Jason Statham is the rare actor who refuses to take himself seriously. If critics think his latest action film resembles some of his older action films, that's fine with him. He enjoys typecasting."I'm very happy doing what I'm doing," he says. "Which is not to say I wouldn't be happy doing a romantic comedy or whatever. But I don't feel like I'm stuck or that I'm...locked down doing the same thing for ten years. The fact is that people seem to enjoy me doing the [action] stuff more than anything else." Indeed, Statham is the reigning king of movie mayhem. In kick 'n' grunt fare like "The Transporter," "Crank" and "War," he's proven himself to be a worthy successor to everyone from Steve McQueen to Steven Seagal. Statham might not be looking to stretch as an actor but he's not without ambition. What keeps him revved up, he says, is trying to top himself in the slam-bang department. "You always have to try and exceed what you've done before," says the actor, who performs many of his own stunts. "We're always striving for perfection. Trying to do something fantastic and amazing is what keeps you going. "I don't think I've really done what I really truly can do in an action movie. I've been jabbing and jabbing. I'm just waiting to throw the right hook." Statham's latest is Death Race, a loose remake of the Roger Corman classic "Death Race 2000" from 1975. In the futuristic actioner, directed by Paul WS Anderson ("Resident Evil"), the actor plays a steel worker framed for the murder of his wife. He winds up behind bars just in time to participate in an outlandish derby which pits inmates against each other in a race to the death. Forcing Statham to put pedal to medal is the prison's brutal warden (Joan Allen) who will do anything to take the top prize. If Statham looks leaner and more muscley than usual, it's because he imagined his character would need to bulk up to survive life in lock-up. "The only way that anyone can keep their sanity in prison is to keep a clear head and to train," says Statham. "I'm glad Paul wanted me to get all lean and prison-ready. It's a great discipline and I enjoy that kind of discipline." When asked the secret for achieving abs you could bounce a quarter off, the actor laughs. "I'd get up at five o'clock in the morning and get on the row machine and do some crazy sessions with [Logan Hood], who's a Navy SEAL trainer," he says of the man who got Gerard Butler ripped for "300." Statham's preparation wasn't just physical. Before production began, the actor visited California's notorious Corcoran Prison, home to Charles Manson, among other serial killers. "We had a whole day up there and it was one of the most frightening places I've ever been to," says Statham. "Those guys were like soldiers preparing for war." At Anderson's request, Statham gave his character a quiet dignity to go along with nerves of steel and a whomp-'em fight game. "This character is a bit of a quiet soul," says the actor, 36. "Everything gets stripped away from him. He loses his wife. His kid goes to foster parents. So he hasn't got a lot to say. He's quite stoic, which is what Paul wanted." Working alongside Joan Allen was all of the inspiration Statham needed to turn his character into a mountain of never-say-die might. "Standing there listening to Joan Allen is not a bad day at the office," he says. "She's so intense. She doesn't have to say much to get her point across." In addition to showing off his ripped physique, Death Race allows Statham to demonstrate his ease behind the wheel. In the film, he drives a monster car bedecked with machine guns, grenade launchers and flame-throwers. Off-screen, Statham steers a white 208 GT2 Porsche. Did the actor get to keep any of the movie's tricked-out automobiles? "Paul didn't give me a single one," he says. "I was very upset about that but, truth be told, they're not road worthy. It's hard to get past police cars with two mini-guns on the bonnet." For the next few months, Statham will be sticking to the fast track. In addition to finishing up "Transporter 3," due in November, he'll star in "The Sweeney" alongside Ray Winstone and revisit his role as beat-the-clock hero Chev Chelios in "Crank 2: High Voltage." "High voltage - that's an understatement," whoops Statham. "It's ridiculous. The writers locked themselves in a room for three days with five bottles of tequila and wrote the most offensive and outrageous script that I've ever read. "It's like the first 'Crank' times a thousand." Co-star Amy Smart returns to play Chev's long-suffering girlfriend. "Poor Amy," says Statham. "We have a very indulgent sex scene on a race track." After "Crank 2" wraps, Statham might find himself behind the wheel again either for Death Race 2 or "The Brazilian Job," a long-talked-about sequel to "The Italian Job." "I'm just doing what comes to me," he says. "I don't have any massive game plan or a calendar of what I need to achieve by a certain date. I do whatever makes sense at the time."
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