David Ayer talks Jason Statham’s Action Tricks and The Beekeeper’s Best Scenes

With R-rated violence and nonstop action sequences, The Beekeeper is comfort food for Jason Statham lovers everywhere. It helps that the script was left in the capable hands of acclaimed director David Ayer. He’s written the screenplays for hit films like S.W.A.T. (2003) and End of Watch (2012), but here he’s got the director hat on — and the confidence of a guy who’s helmed other hits like Fury (2014) clearly shines through.

Statham plays a retired federal agent of sorts who reenters the crime-fighting scene in order to do right by a woman who was conned by an evil computer-hackig outfit spread across the U.S. Josh Hutcherson plays the head honcho villain alongside other acclaimed actors like Jeremy Irons and Minnie Driver. We recently caught up with Ayer to learn more about teaming up with Statham and other Hollywood heavyweights for his new film — and if he prefers directing over writing.

Jason Statham: ‘Action Icon’

If you’re looking for a dashing leading man to play a gritty, well-intentioned but sometimes brutal action hero, look no further than the star of classics like Snatch, The Transporter, The Expendables and more. “Jason’s an action icon. He’s really an action superstar, and he’s his own brand,” Ayer told MovieWeb about Statham. He added:

“In working with him, it was really understanding how he works, what his sort of camera grammar is, and then bringing an A-game to action. When I learned his action game, it’s a plus. So I kind of got schooled by him. And I learned a lot about action and stunts and performance, more than I knew already. He was just an incredible collaborator. And there’s something about working with someone that just demands the best from you, that’s going to bring out your best.”

And in thinking about the “best” scenes from The Beekeeper, it’s hard to nail down one amid a flurry of thrilling shootouts. We had to ask if Ayer, a master of action filmmaking, could pinpoint one that was perhaps the most memorable. “I think the gas station scene,” he said, “because I didn’t really have the time I wanted to shoot that scene. And I didn’t walk into it confident like I normally do. And also, the movie is a little bit tonally different. Mostly my movies are kind of serious dramas, very gritty and real and intense.” He went on:

In this one, I wanted to make more of an escapist, fun thrill ride. And so shooting a scene like that and finding the fun and humor within an action scene, and then doing it in like two seconds under rain bars at three a.m. was a challenge. But when it was all put together, it exceeded my wildest expectations.

Writing, Directing, and Suicide Squad: ‘I Made a Fantastic Movie’

Ayer serves as director of The Beekeeper, working on a script by Kurt Wimmer (Salt, The Recruit), but he’s written his own fair share of scripts in years past. So this begs the question: Which does he prefer, writing or directing? “It’s interesting because I’ll always be a writer, but writing is really lonely and painful work, staring at that blank page and pecking at the keyboard,” Ayer told us, adding:

“There’s this incredible doubt that accompanies writing. And when you direct, you have a crew with you. It’s collaborative. You’re sharing this amazing experience. You’re sitting down, you’re having meals together, you’re working with incredible stars like Jason and Josh Hutcherson and Emmy Raver-Lampman. And that sort of family that you become while making a film, I think beats the lonely writer thing.”

The Beekeeper certainly sets up a unique universe with potential for a sequel. And on that note, when looking ahead for Ayer, a past project of his actually comes to mind: The original Suicide Squad (2016). We may never see Ayer’s intended version, though lots of cinephiles out there have been asking. “I’d love to have like a last-rites screening and kind of just put it behind me and reclaim my reputation,” explained Ayer. He continued:

I made a fantastic movie. And a lot of what I’ve gone through has just been pretty brutal and unfair. And I’ve taken a lot of blame and a lot of hard hits in the press. It’s like that Eric Andre meme where he shoots the guy and he’s like, ‘Why would you do that?’ So I would love closure, but it’s not something I’m really pursuing at this time. I’m looking forward to an amazing future.

A bright future, indeed — Ayer has a number of projects in the works, including a remake of the classic film Dirty Dozen. He’s worked with A-listers galore, so is there anyone left he’d like to collaborate with in particular? “I’m open to everybody,” he said. “There are a lot of great young stars coming up. And I think that there’s kind of a bright future ahead for the action genre.”

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