Last week, I had the opportunity (along with a few other journalists) to sit down and speak with Jason Statham, Ben Foster, and director Simon West about their new film, The Mechanic. My review will be released next Wednesday (January 26th) here on GeekTyrant, so until then I'm not allowed to tell you what I thought of the film. But I CAN tell you what the people involved with the project thought about it. Read on...
As if we needed any more proof, the casting of Jason Statham in Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables (along with nearly every other badass action star on the planet) cemented Statham as one of Hollywood's brightest action stars. He came tearing into the interview room, excited to talk about this film and his history with the project.
"I loved [the original]. In fact, I signed on specifically to the original screenplay. It was the exact script that they shot back in '72 (starring Charles Bronson). I read it and said, 'I'm in.' That's what I wanted to do. I liked a lot of things about it. It was smart and there are so many hitman stories, and they're just a little simple and a little stupid and very predictable. And I liked the smart way that he did things. He did everything without leaving a trace. He had a certain set of skills that were above and beyond all the other hitman movies I've seen. I love the conflict of how he has to bring on his apprentice against all his beliefs. I loved the whole tension between the two characters."
All well and good, but though he signed on to a remake of the original with the same shooting script, the script went through many rewrites since that point and ended up as a completely different project altogether. So what did Statham think of the finished film?
"You have to approve a certain amount of changes as they come to you. Hopefully they're always good. It's difficult because you get so attached to the original and it's such a great story and such a great script. But there's a certain aspect that you have to do to try and modernize that for today's audiences. Does it move quick enough, is there enough action in it, does it end correctly? These are questions for the producers and writers and the brass and you're working with these people as a whole. In the end, it's hard to know what the right thing was to do because the original was so good. You're always going to displease people that love the original so much. And then there might be a certain crowd that hasn't seen the original. So it's tough. It's always tough doing a remake. Have we made the right choices?"
I'll let you read between the lines with that statement, but Statham had nothing but positive things to say about his co-star Ben Foster.
"He is a real, a proper, stellar, really quality actor. I don't always get dished out people of that f*cking standard. Excuse my language. I won't mention any names! So I was very lucky to have someone great."
After a breakout performance in 2007's 3:10 to Yuma alongside Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, Foster has been steadily gaining critical acclaim and becoming more of a household name to audiences around the country. In this film, he plays a young apprentice to Jason Statham's hitman character and Foster seems to have a pretty good idea of what type of movie this is.
"Everybody likes going to the movies occasionally and watching sh*t blow up. I do...there's not a lot of time for character development. There are some montage sequences - gun porn - and then you're ready to kill people."
When asked what he thought of the finished version of The Mechanic, the introverted Foster was surprisingly forthcoming with his response.
"You know, I was going in with not the highest expectations. Only because it's supposed to serve its purpose. It's entertainment. I wasn't going in thinking I was going to hate it. I just thought it would be what it was. But I think Simon [West, the director] did a really good job with this for what it's supposed to be. And I think Jason (Statham) does some quiet, internal work that I haven't seen him do before. I really liked him in The Bank Job, he cracks me up a lot in Crank. He's his own beast and I think he did some really nice work in this."
[Foster also spoke about the first film he produced, a new movie called Rampart starring Woody Harrelson. More on that here.]
I'm guessing the question director Simon West has to field most often in relation to this film is "why remake it at all?" Luckily, he had a pretty good answer for us.
"It's like doing this year's Hamlet or this year's classic. How many Pride and Prejudices are there? There's like ten of them. And how many Sense and Sensibilities and every Shakespeare...if it's a good story, people want to see it again. If it's been so long, I suppose it's been forty years – that's like two generations these days – and they wouldn't watch the original. If the story's good enough, it's a classic story...if you're just churning out five versions of the same thing one year apart, then I think it is a little gratuitous. But if it's a classic story, why not tell it again?"
West later spoke to me in a one-on-one interview and delved a bit deeper into his thoughts on the film, so check out that interview right here.
The Mechanic hits theaters on Friday, January 28th, 2011. Let us know what you think of the interview in the comment section. Are you looking forward to The Mechanic?