Who Is Jason Statham?
English action star Jason Statham has convincingly portrayed a host of unsavory, yet oddly endearing, tough guys who can generally be counted on to dish out beat downs and lead car chases while intercutting the action with a well-timed quip. But before he ever stepped foot on a movie set, Statham’s life was just as colorful as the characters he’s played onscreen. From being an Olympic diver to fashion model to even having a side gig in the black market, Statham amassed a unique set of skills that perfectly positioned him to be an action star.
Background and Early Career
Jason Statham was born on July 26, 1967 in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, to Eileen and Barry Statham. He had an older brother named Lee and both took interest in martial arts. But Statham had other athletic passions, one of which was diving, and he began working on those skills, eventually becoming a part of the British Olympic Team that traveled to Seoul, Korea in 1988. After the Olympics, he continued as a member of the National Diving Squad for the next decade. However, after some disappointing finishes at the World Championships and Olympic trials, he decided to focus on the next chapter of his career.
A few years later, his athletic build caught the eye of a talent agent and landed Statham a gig in an ad campaign for the European clothing retailer French Connection. An appearance in a Levi's Jeans commercial and work for Hilfiger followed and soon Statham had a modeling career. This helped him land jobs as a background dancer in early '90s music videos like The Shamen's "Comin' On" and Erasure's "Run to the Sun."
‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’
Statham once worked as a con artist, selling fake perfume and stolen jewelry on the streets.
"That was street theater," Statham said in a 2007 interview with the Chicago Tribune. "You work with a team — some people in the crowd, some guys who stand lookout for the police."
And that’s how he met filmmaker Guy Ritchie, who was fascinated by Statham's past. Ritchie invited him to audition for a part in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. "Guy had written a character that was the same as me,” Statham said in an interview with Esquire magazine. “And he said, 'I love it. Give me some of the patter.' At the time, I had loads of it. And he was fascinated with that, and he just wanted someone who was authentic.”
So even though Statham had no acting experience or training, Richie cast him as Bacon, a central character who was attempting to make easy money to repay a huge gambling debt.
In his next crime comedy, Snatch (2000), Richie brought Statham on again, this time as a petty criminal named Turkish who tries to make a name for himself in underground boxing. Although the role was originally a minor one — with headline-name actors including Brad Pitt and Benicio Del Toro, front and center — Statham's role evolved substantially, and he became an unforgettable anti-hero.
'The Transporter,' 'Crank,' 'The Mechanic,' & 'The Expendables'
Luc Besson then cast Statham in the titular role of 2002’s The Transporter, about a driver-for-hire— willing to deliver anything as long as the price is right — until he gets involved in the kidnapping of a young woman who has ties to a dangerous drug ring. The film was a huge hit, which established Statham as an action hero and spawned a sequel in 2005. Statham has also starred in the films Crank and its sequel, as well as The Mechanic and its 2016 sequel. In 2010 he joined the Sylvester Stallone and an all-star cast for The Expendables, The Expendables 2 (2012) and The Expendables 3 (2014).
'The Fast and the Furious' Franchise and 'Hobbs & Shaw'
In 2013, Statham joined an already established action franchise, The Fast and the Furious 6 and in 2017, reprised his role in its eighth installment, The Fate of the Furious. He later paired with his erstwhile screen nemesis Dwayne Johnson for the launch of the spinoff Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw in 2019.
A Comic Turn in ‘Spy’
In the 2015 comedy ‘Spy,’ written and directed by Paul Feig, and starring Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law and Rose Byrne, Statham stands out as an anti-James Bond. Though Feig wrote the part of surly agent Rick Ford with Statham in mind, he told Forbes.com he never thought he would accept the role. Staham concedes that he had some hesitation about it. “You never know what you’re getting into with a comedy,” Statham said in an interview with Variety. “But it helps to have a great director and Paul Feig is the Scorsese of comedy films.” Statham is set to reprise his role in the upcoming sequel, Spy 2.
In August 2018, Statham was back in theaters as the star of the sci-fi horror film The Meg, about a 75-foot prehistoric shark that terrorizes a submarine crew. Expected to flop, the film instead proved a surprising hit, taking in $44.5 million at the North American box office and another $97 million overseas during its opening weekend.
Since 1998 Statham has made more than 40 films, almost all of them in the action genre. Yet unlike many action stars, Statham is known for performing the vast majority his stunts. He has also advocated for having stunt performers be included at the Oscars with a designated category.
Statham and supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley began dating in 2011, and together, had a son, Jack Oscar, in 2017. The couple got engaged in 2016.
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