“I expected to walk down the red carpet, and be dodging rotten fruit and spit,” says Jason Statham. He’s remembering how it felt when he played the bad guy in Furious Seven, when his character, Deckard Shaw, chased the Toretto crew around the world. Shaw was seeking vengeance – and he was first introduced in the sixth film, killing off a beloved character. “I killed Han,” says Statham. “If you’re a fan, that’s not a good thing!”
But in The Fate of the Furious – now in theaters, so SPOILERS FROM HERE – Deckard does a few good things. While his nemesis Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) warms up to his former sparring partner, Shaw rescues Dominic Toretto’s son from the clutches of Cipher (Charlize Theron). We even meet his mother – who happens to be played by Helen Mirren. We talked to Statham about Shaw’s mysterious past – and the possibilities of his future.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your interaction like with fans of the series after you played the villainous role in Furious Seven?
JASON STATHAM: I’ve had a really good response from the fans. The fans are almost like their own family. They’ve followed these people for seven, eight movies now. They feel quite familiar and quite strong, about who they want to let into the franchise and who they don’t. It’s great to not have rotten fruit thrown at me. [laughs]
You and Dwayne Johnson have some great bantering standoffs in this movie. Are Hobbs and Shaw friends now?
Without giving the story away, even if they became really close — and there is a certain charm between the two of them now — they still want know who’s the best, who’s the toughest, who’s the hardest. Whether they can fight down the line: Who knows? They could be beating each other up for fun. There’s a real oneupmanship.
Coming back to play the character in this film, did you yourself learn a bit more about his backstory?
We know a little bit about him. Can we know a lot more? Of course, we can. There are some specifics that [screenwriter Chris Morgan] was talking about. I don’t want to be the one to unravel the spoilers. But there’s some really interesting stuff that could keep people that like these big sorts of dramatic reveals [happy]. “Oh know, he did that? He’s responsible for this?” He loves to shock people. Chris told me there are a few things we could shock people with, regarding Deckard. I’m excited about what’s to come. There is plenty of more room to bring Deckard in and find out more about him.
We’ve already met his mom. That sequence between you and Helen Mirren is a lot of fun. What was it like working with her on that scene?
Deckard Shaw plays quite a tough chap. There are not many people who can tell him what to do and how to do it. And yet, you put him in the room with his mum and next thing you know, she’s slapping him ’round the chops, kicking him up the arse, and saying, “Right, go and do this,” and he jumps to it. There’s no one in the world who can tell him to do anything apart from one person, and that’s his mum.
When you get someone as adored and as talented as Helen Mirren, it really gives you a lot of weight behind a role. I worked with her husband, Taylor Hackford, years ago when I did a movie called Parker with Jennifer Lopez. I met her a few times back then. She’s a real sweetheart. Just to have someone like that as your mum is fantastic.
Might be something that gets explored in future films.
Well, exactly! They’re not going to bring your mum in unless there’s something down the line. There’s so much opportunity for what we can understand about where the Shaw family is really from, what they’re really capable of, and stuff. I don’t want to spoil what they’ve got coming, but they’ve got some really good stuff coming. That would include Helen and, obviously… [long pause] I’m not gonna say anything!
What’s it been like joining up with such a large blockbuster franchise? These last couple movies especially have become such huge, global productions.
It’s great, y’know? As an actor… [laughs] I don’t really see myself as an actor, it’s funny me saying that.
You’ve been doing it for awhile now!
I was an athlete, I was a sportsman, I used to work on the street, I was a streetcorner con man selling perfume and jewelry. I never had any intention to be an actor. So it always seems strange and weird to say, “I’m an actor.” I fell into the business almost by mistake, by sheer chance. So I’ve never really come to terms with being able to refer to myself as an actor! I never went to drama school, I never went to anything that would give me any idea on what to do in front of a camera. I sort of did it and learned it as I went along. [laughs] Anyway, that’s another story.