For the first time since 1997’s Payback, Donald E. Westlake’s legendary anti-hero returns to the silver screen in Parker, starring Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, and Michael Chiklis and helmed by Oscar-nominated director Taylor Hackford (Ray). Based on the novel “Flashfire, the gritty crime thriller sees Parker (Statham) seek vengeance against a mafia-backed crime crew led by Melander (Chiklis), who tries to kill him to keep his cut from a 1 million dollar joint robbery for their next big job: a 50 million dollar jewel heist. Surviving the attack, Parker tracks the crew to glitzy Palm Beach, where Lopez plays support to him as Leslie, a street-savvy real estate agent who sees Parker as her chance for her first commission. Working Author was invited to the Los Angeles press day at Four Seasons LA where Statham, Chiklis, Hackford, and Micah Hauptman, who plays Melander’s mob-connected crony, were on hand for a round of discussions on their involvement in the film and their takes on its inspiration.

“We committed at the same time,” Hackford said of Statham, in response to whether or not he was presented the project with its star attached. Hackford said he called Lopez up for the role of Leslie, telling her, “She’s not anything like you. She’s not glamorous. On top of the world. Rich and famous. She’s sad…. All of her dreams have not happened.”He added that Lopez said, “I’m in,” appreciating that the character was “real.”  Hauptman and Chiklis pointed to the chemistry between the members of the crime crew, with Hauptman adding, “I think Taylor casts really, really well…people that really make sense for the role.”

Hackford described his goal was to take the inspiration of the novel, “be true to it, and at the same time do it in your own unique way.”

The film’s gritty, realistic action sequences seem part and parcel of this objective. In addition to Hackford’s elaboration on the action sequence between Statham and  Daniel Bernhardt, who plays the mob hitman, Statham weighed in on working opposite Chiklis. “I think that’s why Taylor sort of put us together. The tension would be there. Are they gonna clash? When they’re gonna clash? Who’s gonna win?” He added, “It was good to roll around and sling a punch and get one thrown back,” concluding with a laugh, “fun and games.”

Chiklis, Statham, and Hackford also had high praise for John J. McLaughlin’s screenplay as well as Westlake’s novel in contributing to their decisions to take on the project. Statham said of Westlake’s well-drawn Parker, “You just put the suit on, and away you go.”

Hackford pointed to the book as well as McLaughlin’s “fantastic adaptation,” adding, “he and I got along beautifully.”

Among the other topics of discussion was the enduringly popular and morally questionable Parker character. Considering his own character as an “Id super ego freak”, Chiklis said, “They’re all bad guys. Let’s face it…in a court of law, my guy’s going to the same jail Parker’s going to.” Chiklis called it an interesting aspect of the human condition that we “sometimes look at a villain and go ‘Oh yeah, but he’s doing it because of X.’”

Hauptman agreed that the film was full of “varying degrees of bad.”

Director Taylor Hackford added a different take, saying that, although Parker is an unapologetic criminal operating by a set of rules to ensure his own success, his commitment to those rules is “in our world of compromise…in its own way refreshing.”

Statham offered that Parker does “many bad things, but for the right reasons,” adding, “He has a redeemable quality in him, and we’re forced to try to figure what that is.” Chiklis’, Hackford’s, and Statham’s varied responses suggest that this character has as much to engage audiences now as ever.

Also featuring Nick Nolte, Wendell Pierce, and Clifton Collins Jr., Parker opens this Friday, January 25, 2013.