Frank Martin has been pressured into transporting Valentina, the kidnapped daughter of Leonid Vasilev, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency for the Ukraine, from Marseilles through Stuttgart and Budapest until he ends up in Odessa on the Black Sea. Along the way, with the help of Inspector Tarconi, Frank has to contend with the people who strong armed him to take the job, agents sent by Vasilev to intercept him, and the general non-cooperation of his passenger. Despite Valentina’s cynical disposition and his resistance to get involved, Frank and Valentina fall for each other, while escaping from one life-threatening situation after another.
Lionsgate presents a EuropaCorp production in coproduction with TF1 Films Production – Grive Productions – Apipoulaï Prod in association with Current Entertainment with the participation of Canal+.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
In 2002, Cory Yuen’s THE TRANSPORTER introduced audiences around the world to former Special Forces officer Frank Martin. A highly skilled courier for underworld criminals, Frank is paid handsomely for not asking questions and never looking at his cargo, but everything changes when he discovers his latest “package.” A breathless thrill-ride comprised of hand-to-hand combat and high-speed car chases, THE TRANSPORTER was shot on a relatively modest budget; yet it struck a chord with action lovers, grossing $44 million internationally and establishing Jason Statham as an action star. Three years later, TRANSPORTER 2, directed by Louis Leterrier, followed Frank out of retirement on a dangerous personal assignment. The sequel built on the original’s fervent following, grossing $74 million worldwide. With fans still eager for more, director Olivier Megaton and internationally renowned producer/writer/director Luc Besson (LE FEMME NIKITA, THE FIFTH ELEMENT) now return with TRANSPORTER 3, which promises to elevate the franchise to an even higher standard of white-knuckle action.
“The level of the action this time round has been multiplied by three,” reports Jason Statham, who returns to star as Frank Martin. “The BOURNE trilogy propelled action movies into the new millennium. So with this movie, we had to step up our game. Everything is bigger.”
“In the first two films, the action sequences are very short,” explains French director Olivier Megaton. “In this one, they’re longer and more intense, and they build and build. Everything has been conceived to have more extensive sequences and bigger pay-offs.”
TRANSPORTER 3 finds Frank back at work as a courier; but this time, he’s forced against his will by a nefarious government official to take on a new assignment: deliver by car the kidnapped daughter of a Ukrainian official from Marseilles to Odessa. To ensure his cooperation, Frank’s blackmailers have fitted him with an explosive bracelet that will detonate if he moves more than one hundred feet from the car. “The only thing Frank knows about this mission is that he's trapped in this car,” explains Megaton. “For the first time, he's in real danger.”
Statham welcomed the opportunity to return to the TRANSPORTER series, which marks the beginning of his prolific career as an action star. “It was great being reunited with all the people who gave me my big break in the action world: Luc Besson, Steve Chasman, and Cory Yuen,” says the actor. “It wasn’t so many years ago that I was just playing smaller parts in non-action movies. If it wasn’t for those guys, I wouldn’t be sitting here all these years later making Part Three.”
Statham avows that action filmmaking has always been one of his goals as an actor. Even as a child, he had a long-standing desire to be a stuntman. Like most action stars, Statham prepared for the shoot by following a strict diet and exercise regime. Unlike most action stars, he also performed all of the combat scenes himself and performed his own stunts whenever possible. He says, “I really enjoy the different challenges and skills that you have to learn along to way to make all the big stunts believable. It’s really rewarding.”
“In my eyes, Jason’s becoming the new Bruce Willis,” says Megaton. “He has incredible charisma and he’s so physical. He’s also a very instinctive actor. He doesn't need to talk – his eyes convey all the emotions he needs to get across.”
A third TRANSPORTER film also provided Statham with an opportunity to further develop aspects of Frank’s character. “He’s one of those very stoic, quiet guys who has his own sort of moral code,” Statham explains. “He’s a very internal guy. He’d rather talk his way out of a situation. He’s got a soft nature and he wants to live a sort of peaceful life.”
For the first time in the series, Frank also falls in love, in this case with fellow captive, Valentina, played by newcomer Natalya Rudakova. The love story considerably broadens the emotional scope of the film and exposes a new side of Frank Martin. Explains Megaton, “When he was unattached, Frank was just a cool machine. In love, he's much more vulnerable. He allows himself to express emotion and, above all, he refuses to leave Valentina at the side of the road to save his own skin. The stakes are raised, which adds a new dimension to the character.”
In keeping with Frank’s deepening character, Frank’s wardrobe also underwent some adjustments. “We decided to give him a more realistic look,” says Megaton. “I felt he needed a classier makeover. So we put Jason in a Dior suit and he lost a lot of weight for the movie. His sharper facial features gave him even more physical presence.”
With only five weeks of prep before production began, Megaton’s greatest challenge during production was the compressed schedule. Yet he maintains that the budget limitations yielded more creative, and ultimately better, solutions. “We may not have had 75 million Euros, but we had plenty of ideas,” says the director. “We made a T-shirt for the crew that said on the back, ‘Less talk. More action.’” The principle weapon in the battle to stay on schedule and within budget was the extremely precise storyboards produced by artist Jonathan Delerue, who mapped out every sequence in detail before production began. “Given the number of action scenes in the movie, we couldn't waste any time on set, so it was vital that everybody have a clear grasp of what we were doing,” says Megaton. “In the end, everything that's in the movie was in the original storyboard.”
While directing the kinetic action scenes, Megaton attempted to “not make any scene look like any of the fifteen movies that are the benchmark. I always try to start afresh and invent the scenes I’m going to shoot from A-Z. We kept the style of the fight scenes the same as the previous films, but we managed to introduce a more incisive way of filming them with steadicams and lots of different angles.”
“What Olivier brings as a director is something very new and fresh,” says Statham. “A lot of the editing and techniques that he uses in putting these sequences together are extremely different to what we did in the first two. It’s incredibly effective.”
Instrumental to the fight scenes was the signature choreography of Cory Yuen, who worked with Jet Li and Jackie Chan before moving west to choreograph LETHAL WEAPON 4, X-MEN, TRANSPORTER 1 & 2, and KISS OF THE DRAGON. “Cory is just so crucial to the success of these films,” avows Statham. “What he has to offer I’ve not seen in ten years of doing what I’ve been doing. He’s so driven by character and personality, and he gets involved to such a great degree. If you give him a location a couple of weeks before you shoot the scene, he can come up with something incredibly creative. I have the utmost respect for the guy.”
Due to the unique demands of Yuen’s choreography, the production had to launch an extensive search for capable stuntmen. “A lot of the time, people want to go with someone who has a visual look rather than a physical skill,” explains Statham. “With this film we absolutely needed both. Fighting an untrained stuntman becomes very, very difficult. The fight sequence itself is all about timing, rhythm and reaction, and you have to have experienced stuntmen to pull it off.”
TRANSPORTER 3’s many driving stunts brought two other experts into play: Rémi Julienne and his son Michel, whose credits include six Bond movies, most of Belmondo's pictures and, more recently, THE DA VINCI CODE. “With Michel, our aim was to be as innovative as possible and not use anything he’d already done on previous movies,” Megaton reports. “All the car chases were filmed at real speed, without models, to capture the pace and feel of reality.” Unlike most modern action movies, CGI was used as sparingly as possible, with most stunts being performed on set. “That's where you have to come up with new ideas,” adds Megaton. “How do you jump a car onto a train without it smashing up? How do you slide it down the side of truck? Every day was a different challenge and most of the solutions were dreamed up on the spot. That's what made the shoot so exciting and such fun.”
As in the first two installments of the franchise, TRANSPORTER 3 reunites Frank with François Berléand’s Tarconi, the French policeman who bends the law in order to provide key assistance to Frank. The only French actor in the cast, Berléand is candid about his pleasure at being reunited with his British co-star – “We fall into each other's arms every time” – and about thestress the bilingual role causes him. “The first few days are hard work because my English is very poor,” admits the actor. “You don't act the same way in English as in French. You don't accentuate the same words. That means I have to work with a coach, and it's one of the few times I actually feel nervous on a movie set.”
Alongside Berléand are two newcomers to the series. Robert Knepper, known to audiences around the world as T-Bag in “Prison Break,” plays Johnson, the government official who blackmails Frank into the transport job. “The character’s complexity really interested me,” says Knepper. “I think Johnson’s strangely patriotic and he really believes in his mind that he's doing something – the government's dirty work – for the good of his country and the world. He’s sophisticated and very elegant. He would much rather sit down and have a discussion about an 18th century book than he would pull out a gun and kill you. It was a lot of fun playing those opposites.”
“The amazing thing about Robert Knepper,” says Megaton, “is that, besides his obvious charisma, he has a very precise way of talking and moving. When you're lucky enough to work with an actor of his caliber, every detail comes into play. He built every possible mannerism into his character to create this astonishingly unnerving guy.”
“Robert is a tremendous, intense actor,” adds Statham. “He just raised the bar for us all and changed the stakes of the film by making Johnson such a formidable bad guy.”
The challenges posed by the role culminated during the filming of the explosive final showdown between Frank and Johnson. “When I read the final fight scene the first time, I thought, ‘Oh my God, it just keeps going on and on and on,’” laughs Knepper. “I really wanted to make sure that, in the fight, Frank met his match, that possibly in this film Frank could be killed. I had studied Tai Chi a few years ago and I remember that it was based on animal imagery, and I kept thinking of the preying mantis, how it walks and then scurries and attacks.”
The scene took two full days to shoot. “It was exhausting,” recalls Knepper. “We both got banged up pretty well in that fight. But it's also exhilarating because you really do feel like you're at the Olympics. It just goes on and on and on. You find this reserve inside of you of energy, and you go back and you do it again and again.”
Making her film debut, Natalya Rudakova provides a welcome feminine spark in the otherwise exclusively male world of TRANSPORTER 3 as Valentina, Frank’s “cargo,” and eventually, his love interest. Rudakova’s personal journey to the screen has the aura of a classic Hollywood rags-to-riches story. The Russian-born hairdresser had no aspirations to be an actress until she was spotted one day by Luc Besson as she was crossing a Manhattan street. “He asked me to try some acting lessons. I did and those turned out well,” she remembers. “Then I had an audition. It was the first time I was in front of a camera. My whole body was shaking.”
Megaton was charmed by Rudakova’s freshness and energy, qualities he felt were crucial for the role of Valentina. “Working with Natalya was great because it was her first experience making any kind of film,” says the director. “She was very naïve, but also very generous, and that quality comes across on screen. Valentina is the complete opposite of Frank, who is so self-controlled. She lives for the moment.”
“Valentina loves life,” adds Rudakova. “She's really crazy like a lot of modern young girls. As the only female character in the movie, she brings spontaneity and spice to the picture. She's a real volcano.”
Now that TRANSPORTER 3 is completed, Statham and the filmmakers look forward to audiences’ reactions to the series’ new direction. “I think we ended up doing something as good and as original as the first TRANSPORTER film,” says Megaton.
“There’s definitely something new here,” says Statham. “There’s the romance. It has a new kind of flair, a new polish. It’s definitely a new tempo. Now it’s up to the fans to see what they think.”
ABOUT THE CAST
Born in Sydenham, England, JASON STATHAM(Frank Martin) got into the film business when Guy Ritchie cast him in the indie flick LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS. Ritchie next put Statham in SNATCH starring alongside Brad Pitt and Benicio Del Toro. Up next came TURN IT UP with US music star Ja Rule, followed by a role in the sci-fi film GHOSTS OF MARS and Jet Li's THE ONE.
In 2002, he was cast by Luc Besson in the title role of Frank Martin in THE TRANSPORTER. He starred as Handsome Rob in the summer 2003 blockbuster THE ITALIAN JOB with Charlize Theron and Mark Wahlberg. Statham put his driving gloves back on in 2005 for the sequel TRANSPORTER 2 and in 2006 the he was seen as the adrenaline-compromised action hero of CRANK.
In 2008 Statham was seen in the highly acclaimed film THE BANK JOB directed by Roger Donaldson. The film is based on the true story of the 1971 Baker Street bank robbery. The film opened top at the box office in the US and the UK. That summer Statham starred in DEATHRACE with Joan Allen and Ian McShane. Other film credits include WAR with Jet Li, REVOLVER, LONDON and COLLATERAL. The sequel CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE is slated to be released next year.
Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, NATALYA RUDAKOVA (Valentina)always had an eye for the arts. Since the early onset of childhood she attended drawing and acting class, but during the difficult times of the Soviet Union, her classes came to an end. Fortunately, her mother made it a Sunday routine to take Natalya to the theater, where she was forever bitten by the acting bug. At the age of 17, Natalya’s mother decided to relocate her to New York.
Natalya never dreamed of being an actress until she met accomplished screenwriter Luc Besson, co-writer of THE TRANSPORTER franchise while walking home from work as a hairdresser in the streets of New York. Besson suggested she take acting classes and everyone including herself realized she had great potential. Not knowing that Besson had a character in mind for Natalya, she began to take acting seriously and he asked her to audition in Paris for her role in TRANSPORTER 3. This was her first trip to Paris and she landed the part in the film a week later.
Natalya currently resides in New York.
When ROBERT KNEPPER(Johnson) performs, he does so with such love for and dedication to his art that audiences find him irresistible, even when he is portraying man at his most vile. It’s not the effort that captures the audience; it’s the pure and utterly believable result Knepper creates. Even Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell, the dastardly villain of the award-winning “Prison Break” is a three-dimensional human in this actor’s gifted hands.
Knepper owes his first interest in acting to his mother, who worked in the props department of a community theatre in Fremont, Ohio. This early exposure to the theatre arts led to parts in high school plays, to the drama department at Northwestern University, and finally to New York, where he landed roles in SALOME, LAKE NO BOTTOM, ROMEO & JULIET and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.
Moving west to pursue film work, Knepper’s most recent films include HITMAN, GOODNIGHT & GOOD LUCK, HOSTAGE, SPECIES III and THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. He also starred in the acclaimed series CARNIVALE and won rave reviews for his portrayal of Bobby Kennedy in JACKIE, ETHEL, JOAN: THE WOMEN OF CAMELOT.
He currently resides in Los Angeles.
JEREON AART KRABBÉ (Leonid Vasilev) is a Dutch actor and film director who has appeared in many Dutch and international films.
Krabbé was born in 1944 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, the son of Margreet (nee Reiss), a film translator, and Maarten Krabbé, a painter. Born into an artistic family, he first came to prominence in fellow Dutch countryman Paul Verhoeven's films SOLIDER OF ORANGE opposite Rutger Hauer and THE FOURTH MAN with Renée Soutendijk.
His first big American film was the Whoopi Goldberg comedy JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH. However, it is as the 'bad guy' in a string of international films from the late 1980s which brought him international stardom, with notable films being NO MERCY (1986), the James Bond film THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987), THE PUNISHER (1989), and THE FUGITIVE (1993). He has also appeared in PRINCE OF TIDES, KAFKA, ROBIN HOOD and IMMORTAL BELOVED; numerous TV productions, and as ‘Satan’ in the TV production “Jesus.”
He has also been both director and producer recently with a film about Orthodox Jews during the 1970s in Antwerp (Flanders) co-starring Isabella Rossellini, and Maximilian Schell called LEFT LUGGAGE (1998) and the Harry Mulisch novel adapted into film THE DISCOVER OF HEAVEN.
Apart from acting and directing he is an accomplished artist (his paintings have graced Dutch postal stamps) and co-authored a Dutch cookbook. In November 2004 he released the book Schilder, which is an overview of his paintings.
Krabbé has three sons Martijn, Jasper and Jacob.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
OLIVIER MEGATON (Director)takes his name from his birthday: the 6th of August 1965 is the 20th anniversary of the dropping of the Hiroshima A-bomb.
Painter Olivier Megaton was one of the pioneers of the graffiti movement, distinguishing himself by his realist portraits of cultural icons such as Mao, Jimmy Hendrix, Nelson Mandela and the Mona Lisa.
He then decided to do some formal art training and his work began to appear on the wall of art galleries rather than city streets. Jean-Baptiste Mondino encouraged him to take up movies in the nineties.
Following Mondino’s advice, Megaton wrote the screenplay of his first short film NO WAY, OU LE COEUR DU PHOENIX, which received funding from the CNC. Completed in 1991, the film went on to win several prizes at film festivals. Fourteen other shorts were to follow, including most recently ANGIE (2007).
At the same time, he made documentaries for the Georges Pompidou Center and another one for the ARTE TV. His first novel Le Facteur humain (The Human Factor) was also published in 1998. EXIT, shot in 1999, is his first feature. He then completed his adaptation of Maurice Dantec’s novel THE RED SIREN in 2002. In 2007, he directed the Second Unit of HITMAN with Timothy Olyphant.
Megaton has also directed more than eighty music videos and commercials.