Nov. 30--You can sum up the reasons Jason Statham decided to do "Homefront" in two words: Sly Stallone.
The two muscley actors were making "The Expendables 2" when Stallone handed Statham the script for "Homefront," which opened in theaters this week. Stallone adapted the screenplay from a novel by Stillwater's Chuck Logan, but it sat around for several years and he decided he was too old to play the movie's action hero, Phil Broker.
"Sly said, 'A lot of the characters you play don't show any different sides of you,' " recalls Statham, whose different sides have not been featured in his movies "The Transporter," "Transporter 2" and "Transporter 3." "He said, 'This will be great for you. You get to work with a young girl and there's a charming element to this character that you haven't played before.' "
"Homefront" finds Broker, a retired DEA agent, getting pulled back into the game when the widower and his daughter move to a small Louisiana community overrun by crystal meth dealers and users. Logan's book, incidentally, was set in Minnesota, but money matters shifted the movie down South.
"We couldn't afford Minnesota. You get a lot of tax breaks in Louisiana," Statham says. "I just went were they said to. Sly has such a great influence over everything: where we're going to shoot, the cast, the director. It's a project that is still very close to him so he didn't want any of us to screw it up."
Stallone's influence included changing Broker's nationality, says Statham: "I asked him, 'Do you want me to do an American accent?' and he said, 'No point. We'll just have you play a London transplant who married a U.S. girl.' He filled in my backstory in two seconds."
Statham clearly admires Stallone, with whom he just shot "The Expendables 3."
"He's a cinema icon, and I've had some great success with the guy," Statham says. "I've made two and, touch wood, hopefully three incredibly successful films with him. He's Rocky, for crying out loud. 'First Blood' was a tremendous movie for me. He's one of the greatest action stars who ever lived and, all of that aside, he's a great pal."
Regardless of what Stallone says, Phil Broker fits pretty neatly into Statham's roster of characters who punch first and ask questions later (if ever).
"It's not like I'm playing a disgruntled lawyer who is impotent," Statham says. "I'm playing a dad, and the physical side of it, I can easily handle. I've been making action movies for many years now. You just have to use your imagination. I'm not stepping out of 10 years of drama school, but Sly Stallone is great at putting you in the right frame of mind."
There's more action ahead in the seventh "Fast and the Furious" movie, due next year. It will find Statham on the opposite side of the law from Phil Broker.
"There's a few bad guys in it but, yeah, I'm the bad guy" Statham says of "Furious 7," which also finds Thai star Tony Jaa joining the fasters. "We're right in the middle of it, in Atlanta, until the end of the year."
After that, we may get to see Statham in his first out-and-out comedy. Hollywood gossip has him co-starring with Melissa McCarthy in a comedy from director Paul Feig ("Bridesmaids," "The Heat").
"It would be fantastic to work with Paul but that isn't (confirmed) yet," Statham says. "Paul and I did have a tremendous sit-down and, if the movie does come my way, I'd be more than happy to work with someone of that caliber on something really different."
Chris Hewitt can be reached at 651-228-5552. Follow him on twitter.com/ChrisHMovie.
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