By now it’s a cliché: the Hollywood Heavy who’s humble and down-to earth, but when Working Author got to catch up with Taylor Hackford after roundtables at the recent LA press day for Parker, the celebrated director of such staple films as Ray and An Officer and a Gentleman was surprisingly relaxed.  His latest effort, a crime thriller adapted from the international best-selling novelist Donald E. Westlake, reflects an unflinchingly realistic aesthetic. As could have been expected, the man behind the lense did not mince words.

“He’s not someone who you want to have cocktails with.” Hackford said of the film’s protagonist, the legendary heister character who first debuted in print in 1962. Hackford went on to discuss his modernized take on him, starting with what he felt led to the character’s enduring appeal. Calling Parker “an unapologetic criminal,” Hackford added,“At the same time, this guy’s got integrity,” explaining, “In a world where integrity’s gone flown right out the window…what you sense with Parker is ‘I am who I am, you like me or don’t like me.'” Hackford concluded that there was “something admirable” about him, although, “He’s not a hero.”

The film marks the first on-screen adaptation of the character in more than 15 years and the first time ever the Westlake estate has allowed a film to use the character’s original name. Hackford elaborated on the American “fascination” with the crime genre, saying “There are these great stories about…the underbelly…that world. We’re fascinated a bit by it.”

Working Author asked about the taut crime piece’s unfiltered sense of realism. Hackford responded by saying, “I always try do that in my films. I’m not a great fantacist…I think that you can be real and still be very entertaining.”

One of the last questions Working Author posed was in regard to the film’s subtle message about the disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Hackford agreed, “Yeah, I think I always make films about working class people. I always make films about people who don’t have it. They weren’t born into it. They don’t have it, and they’ve got to struggle to get it. Those are the people that interest me…. That’s where I’m from.” He added, “That process of that world is what informs my ambition in my life.”

Parker, starring Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, and Michael Chiklis opens Friday, January 25, 2013.