You've said you want to move towards quality films. Is The Mechanic one of them?
I think it's a move in the right direction. It's a little more interesting to play this kind of a character than some of the other roles I've done, and now I'm getting to work with more experienced producers and more experienced directors. And of course actors of great quality like Ben Foster and Donald Sutherland. I think once you get a good screenplay, everything else about a film gets raised in some way. That's the driving force for me - to work with better people, doing better things, and having better scripts.
What makes you pick a film?
Gut instinct mostly. That and your intuition are the best things. You have to like the script and be involved with a director you think can steer the ship and keep it off the rocks. That's very important. I mean, Simon West [Con Air] comes with so much experience. I've worked with first-time directors and they seem cool but sometimes you go: "Am I doing the right thing? Does he know what he's doing?" I was so pleased Simon was going to do an action film and I was going to be in it. And as soon as they told me they were trying to cast Ben Foster opposite me, I thought, "This is a no brainer".
Were you a fan of Ben's work in 3:10 To Yuma and Alpha Dog?
Oh, yes. He's great. He's a real quality actor so for me to be able to work opposite someone like that and not some hairdresser cast off the street - which is what happened with Transporter 3 - well, it was fantastic.
Your role, Bishop, is very physical. How did you prepare?
I have a gym I go to that preps me. A ton of stuntmen work out there all the time so it's great to go there before I shoot a film. I try not to focus too much on dieting and losing weight unless it's really, really necessary.
What about the mental side?
I'm not a method actor! I just find an ability to be able to play the roles that I do. The physical stuff is easy, the other prep comes from rehearsals and communication with the director, and that all comes whenever you get to where you are filming.
I remember being with Guy years ago and I asked him, "Should I go and sign myself up for drama school?" I'd just done Lock, Stock on a whim and his words of advice were: "There's a fine line between intuition and technique and I think you will serve yourself much better by going on your intuition".
This is a remake of the 1972 film The Mechanic which starred Charles Bronson. Were you a fan of his?
Of course - I've seen every film he made. That's why he's so great - you can watch those films time and time again. I've always been a fan of Bronson's.
Did you have any reservations about tackling a character he had already made his own?
Comparisons are always going to be made, and it's not the first remake I've done. I did The Italian Job years ago, and again, that was a great, classic movie that some people think should never be touched but it ended up being a decent job. And it's the same with this. A lot of people won't remember the original, or won't have seen it. So I don't think we are too bothered about it being a remake.
You've been working as an actor for 13 years now. How do you think you've developed?
I think I know what I'm doing now. Just. You get to know what you're doing and there's no substitute for the experience. The more experience you have, the more you know what will work for you and what won't. A lot of the elements aren't in your control but when it all comes together, and in a good way, that's the best. There are certain things I've done which make me bow my head with embarrassment. But there are others I'm really proud of. It's just about reducing the percentage of ones you're not proud of. I mean, I've just worked opposite Robert De Niro and Clive Owen in a film called The Killer Elite so that's definitely another step in the right direction.
Was it intimidating working with Robert De Niro?
Very intimidating, as you can imagine. You don't want to make a fool of yourself in front of that man.
Luc Besson produced all three of the Transporter films. Do you feel he's responsible for some of your success?
He's one of the key figures for me. He was basically the first person who gave me the lead in a movie. He's a very significant man and had a huge effect on my career.
Who else has had a significant impact on you?
Guy Ritchie, of course. I remember being with Guy years ago and I asked him, "should I go and sign myself up for drama school?" I'd just done Lock, Stock on a whim and his words of advice were: "There's a fine line between intuition and technique and I think you will serve yourself much better by going on your intuition". Those words of advice have stuck with me.
Any news on The Expendables 2?
Yes, I have heard about a sequel, and I'll be the first to say 'yes' to a phone call from Sly [Stallone]. As soon as the movie started to do really well, he said, "You know, it would be great to do this again". And if there's anyone that can do a good sequel, it's Sly. He's done a fair amount. We had a good time and it's definitely something I'd like to repeat.
Do you see primarily action films in the cinema or other sorts too?
I like all kinds of films. I don't have any particular favourites. I enjoy myself. I go to the cinema and watch all different kinds of films. Recently I've seen The Fighter and The King's Speech and I thought they were both terrific.
Did The King's Speech make you man cry?
I do get teary, you know. I was welling up in The King's Speech but we watched that with a lot of people and I was trying to stay tough. But it's so powerful.
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