By Stacey Silberman
HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) 3/7/08 – Actor Jason Statham (“The Italian Job,” “Transporter”) embraced his newest release “The Bank Job” because he wanted to show producers that he’s more than just a macho man with a rock hard body who eagerly undertakes his own stunts and drives ladies mad for his macho persona. He wanted to show that he could play another type of character, an underdog, who pulls off a stunning bank heist like no other, and that’s exactly what he did.
“The Bank Job” is a British based thriller based on the infamous 1971 Lloyd’s Bank robbery in Marylebone London, which unleashed a treasure trove of high-level secrets that thrust its characters into a deadly web of corruption, danger and scandal. It involved London’s criminal underworld, the highest ranks of the British government and secrets that threatened to hurt the United Kingdom’s beloved Royal Family. It’s the story of a heist gone wrong and the naïve bank robber who went along for the ride.
The action hero has often been compared to Sylvester Stallone (“Rocky”), Arnold Schwarzenegger (“Terminator”) and Bruce Willis (“Die Hard”), but he wanted to break out that action hero mold and this film was the vehicle he chose for that purpose.
“There’s no way I’m doing Shakespeare, but I’ve put in ten years and I’m trying to convince people I can do something else. I’m trying to expand within my limits.”
Terry (Statham) is the main character in a story about a car dealer with a sordid past who meets an intriguing and sexy young model from his hood, who draws him into her scheme after he became indebted to a local loan shark for more money, than he could manage to repay.
This is Statham’s first British film project in years. He’s been busy filming all sorts of action films around the globe where he performs all of his own stunts. Statham spent much of his youth as a competitive platform diver, so he’s used to the adrenaline rush he gets from taking physical risks.
“I come from a very athletic background. It’s a bit silly if you can do it yourself. The best action stars are the ones that get physically involved and do their own stunts.”
However, this film was less action and more of a thriller, which involved a more in-depth character for 35-year-old Statham.
The actor had his own take on the character that he portrayed in the film. While Terry was found guilty of the crime, Statham sympathizes with the dilemmas that Terry faced.
“I think he is doing this for his family and that he is a good person. He’s got a darker side to him, not really a dark side. I think desperate men do desperate things. I think there’s innocence, as well as there’s a criminal side to Terry,” Statham said. “He wanted to make a better life for himself and for his family. The world is full of bad things that go on behind curtains and closed doors and to think that Terry is a bad person, I could show you a lot of people who run around in suits and ties, who put on this big top show about how respectable they are and they’ve got more seedy habits than you can possibly imagine.”
Terry was drawn in by British beauty Martine (Saffron Burrows). He was told that he can keep the cash from the heist, but that he must hand over photographs and other documents which he will steal from high security safety deposit boxes.
“The fact that this guy is given an opportunity to rob a bank, I mean, they’re not stealing from the poor. They’re robbing a bank that contains a safety deposit vault. And the people that have these safety deposit boxes, usually keep within them, things that they don’t want people to know about,” Statham told HT. “A lot of things that are in these deposit boxes are illicit earnings anyway, like Jewels that don’t belong to them. I’m not trying to dilute it and make it a justifiable act, but we’re not going in there with machine guns and hurting people and making a nuisance of ourselves.”
It almost sounded as though Statham saw Terry as a Robin Hood of sorts.
“We’re doing something against the law, yes, but who is the law here? MI5 is trying to create a robbery themselves, to protect their bad stuff. In and amongst that, I think the catchphrase is, that we’re the most innocent people involved and I think on this occasion, we are,” Statham said emphatically. “I think people might think Terry and his cohorts are bad people. I think that you have to look at it deeper and think the people who are running the country might be a little corrupt at times. That’s my opinion.”
According to reports, the robbery was covered in the news, but within a few days, all coverage had ceased after the Ministry of Defense had banned the story from being told.
“That’s very rare. They only do that for matters of national security. So you think, what the **** was in those photos?”
The photographs were rumored to be of Princess Margaret in a compromising sexual position set on a Caribbean beach with gangster-turned-actor John Bindon. Of course, this is just a rumor, but a blackmail plot such as this would have been an outrageous blow to the Royal Family.
According to Statham, “Certain things are going astray here that we should not try and overlook. I think that’s what makes it an interesting movie. It’s fun, but at the same time, it’s quite scandalous and it’s a sexy type of thriller.”
Producer Chuck Roven (“The Dark Knight,” “The Brother’s Grimm”) also weighed in on the film.
“It’s so great when you find a story like this, and of course, this screenplay, it’s not like we just developed it last year. Steve Chasman (co-producer) actually brought it to my attention.”
This film will make for some interesting conversation in the U.K. according to Roven.
“I think we were actually under the radar until we shot it,” Roven told Hollywood Today. “This is the kind of movie, where the most innocent people involved are the thieves. So, you want thieves that you can root for.” And that’s what Statham was able to accomplish for his character.
“We’ve been getting some really interesting articles written in the U.K. because we’ve sort of brought it back to attention,” Roven said.
“It’s a great story that needed telling and it’s been a bit of an education for me and all my friends,” Statham said. “For thirty odd years, nobody has really known about the robbery.” Every night I’d go home with new information on the story.”
But, as far as his local celebrity status is concerned, Statham is quite humble saying, “I ain’t that popular, believe me.”
“People are a bit more reserved in the U.K. They are not running around with pens and paper. I think it’s quite cool to make a film in the U.K. It’s not like I’m Brad Pitt (“Troy”) or Tom Cruise (“Collateral”), they’ve got problems.”
Statham’s next project takes him back to his action roots with “Transport 3” and “Death Race.”
Madonna’s husband Guy Richie discovered Statham in 1998, during his search for tough guys to act in his film “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.” The two went on to become close friends and to collaborate on other films like “Snatch.”
“The Bank Job” is due to release in the U.K. on Feb. 28 and in the United States on March 7.
The film was directed by Roger Donaldson and scripted by veteran TV writers Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement. Lionsgate is the distributor.