“Jason Statham was the only actor I could imagine for the role,” enthuses Bill Chartoff. “If Jason hadn’t agreed to do it, I doubt the film would have been made. He really is the perfect fit for Bishop.”
The filmmakers were familiar with Statham’s extensive body of work from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels to Crank: High Voltage, and everything in between.
“Jason has such a charismatic quality,” says Irwin Winkler. “He just generates excitement when he’s on the screen.”
As Irwin Winkler explains, Statham’s magnetism added an interesting dimension to a role that lacks the very trait the actor possesses. “Bishop has no charisma. He holds back emotions and is generally someone you don’t care to be with. That said, Jason in the role makes for an interesting combination. He just brings you in and you can’t help but become engaged in Bishop’s life. I can’t think of another actor who could achieve that paradox.”
Director Simon West, who met Statham years before on another project, couldn’t agree more. “I’ve watched Jason over the years develop into this great brooding actor,” says West. “He conveys a range of emotions often with just a look which is important given the fact that a ‘mechanic’ spends most of his time alone (though in the film that changes when Bishop agrees to mentor Steve).”
“He’s also a very physically adept performer,” continues West. “He’s immensely skilled. He can and wants to do most of his own stunts. Not to mention, Jason looks like someone who could kill ten men in a room with his bare hands. So he just fit the role in every aspect.”
Jason Statham’s reps sent him the script. He had seen the original film years earlier and is a huge Charles Bronson fan so he immediately responded to the material. “The screenplay really appealed to me. I thought it was very smart. I’m always looking to make a grown up action movie and this script definitely fit that bill.”
Once the role of Bishop was cast, it was essential to find the right actor to play Steve McKenna (played by Jan Michael Vincent in the original film).
The actor would have to be convincing as an up-and-coming hired assassin. He would also need huge acting chops to play the character’s traumatic emotional arc. West knew just the right actor for the role.
“The idea of Ben Foster as Steve McKenna came to me right away,” says West. “He’s a supreme actor. He has levels to his acting that are ‘Brandoesque’ just ready to erupt. ”
The casting of Statham and Foster worked both on screen and off. As Bill Chartoff notes, “when the two actors are on-screen together you just can’t take your eyes off them.”
West attributes their chemistry to their commonalities despite their personal differences – “They have very different personalities but they do overlap in a lot of ways. They both have the same passion for realism; character realism and visual realism. I could have cast people who were similar but I think it would have been bland. They come from very different backgrounds, different countries and upbringings, but they work well together as actors. Because they are opposites of sorts, there are great sparks between them.”
Statham was impressed by Foster’s talent and work ethic. “He’s just a riveting actor with great energy. He does his homework and he’s full of great ideas. He also really pushed himself beyond the call of duty for the role. Some of the stunts we were doing were very scary at the best of times, even for someone like myself who does stunts for a living.”
When asked about Statham, Foster comments on how gifted he is, not just athletically, but given his range as an actor. “Jason is very funny. We had a lot of laughs. I was a fan of his before we met – his performances in The Bank Job, Lock Stock, and the Crank films. He’s an extremely gifted guy and does some fine, subtle work in this film.”
The two leads are complimented by a small but very strong supporting cast led by legendary actor Donald Sutherland in the role of Bishop’s friend and mentor, and Steve’s father, Harry McKenna. Though the character is only on screen a short time, Harry is a very important character to the story.
“Harry is in a sense a linchpin of the drama,” states Bill Chartoff. “His death is significant in the motivations of the characters and plot.”
The filmmakers were thrilled when Sutherland signed on to play the part. “Donald is just so skillful,” says Chartoff. “On set, we were really watching a master at work. He was a joy to have around. He really took the role of Harry McKenna in a very warm and fascinating direction.”
For Sutherland, The Mechanic was a chance to work once again with a few old colleagues, and with a director whose work he admired.
“I worked with Irwin and Bob over 40 years ago (on 1968’s The Split and 1974’s S*P*Y*S) and I did The Italian Job with Jason. The opportunity to work with them again, and to work with Simon, attracted me to the project.”
“Donald is so good and very committed to his craft,” says Irwin Winkler. “He’s been acting for so long but it’s like he’s a kid just out of school – he’s still so enthusiastic about it.”
Every great action thriller has a gripping villain and The Mechanic is no exception. Dean Sanderson, played by veteran actor Tony Goldwyn, runs the organization that Bishop and Harry McKenna have loyally served for many years. When Bishop finds his boss has been deceptive in his dealings and learns of his motivation for having Harry eliminated, Sanderson becomes target #1 for Bishop and Steve.
“Tony has the ability to be very charming, warm and intelligent,” explains West, “but he also has this great ability to turn very dark allowing an audience to believe that deep down he can be very evil. That’s the combination we needed for the character.
Up until the point when Bishop takes on the role of mentor to Steve, he lives a pretty solitary life – consumed by his work yet longing for a different path. His only relationship outside of his friendship with Harry is with a girl named Sara. Sara is a window of sorts into Bishop’s character.
“It is important to know that Bishop is not a robot; he’s appealing to women and he’s attracted to women,” explains West. “He wants female company but can’t let anybody fully into his life emotionally. He has a strange ‘fantasy relationship’ with Sara who we (the audience) at first think is his girlfriend but is actually an escort. Sara wouldn’t mind being his girlfriend, but Bishop just can’t let her in.”
The filmmakers quickly landed on supermodel-turned-budding actress Mini Anden for the role.
“Mini is just the sweetest, most beautiful girl,” describes West. “She has just the right amount of vulnerability. You’d never suspect she isn’t with Bishop because she’s his girlfriend, but it’s also totally believable when you find out she’s really an escort. That’s a tribute to Mini and how well she played the role. She’s a wonderful actress and has a great career ahead of her.”