Time Out catches up with the gravel voiced Cockney action hero of heroes
What made you return to the role of Frank Martin a third time? It was the producer Luc Besson’s idea. We had plenty of fun making the first two and he said, ‘I think there’s room for one more.’ The second one was pretty successful, and people made a few dollars out of it, but we didn’t do it just to turn over some money. We do enjoy making these things. So we got the old team back together.
Did you have any concerns about making a third Transporter movie? There’s always the worry that if it doesn’t exceed what the last one did, in terms of popularity, we’ve all made a big mistake. So there’s a bit of pressure, but Luc can shoulder that, I’m sure. He thought he had the best script of all three and told me he’d found this new girl, Natalya Rudakova, on the streets, literally, who’d be perfect. She used to be a hairdresser. So I read it, thought it was good – and the next thing you know, we’re filming it. It all came together so quickly because Luc is his own moving train; he controls everything, every detail from the production design to the costumes.
There’s a brutal fight scene in a garage where you single-handedly take out a group of thugs. Was fighting in such a confined space hard? That was just a location problem [laughs]. It was pretty tight, but we worked around it. Ideally, we’d have liked to build that set and give ourselves more space to work in. When that fight was planned, there were going to be something like 18 guys, but we had to cut it down to 10 because it was just too unrealistic. But it’s still a lot of people in not a lot of space with props flying around.
Props? You mean those aren’t real tools? Of course not: one silly mistake with a 30lb spanner and it’s hospital food for anyone on the receiving end of that.
Did you suffer any injuries? Yeah, but you always get knocked around. I had a nasty groin strain which was a real pain. But that got better quickly, so luckily it didn’t hold us up.
You look fairly tough. What martial arts have you studied? I’ve messed around at all kinds, really, kickboxing, win chung, ju-jitsu and a bit of judo with Guy Ritchie. And I’ve fannied around with various other forms. But obviously the style used in the movies isn’t a practical one for actual combat. The movie style of fighting is completely exaggerated with over-the-top movements. You’d get completely hammered if you fought like that in a real fight situation.
The whole look of this movie is pleasingly old-school and the stunts seem reassuringly real. When you only have certain resources at your fingertips, it can make you a little more creative – because you have to be. Quantum Of Solace cost $225 million [Dhs825 million], for instance, so basically there’s no limit to what they can do. We ain’t got the money to do that, so we have to do it for real and shoot it through the camera because we can’t say, ‘Oh no, we can sort that with CGI.’ In my book it’s infinitely better anyway. It looks more realistic and you can have some fun doing the stunts.
Is this going to be the last of the Transporter movies? That’s really a question for Luc. I guess it depends on whether or not people go and see this one. If the people say ‘Well that’s the end of that’, I’m sure we’ll get the message. But if there’s an audience for this one… who knows?
And what about upcoming actioner Crank 2? We’ve done it already. It continues straight on from where the last one left off. That one’s a nutty one, all right.