Since his breakout role in 1998’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Jason Statham has paved one hell of a career. Roles in The Transporter and Crank, for example, made him this century’s definitive action star, while a recurring part in The Expendables showed that he can hold his own against the genre’s biggest names. But still, there’s probably a lot you don’t know about the man behind the legend – so let us fill you in…
20. His parents are pretty showbiz too
If you told us that Stath had been born into a family of weightlifters or ninjas, we’d almost believe you – but, in fact, the truth is actually a lot more entertaining. Dad Barry and mom Eileen are actually no strangers to the spotlight themselves, having been a lounge singer and a dancer respectively. A young Statham, meanwhile, even played drums in a band with his dad and older brother Lee.
19. He could have been an Olympian
Years before he made it big in Hollywood, Statham was actually an incredibly accomplished diver. That’s right: after watching a man high dive while vacationing in Florida, Statham was inspired to take up the sport professionally at the age of 15. And he wasn’t bad at it, either, going on to represent the U.K. at the 1990 Commonwealth Games. He was so good, in fact, that he was once ranked the 12th best on the planet in the discipline.
18. He once made a living dancing in his underwear
Almost all actors take embarrassing roles in their early days, and Statham is no exception. After his diving career ended, the future star appeared as a dancer in music videos for a couple of ’90s bands. Undoubtedly, our favorite has to be his role in The Shamen’s “Comin’ On” promo from 1993, which sees him awkwardly prancing about in a conspicuously tight-fitting pair of leopard-print briefs.
17. But he also wore rather more clothing as a male model
On top of his, well, eye-opening appearances in ’90s videos, Statham also supplemented his income by working as a model. To this end, he appeared on the catwalk at a 1996 Paris fashion show, and he can also be seen modeling Adidas and Helly Hansen clothing in British retail outlet Littlewoods’ 1999 spring/summer catalog.
16. He used to flog some less than legit goods in London
After giving up on his diving dream, Statham spent his pre-fame days outside Harrods in London where he worked as an unlicensed vendor of counterfeit perfume and jewelery. “We didn’t tell [customers] what it was,” he would later explain at the Toronto International Film Festival. “It was up to their own assumptions.”
15. And his street vendor job led to his big break
One of Statham’s customers during his time as a vendor was film director Guy Ritchie. And although Ritchie himself had been ripped off, he was nevertheless impressed by Statham’s grift and cast the future star in his first big role as con man Bacon in 1998’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. “I will always be grateful to Guy Ritchie,” Statham told the BBC in 2012. “He offered me that part and changed my life.”
14. He was cast alongside a childhood buddy in Lock, Stock…
But Lock, Stock… wasn’t just Statham’s first big role; it was also the breakout performance of former soccer player-turned-actor Vinnie Jones. And although they were on different sides of warring factions in the movie, Statham and Jones actually grew up together and were firm friends in real life. Plus, the pals would go on to appear together in later films like Snatch and Mean Machine.
13. He was once the face of Kit Kat
Statham’s acting skills haven’t just been reserved for the big screen, though. For one, he briefly plied his trade in a 2003 series of commercials for Kit Kat chocolate, in which he outlined the benefits of taking a break. Six years previously, however, he had also showed up in a bizarre TV spot for Lee Jeans – which saw him strip off in outer space, of all things.
12. And you might hear his voice in one of your favorite games
Statham’s speaking voice is unmistakable, so it’s perhaps not surprising that game developers have tapped him to give their vehicles a bit of star power. In 2003, for example, he voiced Sgt. Waters in the original Call of Duty game. And the previous year, he had lent his dulcet tones to Red Faction II’s Shrike.
11. This Transporter star wasn’t always a whizz with cars
In 2002 Statham was cast in The Transporter as Frank Martin – a mob driver with incredible skills behind the wheel. However, in contrast to his character – with his effortless motoring ability – Statham has proven somewhat less accomplished. In fact, he’d failed his driving test at least a couple of times previously. And so it’s not surprising that Stratham had to take lessons with British Formula 1 racer Damon Hill in order to perfect his technique for 2003’s The Italian Job.
10. He’s not afraid of being his own stuntman
In keeping with his tough guy persona, Statham takes a hands-on approach to action scenes and even regularly insists on doing his own stunts. And during a 2015 interview with The Guardian, he had some scathing words for actors who let their doubles do all the dirty work. “You slip on the cape and you put on the tights and you become a superhero? They’re not doing anything,” he remarked. “They’re just sitting in their trailer. It’s absolutely, 100 per cent created by stunt doubles and green screen. How can I get excited about that?”
9. He could have died during a dangerous Crank scene
Indeed, some of Stath’s stunts have been pretty hair-raising – especially the airborne fight scene that closes 2006’s Crank. Incredibly, the actor was actually hung out of a helicopter as it climbed to 2,000 feet above sea level, with only a thin cable keeping him from falling to his death. Statham later reasoned that such a stunt would’ve looked unrealistic if filmed on green screen.
8. And he almost died while filming The Expendables 3
Although Statham has survived many a sticky situation unscathed, the actor almost lost his life while filming a stunt for The Expendables 3. According to his co-star Sylvester Stallone, Statham had to jump from a vehicle that had plummeted into the Black Sea after its brakes had unexpectedly failed. Luckily, though, his strong diving skills helped him swim to safety.
7. His Death Race training regime was insane
In addition to putting his life on the line for his work, Statham also isn’t averse to pushing his body to the absolute limit in preparation for a film. Case in point: for his leading role in 2008’s Death Race, he hit the gym six days out of seven. Not only that, but he also shed close to 20 pounds of fat in just a month and a half. Yikes.
6. He has an unusual way of relaxing
Statham has shown off some impressive fighting abilities throughout his movies, and perhaps unsurprisingly the actor loves to brush up on his martial arts skills in between roles, too. In particular, he’s partial to jiu jitsu and kickboxing – and, as Men’s Fitness has quoted him as saying, he uses them to “bring a bit of peace” to his hectic life. Well, whatever floats your boat…
5. But he’s also a fan of a rather more intellectual pursuit, too
There’s yet another muscle Statham enjoys giving a workout: his brain. In fact, the star has a surprisingly keen interest in chess. During the filming of 2005’s Revolver, for example, he and director Guy Ritchie would indulge their inner Bobby Fischers and battle it out over the tiled board. Reportedly, these matches usually ended with Statham as victor.
4. He might not be welcome at Hugh Hefner’s house any more
He may have won over Rosie Huntington-Whiteley with his charm and charisma, but Statham isn’t always as well-received wherever he goes. For instance, in 2008 the star was invited to the Playboy mansion – only to be reportedly kicked out after he refused to be snapped there. Well, he was off the clock after all…
3. He’s made millions from house flipping
Realty is a big business in Hollywood, and Statham has made a very handsome deal from that fact. Indeed, the star’s 2011 purchase of a $7.3 million, six-bedroom home in Los Angeles saw him turn a $2 million profit when he resold it to Big Bang Theory star Johnny Galecki for $9.2 million four years later. Nice.
2. Statham’s a comic book star – sort of
While his comments on superhero actors and their reliance on CGI may not see him cast in Marvel films anytime soon, Statham still managed to receive a prestigious honor from the comic company in the early ’00s. For the Ultimate Marvel series, artist Mark Bagley based his design of Spider-Man nemesis Vulture on Stath himself. Backhanded though it may be, it’s still quite a compliment.
1. And he’s won an award as prestigious as any Oscar
Having risen through Hollywood to become one of cinema’s biggest stars, Jason Statham is an undeniable legend. However, perhaps his greatest accomplishment to date came in 2014, when he was inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame for his work in movies, diving and mixed martial arts. “It really is something special,” the humbled star said as he collected the award.