What can we expect from you in Parker compared with what we’ve seen most recently in The Expendables franchise?
[Parker] wasn’t like I was getting stuck in with Sly Stallone and Randy Couture. You’ve got such a great collection of lads there, you sort of have to bring a little bit of your best side if you can. For Parker, it’s more of a drama—just a requirement of having some of the hand-to-hand skills.
Was there a lot of pressure taking on the role of Lee Christmas in The Expendables franchise?
It’s a huge role. Some people dubbed it a passing of the torch from Stallone. I’m conscious of his endorsement. It couldn’t come from a higher place. It’s something I really want to fulfill. If he sees me as someone that has the chops to fill that sort of position—I’ve always worked hard, [and] I’ll work hard to do justice to that.
Those are massive shoes to fill.
If I could get 5–10% of what he had for a career and what he has done for the film industry, I’d be over the moon. I mean, he’s an exception—he Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture for Rocky! The last movie I did was a movie [Stallone] wrote for himself called Homefront. He said “Listen, Jay, I’m not going to be able to do this. I’d love for you to do this,” and it was one of the greatest compliments I could ever get. Someone who wrote something for himself, who is a real class-A filmmaker, class-A screenwriter, just handed a project over to me. That was a great moment in my career.
Who do you consider your biggest influences, with regard to the action element of your career?
There’s Bruce Lee and then, of course, there’s Sly.
Any other on-screen heroes that inspired you?
Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood. It’s funny, most of my on- screen heroes are sort of the ones of yesteryear. I just thought they had a bit of a laid-back coolness to them.
A lot of your heroes have been in the business for decades. Do you plan to stay on screen as long as Eastwood and Stallone?
I never look too far forward. Will I be here for the next 10 years, 20 years—2 years? It’s a day-at-a-time thing for me.
You seem to be cast as the antihero in almost all of the roles. Are you actively seeking out these parts, or are they coming to you?
I think you can only eat from the food on the table. Every actor has a strength, and sometimes you just respond to things that you see yourself better at. I’m aware of what I can and can’t do. I don’t see myself as a character actor that spends months and months figuring out what to do. I’ve never had an acting lesson in my life. I don’t know whether that’s a good or bad thing.
Guy Ritchie has been credited for discovering you. How involved was he really in opening the door to your acting career?
He’s definitely most accountable for what I’m doing right now. He’s the one to blame. [Laughs] He was a great influence. I learned everything I had to learn at the beginning from him. Basically he taught me how to do what I needed to do in front of a camera. Acting Lessons 101 with Guy. If I’m bad, it’s on him. [Laughs]