After some delays, Guy Ritchie’s new action-packed comedy, Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre, is finally set to hit theaters. This spy-thriller reunites the director with his longtime collaborator and fan-favorite action movie star, Jason Statham, as the titular super spy. Statham is well-known for portraying suave characters with an abundance of machismo in films like Crank and The Mechanic. He’s also touted his stoicism and gun-wielding prowess in franchises like The Transporter series and The Fast and the Furious alongside Vin Diesel.
In Operation Fortune, Statham is Orson Fortune, a super spy with a distinct set of skills. Fortune, despite his lone wolf M.O., must partner with a highly skilled team of operatives in order to take down Greg Simmonds (played by Hugh Grant), a billionaire arms broker whose new weapons technology poses a threat to the world order. As a means to obtain the information they need to take Simmonds down, the team will employ his favorite movie star, Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett), to take advantage of the proximity Simmonds allows. With the help of his expert team, which also includes Aubrey Plaza, Cary Elwes and Bugzy Malone, Fortune blackmails the actor into aiding their mission to track down the dealer. High stakes, fast cars, killers on a yacht, and lots and lots of weapons – what could go wrong?
Before Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre’s hits theaters, Collider’s Steve Weintraub spoke with Statham about his latest Ritchie collab. During his interview, Statham discusses the “unusual” process with Ritchie on set, Grant’s talent outside romantic comedies, Plaza’s improvisation skills, and when his next team-up with Ritchie will be. He also clears the air on whom the real chess master is – him or Guy Ritchie – and breaks down a few of his most dangerous stunts from past sets. You can watch the interview in the player above, or read the full transcript below.
COLLIDER: I’m going to start with the most important question first. Who is a better chess player, you or Guy [Ritchie]?
JASON STATHAM: It fucking depends, really. It depends on who’s willing to lie. You know, in the early days, we were pretty neck and neck, and I used to take him more times than he took me, and he never used to like it. Clearly we’re very competitive. But you know, over the years he’s had a few lessons, and he’s had a few more lessons, and the fucking lessons have gotten in the way of me beating him.
So occasionally, whereabout, I think, every couple of games – well every 10 games, say – he wins about six or seven of those. He’s maybe six out of 10 versus previous games it’d be the other way around. So he’s slightly better than me, and don’t ever tell him that I told you that.
When I asked him earlier, he said that the only time you win is when you cheat.
STATHAM: Now he’s fucking a liar. He’s an out-and-out liar. He doesn’t like it when I win because he’s had so many lessons and so many, you know, private lessons over the course of about 10 years that it would really put him at a loss if he does lose. And occasionally he does.
If someone has actually never seen a movie that you’ve done, what is the first one you want them watching, and why?
STATHAM: You know, I’m very fond of those old Guy Ritchie movies that I did. So I would say maybe Snatch, maybe [Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels]. It would be a flip of the coin on those two, I think, just because I think they were so instrumental in my career. I’ve done movies that are more focused on me as a centerpiece, but I think those early Guy Ritchie movies are just… I don’t know anyone that couldn’t enjoy them, really.
I completely agree. Jumping into Operation Fortune. I want to thank you because I needed a movie like that, I had a lot of fun watching. I have to know, what was your reaction when you saw Hugh Grant and what he was doing with his accent and character the first time you saw him on set? Because he’s so fantastic in the role.
STATHAM: He’s tremendous in this movie. Yeah, he did a magnificent job in The Gentleman, which again, I was blown away by. It’s another movie I wish I was in. Can’t be in all of them. But Hugh is just, he’s so versatile, you know, he’s a terrific… He’s got such a great depth to his ability, and I think to see him in a role like this – he did decades of rom-coms, and to see him do something like this, it’s so complex and so quirky, and I just think he’s been undersold. I think this is really something, a special skill that people need to see. He’s just great.
I completely agree. One of the things I find so fascinating about Guy and the way he directs is that you might have a script going in, but each day he will completely rework everything and come up with new things, new dialogue. Can you talk about what it’s actually like working with Guy on a daily basis when he’s so spontaneous?
STATHAM: Yeah, I mean, it’s very unusual because normally you have a semi-decent script that you’re going to work with and you kind of know that you’ve got a scene that’s gonna work for you. You know how to navigate that day’s work. But the script wasn’t in great shape, and I think this is a position, in most situations, where you’d be panicking like, “What the hell is going to happen today?”
But I think Guy likes to put himself under pressure. He likes to throw the script out the window. He likes to figure out how he can make something out of nothing. And I think that that imminent pressure that he puts on himself brings out the best of him. It’s a weird, very unusual thing, but the more difficult of a day that’s in front of him, the better he is as a director. The more pressure, the more flourishing is his dialogue. It just comes from nowhere, and you know, you’ll spend half an hour in the trailer, and he’ll be hashing it together, and at the end of the day, it looks like he spent weeks and weeks constructing these great scenes because they’re full of this original dialogue. It’s an amazing thing to see.
So the idea is, don’t get attached to anything, don’t learn your lines, try not to be attached to any of the scenes that you think you might be shooting, and just turn up. It’s like a workshop almost. It’s a very tricky thing. I don’t think Hugh was a particular fan of it because for him, it was much more difficult because he had much more in-depth pieces of monologues. You know, he had a lot more to say. And I think to kind of go away and learn these big speeches and then to come in and go, “Hang on, I just spent fucking three days learning that speech. What do you mean you’ve changed all my lines?”
So for a character like Hugh was playing, I think it’d be much more frustrating because you would have put time and effort into them. So a little easier for myself because he was a less vocal sort of character. Nevertheless, it’s still the process that Guy likes. Same with the action: turn up, work it out on the day, no rehearsals, no stunt training, no stuntmen. This is what we’re doing. This is how we do it. It’s literally like student filmmaking, but the most professional way, of course.
One of the things about Aubrey [Plaza] is that she is so funny. Because she’s so good at improvisation, how many times did she actually get you to break on camera?
STATHAM: Many. She is so funny. Again, she’s got incredible improvisational skills, and a lot of the funny lines that she delivers actually came from her. You know, she’s so good, and she’s unconventional to a point that you can never put your finger on how quirky and how funny she is. Her timing is so great, and she’s just so watchable. She’s my new favorite actress. I love Aubrey Plaza.
I spoke to Guy and I asked him, “What do I need to do to get you and Jason to make 10 more movies?” He said that that’s going to happen, don’t worry, and then he was giving you shit about his next movie in Spain, and how you’re not going to be in it. I’m so happy that you guys are back working together. Have you both talked about other projects that you want to do?
STATHAM: Yeah, we have, but we’re trying to figure it out. I mean, I think it’s great that he’s going to do a movie. I’m gonna go do a sequel to The Meg. You know, we’re just about to start shooting that. I think it might be nice to have a little break. He’ll shoot one, I’ll shoot one, we’ll come back and figure something out. We enjoy the process, we love what we do, and we love it more when we’re doing it together.
You have done such awesome action set pieces. I really just love watching you kick ass. When you think back on the ones that you’ve done, which was the one or two that you’re like, “Oh this is pretty dangerous. This is pretty hard.”?
STATHAM: There have been a couple of situations. I think when we shot Crank, we were hanging out of a real helicopter. A lot of the things we do now – with The Expendables – anytime you’re on a helicopter it’s usually on a green screen. But with Crank, we were actually in a helicopter. We’re shooting a fight scene where I was standing on the skids, we have a small pick there. So it was a real stunt, you know, that one was pretty tricky.
There [were] a couple of jumps in that movie, over this car park, I was hanging on a gold tail, it’s quite almost like a blind jump. There [were] a few things in that gig that were pretty tricky. I did a little jump in the Transporter 2, or a jump from the back of a jet ski onto the back of a bus. It wasn’t a very safe stunt. I shouldn’t have done it, there was no safety wire, but I just did that. I mean, if I’d have missed the back of the bus, it would have been a faceplant at 30 mph into the concrete. Just silly things that I’ve done.
Most of the most annoying things, like I’ve had a torn bicep, you have to try and finish the movie. Most of the things are just real niggles and problems with your soft tissue and your joints. You know, I’ve hurt my neck, I’ve got so many injuries that have accumulated over the past just doing stunts and hitting the ground. In The Mechanic, that’s equal to The Mechanic, I really screwed up my neck doing this jump from one high platform on the back of the boat, into this dinghy, taking a couple of shots. I’ve done a lot of silly stunts that I didn’t need to do that I could have just relied on a double to do, and I think my physical self would have been… I would be in a much better position. They’ve taken their toll.
You know, I’m nursing a lot of bad injuries. Stallone in himself. He’s got a roadmap of injuries over the course of his career. A lot of the things we do, it’s because our ego gets in front of us, and we want it to be authentic. We want people to see that that’s us doing it. We want the audience to go for the ride. A lot of the decisions, I think I’m getting a bit smarter now. I think I’ll try and be smart because of the necessity to be smart as my body is wearing out a little bit. Some of the niggles.