Donald Sutherland interview: The Mechanic, Jason Statham, Ben Foster and Julian Assange

We caught up with the legendary Donald Sutherland to chat about his new film, The Mechanic, and about the ongoing Wikileaks saga…

Heading to cinemas at the end of this month is the return of Jason Statham to the big screen. He’s not been away from it long, to be fair, having starred alongside Sylvester Stallone last summer in The Expendables. But here, he’s headlining a remake of the Michael Winner-directed Charles Bronson vehicle, The Mechanic.

Taking a supporting role in the film is Donald Sutherland, and he spared us a few minutes (literally, sadly), for a quick face-to-face chat about the film.

Back when you made Pride And Prejudice a few years ago, you said at the time that you nearly turned down the role because you were “too old, too busy and too Canadian” to do it. What was it about The Mechanic that passed those tests?

Oh, my god. The Mechanic, I’m the right age, and being Canadian didn’t make any difference. [laughs] And I wasn’t busy!

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How long did you work on the film?

I think it was a couple of days. Two, maybe three.

And do you enjoy making films such as these, that play towards a blockbuster audience?

They [the blockbuster audience] should go [see it].

But I tell you who should really go [see the film] is any son who’s got a father, and any father who has a son. Because that actually is what the film is about. It’s about the relationship between fathers and sons, surrogate fathers and sons, grief and loss and shame and regret. And hope. It’s a terrific film. It really is a terrific film.

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It’s couched in that action genre mystique. And the action’s fantastic. And the sex is illuminating! And what Jason does as an actor, the development, wonderful.

[There’s a] scene with Ben Foster in the truck, he’s able to express grief and regret from his soul, his heart, truthfully. It’s just wonderful to see.

And the character that Ben Foster creates is mind-boggling.

I think he’s strong in the film.

He’s just brilliant. To go through all the swings, the changes of anger and hatred, resentment, just all of it put together. And arrogance, and smugness, and ‘I can do this better than my father ever could’. Wow. He’s just wonderful.

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But it’s all Simon West. It’s all the director. He changed that film. He drove the production mad because he changed everything, all the way up to the beginning of shooting. He did a wonderful job.

And you know, me, I want to look at it again. And my hope is that people will go into that cinema, go into it seeing an action picture, and come out of it saying, “I think I should phone my son,” or “Maybe I should phone my dad.” Or maybe, “My dad and I should go see this together.”

Just before we finish, one off-topic question. There are certain similarities between what’s happening in the world with Julian Assange and the Wikileaks saga, and the role of X that you played in Oliver Stone’s JFK. What are your thoughts on that?

[Pause] The truth will set you free.

Julian Assange, I mean, the Americans have a very good relationship with Sweden, very persuasive. It’s bullshit. It’s real bullshit. It’s real bullshit.

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I mean diplomacy is diplomacy, but… Henry Kissinger once described it as a chess game. It’s not a chess game. Chess is war. Diplomacy is supposed to be dealing.

I admire Julian Assange.

Sadly, just as he was warming to the topic, and clearly wanted to discuss it more, our time was up. As we packed up our stuff, he started talking about his character in JFK to us, and how he was supposed to be based on L. Fletcher Prouty. But the clock had beaten us, and we, guttingly, never got the chance to follow this up. Maybe one day…

The Mechanic is released on 28th January 2011.

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