Based on the novel “Flashfire” by Donald Westlake, the new crime thriller “Parker” stars English actor Jason Statham (“Expendables 2”) as the title character. In “Parker,” Statham takes the reigns as the iconic professional thief who seeks revenge on a crew that double crosses him.
“Parker” opens at theaters Jan. 25.
There have been a number of different versions of your Parker character over the years in films like “Point Blank” and “Payback.” With this new adaptation, what were you hoping to show audiences?
You know, the Parker [series] is such a good crime thriller that [Donald] Westlake wrote. I mean, he wrote 20+ books. I was just hoping we could make one of those stories into a good film. You just have to do everything you can to do justice to the story.
How much research did you put into this role since the character has such a long literary history?
You know, there’s obviously a lot more in the book than in the 90 minutes we have to tell the story on film. Basically, you just have to give everything to the director and he has to have his own interpretation of the book and tell that story. He can’t be fixated on trying to please the fans of the book. That gets too complicated. The roots of the character are already written in Westlake’s books. Those are great qualities.
What about the style of the character? How does Parker compare to other gun-toting characters you’ve played in the past? Do you have to exude something different to give him that no-nonsense personality?
You know, I tend to not look at any of the other stuff I’ve done. I don’t think it has an influence really. Now, the physical side of Parker is something I’ve spent 10 years doing in other films. But we know how to execute that stuff efficiently. There’s a benefit in what I’ve done in the past with that.
You might not look at your own roles in the past, but what about looking at other actors who have played the Parker character in other films – Robert Duvall, Mel Gibson, and even NFL football player Jim Brown? Did you borrow anything specific from those incarnations or did you want to start on a clean slate?
This is its own thing. We kept Parker’s likable charm and some of the cutting smarts Parker has always had. So, basically, we kept the good stuff.
You’re known for many of the physically demanding roles you’ve taken on in your career. How does the physicality of Parker compare to other films you’ve done?
You know, I’m always getting hurt. It’s just a fact of life with what I do. It’s just like waking up and turning on the lights. It’s like asking a footballer, “Are you going to tackle somebody today?” You run around doing these sequences where you’re jumping out of buildings and cars and you’re bound to get a knock or two.
Is that why you look up to somebody like Jackie Chan so much?
Oh yeah, I have such a huge respect for Jackie Chan. There’s someone who leads by example. It’s great to be inspired by people like that.
Has there ever been a time in your film career when you wanted to do your own stunts and they didn’t allow you?
There have been certain things they haven’t allowed me to do. It’s because they want me to make it to the end of the movie. (Laughs) I remember I was doing a stunt in “Crank” and I was hanging outside a chopper on skis. We choreographed the scene on the ground and then we were going to take it above in the helicopter. They let me do the scene, but not until the very last day we shot the movie. They didn’t want that fucking thing to fall out of the sky. See, that’s the thing. They’ll let you do the stunts, but they want to make sure they have the movie in the bag first.
Why don’t you think a series like Parker has been able to be a consistent one in the film industry like James Bond?
You just don’t know. The audiences want what they want to see. It’s a very unpredictable business and that’s what makes it exciting. If you have a hit movie it’s pretty fantastic. I’m still waiting for that day. (Laughs)
How does Jennifer Lopez stack up to other leading ladies you’ve had in the past?
She’s just a true delight. She was way out of her comfort zone, but it was a great part for her. She brings this real likable street quality that makes her so approachable. She’s just fantastic to be around.