In The Meg, British action star Jason Statham takes on a 75ft prehistoric shark in his biggest headline performance yet. To say that I am excited is an understatement as throughout his career Statham’s work has gone from strength to strength. But to get a full grasp of what it means to (hopefully) see the Stath punch a shark square in the nose, it’s worth looking back at the humble beginnings of this ever-rising action star.
Before the Movies
Born in Derbyshire in 1967, Jason Statham learned martial arts early in his life while he should have been helping his dad on the market stools. It was when he hit grammar school that diving became his passion and he went on to compete for Britain’s National Swimming Team for 12 years - including at the 1990 Commonwealth games in the 10, 3 and 1 metre dives. Watch at 1:50min to see a spectacularly painful looking landing!
He was soon picked up by a few modelling agencies and even appeared in early music videos for Erasure and The Beautiful South. It wasn’t until 1998 that a role in the Guy Ritchie Film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels saw him heading in a different career direction.
The British Hardman
With his family background in the markets, Guy Ritchie found a perfect role for Statham in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels as the con artist Bacon, whose group of friends are involved with a British crime lord after losing at a rigged card game. On a budget of £800,000 it ended its box office run with $28.1m worldwide. This helped to launch Guy Ritchie, Jason Statham and Vinnie Jones’ careers. Ritchie happily followed this up with a second collaboration between the three of them, while also adding star power with the likes of Benicio Del Toro and Brad Pitt, in Snatch. This sees Statham’s character Turkish deal with boxing promotion, diamond theft and mob violence. Couple Ritchie’s double bill with an appearance in prison football film Mean Machine and you have a triple threat of British violence, drinking and dark comedy to enjoy.
The Leading Man
With the success of his two movie stint with Guy Ritchie, Statham soon got picked up by Hollywood to become a leading mas, following in the mould of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Sylvester Stallone. Statham fits the bill with his rugged looks, strong man physique and experience in martial arts (he has studied Wing Chun Kung Fu, Karate and Kickboxing). In 2002 he took on the role of Frank Martin in The Transporter which saw him delivering high-price packages to all sorts of unpleasant clients (he did his own stunts on this film, which has become common practice for him). Following that up was Crank, which saw Statham’s character Chev Chelios injected with poison meaning that if his heart rate drops he will die. Now that is a great logline for a movie!
Both The Transporter and Crank became box office successes that saw sequels throughout the 00s and cemented Jason Statham as an action star. With so many cult hits under his belt it was time to hit the big leagues. Statham took on the blockbusters.
The blockbuster battle begins
Statham has been a blockbuster staple since 2010. This started with The Expendables which saw him share screen time with action legends Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren. There’s also his appearance in Furious 7 where he took on the role of villain Deckard Shaw, looking to avenge his brother. He was able to show why he had become such a hot commodity facing off against modern action stars and going toe-to-toe with them with ease. So much so that he was brought back for Fate of the Furious and is rumoured to be starring in a spin-off reuniting his character with that of Dwayne Johnson’s.
With so much action, it was also great to see the lighter side of Jason Statham and show that he isn’t only muscle. In Paul Feig’s Spy he stars opposite Melissa McCarthy as an agent hell bent to prove he is the best in the force. Here, his comedic chops are shown in full force as he delivers straight-faced lines about the incredibly ridiculous things he’s accomplished as a ‘real spy’. If you do one thing today, watch this clip of his character Rick Ford reeling off a list of implausible events he has taken part in as part of his work.
Man V Shark; who wins?
And that brings us to The Meg, a film in which we are promised a fight between one of Britain’s greatest exports and a shark the size of several Double Decker buses. Statham’s career has come full circle as he takes another dive into the water…this time with the dream of box office gold.