Jason Statham takes on one of London's best-kept secrets in his latest heist movie
This month, action icon Jason Statham returns with a thrilling new bank heist adventure that offers new insight into the mysterious Baker Street robbery of 1971. In the film, Statham plays Terry, a car dealer with a dodgy past and a new family. When he is offered the chance to head a foolproof bank hit on London's famous Baker Street, Terry recognizes it as the opportunity of a lifetime.
The target is a roomful of safe deposit boxes worth millions in cash and jewelry. What Terry and his crew don't realize is that the boxes also contain a treasure trove of dirty secrets. He is soon thrust into a deadly web of corruption and illicit scandal that spans London's criminal underworld, the highest echelons of the British government, and the Royal Family itself. The secrets of this true life story have been kept buried until now. Statham and crew are finally offering up a bird's eye view of what really went down those lost three days on Baker Street.
Last week, we met up with Statham to chat about his exciting new project. Here is our conversation:
What is it with you and heist movies?
Jason Statham: What? I've only made two. Maybe three in ten years. That's not bad.
Are you drawn to that kind of character? What was it about this that drew you to the material?
Jason Statham: It was a good story. It is a true story. I like a true story. This character finds himself in a great position. For me, to find a story with all of this scandal and deceit and lies coming from a place we wouldn't expect it, is exciting. It shows that everybody has a dark side. There is always going to be someone doing something a little bit more criminal and illicitly driven than what ever you are up to. Even to the extent of people running the country. They are trying to extract these little pictures out of this box to save face. They will stop at nothing to do that. In the same breath, there is a car dealer and his friends trying o make a better life for themselves. Maybe they will stop at nothing to do that. No one is getting hurt. We aren't running around with guns. We aren't sticking people up and screaming, "Everybody get down!" We are just slipping in under the bank vaults and extracting things that aren't legal anyway. Most people have safety deposit boxes for that reason. There is illegal money and all kinds of bad stuff in those boxes. I suppose if you wanted to steal anything, that is probably the best thing to steal. Someone else's elicit earnings.
Did you know about this story before you did the movie?
Jason Statham: Uh, no! It is funny. I asked my parents about it, and my friends. I'm not saying that they are going senile, or that they have Alzheimer's. You have to remember that this was a particular three days of press that existed. Day one: "Oh, my God! Big bank Raid!" Day Two: They have the walkie-talkie robbers on the radio. Day three: There was a massive drawing on the front page of the newspaper that showed how they got into the vault. Day four: Nothing. So, if you were around for those three days and you have a really, really good memory, you might remember something about it. But the fact is, it's not on too many people's minds. Luckily we had photographic evidence to look at that our director, Roger Donaldson, had compiled. He had police evidence pictures form inside the vault. From inside the handbag shop where we originally dig the tunnel. Pictures of the tunnel. And the press from those three days shows that there was a robbery at the Baker Street bank. The Lloyd's bank on Baker Street. Plus, we know there was a gag, or a D-Notice issued to blanket the press. If you take those facts into consideration, there is evidently some sort of reason they gave this blanket to the press. There was something in those boxes that the government didn't want the rest of the country to see.
In your opinion, what do you think was really in those boxes?
Jason Statham: What you see in the movie. Pictures of important people running around in the sand and the sun. From the film, we know who that person is. Michael X was really using compromising pictures that he had of someone in the Royal family to get on with his extortions. There is a lot to take into account. You don't need the brains of Einstein to figure out what was going on here.
Did you listen to the actual ham radio tapes of these guys committing the crime to get a feel for what these guys were actually doing?
Jason Statham: Roger did have those tapes. He had a load of stuff. He had so much information. He had all of the cuttings from the newspaper from before the gag was issued. He did have some of the recordings. I didn't get to listen to those. But I did see all of the evidence pictures. I didn't listen to the radio stuff.
Have you ever met your real life counterpart?
Jason Statham: Yeah. (Laughs) He came to the set. He was kicking around. He had some insight. It is really difficult. When you meet somebody that was actually involved to such a degree, you try to give them respect in not saying, "So, how many years did you get? Tell me about the drawers. What did you nick. Is there something we should know that isn't in the script." You don't know what sort of information they are willing to share. You don't want to be too annoying, and you want to make them feel comfortable. You want them to give you information at their own pace. It is like a slow drip feed from them. It was really cool. He was one of the people that did go to prison. Some didn't, he did.
How many years did he serve?
Jason Statham: I don't want to say.
Roger said that he looked uncannily like you. He said that the guy was basically you at seventy. What do you think about that?
Jason Statham: It's funny. People actually thought that my dad had come to see me on the film set. They said, "Ah, is that your dad?" I'd say, "No, he's not" "Well, who is he?" I'd have to say, "He's here about another job I might be doing." You want to protect his identity. You don't want people to come down and start driving you mad. There is something quite fascinating with crooks and criminals, and that has been evident in filmmaking for years. People love stories about the mafia. They are intrigued and fascinated with crime figures. The great train robbers. People that have actually escaped from prison. It is a fascination that will never, never die. It is more than they can ever do. In fact, that is a good thing. I'm not saying that what these people do is a great thing. The excitement comes from most people never being able to risk it. They could never take those chances themselves. So they want to see how these people tick, and how their brain works. They could never risk the happiness of their family against empting some safety deposit boxes. They would rather dig a road and go see a movie.
Did you ever steal anything growing up?
Jason Statham: None of your business. I'm not allowed to say.
The Bank Job Opens March 7th, 2008.