The actor shoots down his tough image.

Jason Statham swears he is not a tough guy – he just plays one on screen. He tries to convince us of this while talking about his new film, The Expendables 3, in which he plays, well, a professional tough guy.

It is a bit hard to believe him, though.

Yes, the muscles straining against his shirt and that East London-accented rumble suggest that he could probably snap your neck in two if he were so inclined.

The eyes, however, are full of mirth and mischief. We are only halfway through a question about whether the image he has cultivated on screen – whether it is playing a mercenary in all three Expendables films (2010-2014) or a gangster in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels (1998) – ever works against him when meeting people in real life, and the actor is already grinning from ear to ear.

“I don’t know – what do they expect? What, that I’ll just pull out one of my big knives?” he says, chuckling.

“You know the thing about the movies is, it’s the theatre of the mind. We’re not supposed to be those guys, you know? We can’t do what The Expendables can do. We’ve got a few skills up our sleeves and I think we’re physically capable, but there are a lot of things that happen on screen that we only wish we could do.”

The 47-year-old praises his lesser-known co-stars on the film for having the real-world toughness that most actors lack.

“A lot of the people that are hired on this movie are very physical,” he says, pointing to mixed martial arts champions Ronda Rousey, 27, and Randy Couture, 51, and champion boxer Victor Ortiz, 27, who play junior members of the elite group of mercenaries known as The Expendables.

“Ronda Rousey is an incredibly gifted athlete who is something of a phenomenon. There’s never been anyone like her before – for someone to be so feminine and yet so incredibly tough, it’s unique.

“And Randy Couture – he’s won the World Ultimate Fighting Championship several times in different weights. Incredible.

“They have a physicality that’s authentic. And you don’t get to do what they did at drama school, you know? While someone’s learning how to recite Shakespeare, these guys are banging themselves around.”

Yet, as his co-stars – which include action-movie veterans Sylvester Stallone, Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Harrison Ford – tell it, Statham may be just as impressive.

The 47-year-old actor has been dating English model Rosie Huntington Whiteley (who is 20 years younger then him) for four years now. – AFP