Action hero with a sense of humour

He may be used to taking blows on camera, but can action star Jason Statham dodge these tough questions about his acting skills and his bald look?
Jason Statham, with pregnant fiancee Rosie Huntington- Whiteley, enjoys doing adult comedies, but is careful about the scripts he picks.
Jason Statham, with pregnant fiancee Rosie Huntington- Whiteley, enjoys doing adult comedies, but is careful about the scripts he picks.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

British action star Jason Statham has come to be known for a few things: his brutal fighting skills, his London accent and the fact that he looks almost exactly the same in every movie he appears in.

"I'm not what we call a chameleon actor. I'm not looking to play US President (Abraham) Lincoln one day," the 49-year-old says in an interview with The Straits Times while sporting his signature buzz cut.

"I haven't analysed this too much, but a lot of the people I end up playing - it's not about a specific look that identifies with what they're trying to do. I try not to play myself, but play parts where I can inject a large portion of myself into the roles. So the curse is my short hair - that has become an identifiable aspect."

In Fast & Furious 8, he reprises his role of slick assassin Deckard Shaw, who continues to seek revenge for his brother Owen (played by Luke Evans), critically wounded in a fight with Dominic (Vin Diesel) in a previous movie.

This time, however, he is forced to work alongside his enemies, such as security service agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Dominic's friends, to track down the evil Cipher (Charlize Theron).

Some of the funniest banter scenes in the movie are reserved for Johnson and Statham, who says they got to improvise some of their lines.

"Both of us have sarcastic wit, so there were a fair few lines that were not scripted, which was one of the exciting things we got to do. And I love the insult game. I'm the world champion of insults," he says.

In fact, he has a sense of humour despite his reputation as a cool and often violent action hero, acquired from films such as The Transporter (2002) and Crank (2006). Many critics found it a pleasant surprise to see just how humorous he could be in Paul Feig's comedy Spy (2015), in which he starred opposite Melissa McCarthy as an exaggerated, hilariously smug version of the usual super spy he has so often portrayed.

"Doing comedy is quite liberating and Spy was one of the best experiences I've ever had. In comedy, you want to do things over the top and you can look like an idiot," he says, adding that he is careful about signing on to another one even though producers and studios have been sending him comedy scripts since Spy.

"The thing is, a bad action movie is not good, but a bad comedy is terrible."

So do not expect him to jump onto the kiddie comedy movie bandwagon the way his Fast & Furious co-stars Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson did with The Pacifier (2005) and Tooth Fairy (2010) respectively.

Never mind that he is becoming a father for the first time with his model-actress fiancee Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who is pregnant.

"The thing about kids' movies is that I don't always feel the right sensibility to them. If they're not handled correctly, they can be a bit goofy.

"I like comedies, but more adult comedies. Something in the tone of Spy is what really appeals to me."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2017, with the headline 'Action hero with a sense of humour'. Print Edition | Subscribe