if you didn't have some kind of adrenaline coursing through your veins. You have to be aware, because you don't want to do something wrong, and if you don't have the energy, you're going to have to do it again. So, it's better to try and get it better than the first one, two takes, if you can. So, it's best to try and switch on and be plugged into that mentally, and obviously, if we've done enough rehearsal, then we get it right. And, you know, we had a very efficient way of shooting, we had some very good stuntmen, and we had so many different angles, and yeah, I've never seen so many creative angles Olivier came out with. We had top shots, under shots, shooting through cages, I mean, some really creative stuff, and that just comes from having, I think that's why we went back to France, (laughs) because we have the best, the most creative sort of army there. We tried to, we made a great one in Miami too, but I think what lies best in my experience is what happens in France. We have such great stuntmen and such great production design. Everything seems to be better there, in my opinion anyway.
MoviesOnline: Jason, could you talk about the train sequence at the end and what challenges that gave to both of you?
JASON STATHAM: I mean, it's another piece, it's another action sequence, and a moving train is never easy to shoot around and obviously there are certain things that we have to shoot on a green screen, like minimum amounts, but I think Olivier, there's a lot of the sequence that sometimes you're not in because it's all on Robert, and it's you know, we balance it all out. And we try to be well prepared and that's where Luc and Olivier get all these action sequences. Everybody knows what they're doing already. It's not like we're coming in and trying to work things out. It's all pre-planned and we have our rehearsal and it's done, so we can shoot it very efficiently, whereas, you know, you got a lot of the big action movies that don't actually get things done in an efficient way like we do. They just cost fifty times more money and don't actually get as good a result as what we get.
ROBERT KNEPPER: I feel so important (laughs). I remember reading the script thinking this is, yes it is one of the fights, but to me it was like the climactic fight, so it had to feel a little bit different. I wanted to be, I wanted to make sure that the character was a worthy opponent for his, so that you know, he didn't just clean up like he did with the other guys, and I thought the way it was choreographed was kind of interesting, and it was one of the most interesting fight scenes I've ever done. Well, one of the longest ones, which was exhausting. The night before I had totally messed up my foot trying to get through the door of a car of the train, and I thought, oh no, this is going to be terrible! I don't know how I'm even going to stand or walk. The door was supposed to crash open. It's like I'm chasing you (Jason), and somebody had closed the door. So I hit it as hard as I could, kicking it with my foot, and it was a solid door and I couldn't go through it, but Jason helped me through it, and we got through the fight the next day and I thought we were pretty good, worthy opponents. I mean, he still has to win the fight, you know, (laughs) the good guy wins, so it was exhausting, and it was exhilarating, and it's choreography. So, you know, if you're lost, you just back up. It's not like a real fight. So you can go, oh, there's adrenaline going here, but you're safe.
MoviesOnline: Natalya, I know this is your first film and I was wondering if you can talk a little about your casting. And Luc, maybe can you add something about Natalya's casting?
NATALYA RUDICOVA: My casting, well that’s actually a really great story of being discovered on a street in Manhattan. I had some lessons before preparing for casting. And then I went for one week to Paris for casting which was really busy. I was really nervous for the first time but I knew what I was doing and it was really exciting and interesting. It’s just amazing. It’s like a fairy tale.
LUC BESSON: Yeah, I met her in the street, in fact, in New York. She just passed by with all the freckles and the blue eyes, and I was with my assistant. We turned and I said, have you seen this? (laughter) And, of course if I go say, hey, you know, I'm making a filmâ€¦(laughter) So my assistant, she's clever, she said, you want me to ask her if she's a model or something? So she went, so she’d feel more comfortable. I was hiding.
NATALYA RUDICOVA: I couldn’t believe it the first time she came up to me and she started asking me “Did you model before or act before?” And I didn’t know what to say. I was preoccupied with thoughts in my mind that well that’s very interesting. And then we met and I took some classes
LUC BESSON: So I proposed to her, I said, do you want to try? She got some lessons before, but I said, you want to try and she said, well okay. So we went back to Paris, she was on the phone with my assistant, gave a couple of lessons, called the guy, how is she? He said, she has a lot of things inside, she can make it. So we proposed ten more lessons, she did it, called again, yeah, she's doing pretty well. So we gave her twenty five lessons and we prepped her for six months in fact like this, and then we brought her to Paris to verify if she was ready or not. We had a couple of other girls to frighten her (laughter), but honestly, she was really good on the test and very serious, very focused, so we said, you know, let's take her.
“Transporter 3” opens in theaters on November 26th.