Jason Statham, James Franco tangle in 'Homefront'
05:00 AM, Sep 09, 2013
Sometimes action just follows a man.
In the action-thriller Homefront, Jason Statham plays former Drug Enforcement Administration agent Phil Broker who is trying to leave his violent life behind him. He moves with his daughter to small-town Louisiana, where he butts heads with a crime faction including a former biker chick (Winona Ryder) and the local crime leader, Gator (James Franco).
Anytime you run up against a guy named Gator in Louisiana, bad things are going to happen.
“(Broker) is trying to live off the grid with his daughter, live the idyllic life,” says director Gary Fleder. “But then he runs into Gator, who has a lot of people in town afraid. Looking at it within the paradigm of the classic Western, Gator is the guy with the black hat on. Even the sheriff doesn’t want to mess with him.”
Action follows in the movie (opening Nov. 27), which screenwriter/producer Sylvester Stallone adapted from the best-selling novel by Chuck Logan. Stallone had plans to star and direct, but passed it on to Statham when they were working together on 2012’s Expendables 2. The set-up allows Statham to move his game beyond strictly the action genre.
“I’ve done certain kind of roles up to now, and this is different from the usual tough-guy role, who does not show a lot of emotion and is mostly action,” Statham writes from the set of Expendables 3 in Bulgaria. “In this film you get to see the lighter side of me. Yet there is still the tough-guy element.”
Statham also shows a paternal side with his onscreen daughter, 12-year-old Izabela Vidovic, the first actress Fleder saw during a nationwide casting search for the part. He continued to look, but eventually circled back to Vidovic.
“Call it karma, or fate,” says Fleder. “Sometimes it’s actually just the best person who walked into the room on the first day. She’s got tremendous skill and charisma, and you really believe they are father and daughter.”
Blue Crush actress Kate Bosworth plays Gator’s sister, a strung-out, meth-using mom who starts the feud with Broker that sets the action in motion. Fleder said other actresses to whom he spoke steered clear of this unglamorous but meaty role.
“I told (Bosworth), ‘You’re not going to have makeup, you’re not going to have your hair done. You’re going to have clothing from Sears,” says Fleder. “This character is not a physically or emotionally attractive person. She used to be, but let everything go. Kate went for it with abandon and zero vanity.”
Franco, who starred as a cornrow- and gold-teeth-grill-wearing drug dealer in 2012’s Spring Breakers, keeps the psychological menace as he controls the town and pawns like Ryder — without the obvious gangster hardware.
“James left the gold grill at home,” says Fleder. “The teeth did not show up on the set.”
Statham praises Franco’s psychologically menacing character and the actor’s “ability to bring out the quirkiness and eerie side to this character…he brought an interesting slice to the bad-guy role.”
Statham never loses his British accent despite playing a DEA agent. To explain this, the filmmakers have Broker starting with the DEA as a British Interpol agent.
“We had a long talk about it; Jason could do an American accent. But I wanted him to be comfortable in his skin, to focus on the character, not on his accent,” says Fleder.
Statham was certainly comfortable in the action — including horseback riding, something the actor learned on the set. “I learned how to gallop and move a little bit better on a horse and enjoy the challenge of it all,” Statham says. “I’m very confident around any sporting activity and learning any new skill.”
But there’s no need to relearn how to bust some chops, needed as Homefront culminates in a violent confrontation between Franco’s Gator and Statham’s Broker.
“I won’t get into the mechanics of it, but they do go at it,” says Fleder. “There’s some good mano-a-mano stuff going on here.”