Director Olivier Megaton Takes us behind the scenes of the latest Transporter movie
For the third time, Jason Statham is stepping back into the driving seat as Frank Martin in “Transporter 3”, though sans Transporter 1 and 2 director Louis Leterrier. Instead, Oliver Megaton (yup, that’s really his name), director of cult French thriller The Red Siren and second-unit director of Hitman, will be helming this threequel. Here, Megaton reflects on what the franchise means to him, discusses those all-important action sequences and the challenges he faced taking over the franchise:
What does the Transporter franchise represent to you?
For me, the series is somewhere between James Bond and Die Hard, even if it’s narrative structure tends more towards John McTiernan’s creation, with a likable leading man cutting a fine line between humor and seriousness and regularly being plunged into situations that push him right to the edge. With the resources at our disposal, we have managed to show that a French company can create a franchise based on a character that people grow strongly attached to.
What was your approach to growing the franchise and character in this third installment?
The first film bore the mark of the late 90s with a hero who had to be funny, cracking jokes all the time. In the follow-up, we were closer to Tony Scott’s Man on Fire with higher stakes dramatically. In nº3, we’re really in Die Hard territory with the hero becoming hostage to the story. For the first time, he’s in real danger. You could talk about the character reaching maturity – would you believe it, Frank falls in love – but it’s also in the way the bad guy’s depicted. With Robert Knepper, he acquires a stunning new dimension.
How did you work on this previously unseen facet of the character with Jason Statham?
After a brief moment of understandable reticence after all he’s been through with the character, I think he was reassured by the way he was being filmed and we really began to have a strong dialogue about the character. Jason’s a very instinctive actor, with whom you discover things as you’re shooting. In my eyes, he’s becoming the new Bruce Willis. He has the same charisma. He’s very lucky in that he doesn’t need to talk – his eyes convey all the emotions he needs to get across.
Taking over as director, what was your biggest challenge?
It was more than a challenge, it was a fullscale mission! When you read the screenplay of Transporter 3, you immediately realize that the level of the action has been multiplied by three. The Bourne trilogy totally dragged action movies into the new millennium, so with this movie, we had to step up to show that we could keep up with Hollywood movies.
What pleasure is there in playing with pre-established characters?
It’s a bit like comic book characters: you have fun with the stereotype while trying to give a new twist to the reality. For example, we decided the give Frank a more realistic look. I’m usually very precise on sets and costumes issues, and I felt he needed a classier makeover. Jason Statham lost a lot of weight for the movie. His sharper facial features give him more physical presence and it was really worth investing in some Dior suits! Similarly, with François Berléand, the film’s true comic character, we kept the offbeat aspect – he drives across Europe in an old Renault – but we lost the Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirts to bring a little realism back to his dress.
There’s a real feel of jubilation about playing with the codes of the genre, such as the shootouts and car chases…
Yes, we innovated a lot with the chases, which were all shot at real speed, and the car stunts, which were shot from many different angles. Overall, it was about finding a balance between modernity and respect for tradition. For example, even though we couldn’t change the codes of the fight scenes compared to the first two films, we managed to introduce a more incisive way of filming them. So, the garage scene is filmed with a steadycam master shot to capture the setting and development of the character. Without messing with Cory Yuen’s methods or style, the result combines our modernity and the lyricism of his Chinese choreography.
Would you agree that this type of action movie, as Guillermo del Toro says about Hellboy, is a huge experimental playground?
There’s nothing more open and more empirical than being a movie director. It would be extremely pretentious to claim to have mastered the craft after three features and fifteen shorts. With issues of man management, the weather and funding, you can’t control everything and you learn something on every shoot. In other words, sure, I see this film as a wonderful training ground, especially in terms of special effects. The advantage of being commissioned to make a movie is that it frees you of certain constraints, especially the writing, which takes a lot of time. On the other hand, you have to keep in mind the overall thrust of the franchise and character, while bringing something new to them. So, you learn a lot, it’s tough, but it’s also a lot of fun. Not a day goes by without one of my crew members calling up to tell me how bored they are since the shoot ended!
“Transporter 3” is in Irish cinemas everywhere now!