Also Credited As:Jason Michael Statham
|Jason Michael Statham on September 12, 1972 in London, England, GB|
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Born on Sept. 12, 1972, Jason Statham grew up in southeast London where he was the second son of a singing father and a dancing mother. He was a streetwise kid but avoided getting into too much trouble, thanks to a keen interest and talent in sports. As a youth, he trained in gymnastics and martial arts, idolizing Bruce Lee before displaying real potential for diving. Statham became an amateur high diver, touring the world and competing for a decade as a member of Britain's National Diving Squad. At the 1992 World Championships, he ranked 12th. But while Statham was exceedingly competitive and hard-working, his sporting talent failed to pay the bills, so he spent his downtime hawking knock-off designer goods on London's busy shopping streets. It was his first successful acting job of sorts, as he quickly learned to engage and charm passersby with his sales pitches. He fell into a more lucrative line of work when a talent scout spotted Statham at a training gym and landed him a modeling contract with both the French Connection clothing line and Levi Strauss & Co.
Statham's big acting break came with an audition for fledgling film director Guy Ritchie. During his call-in for the role of a con artist named Bacon in Ritchie's first feature "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels" (1998), Ritchie asked the untrained actor to impersonate an illegal street vendor and to convince him to buy imitation jewelry. It was a brilliant stroke of luck for Statham, who sold Ritchie four sets of the jewelry and refused to return his money at the end of the audition. "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels" went on to make a sizeable splash in the U.K. as well as U.S. theaters, with critics praising the stylish and quick-witted heist film for its breakout ensemble cast - of which Statham was a standout. Instant friends, Ritchie cast Statham in his follow-up "Snatch" (2000), where the newbie actor played a small-time boxing promoter caught up in a twisting and unpredictable plot involving the mob and a stolen diamond. The director again delivered the fast-paced laughs, unpredictable turns and loads of colorful characters, in addition to augmenting his ensemble with known stars Brad Pitt and Benicio Del Toro, which only helped bring in more American audiences to this distinctly British film.
Hot off his "Snatch" success, Statham was recruited by U.S. filmmakers for a supporting role in the uninspired hip-hop "rise to fame" movie "Turn It Up" (2000) alongside Pras and JaRule. His particular spark was similarly underutilized in John Carpenter's career low point "Ghosts of Mars" (2001) and the moderate sci-fi success "The One" (2001) starring martial arts legend Jet Li. Statham finally took center stage with 2002's "The Transporter" an internationally produced actioner starring Statham as a no-questions-asked delivery man. The film showcased Statham's wily street tough charm and his proficiency with hand-to-hand combat, stunt-driving and even some stunt-diving. "The Transporter" (2002) received mixed reviews but established Statham as a new (and handsome) face in the world of international action films. He followed up with a co-starring role in the successful remake of "The Italian Job" (2003). The stylish, high-profile heist film was an international blockbuster, receiving considerably better critical response than "The Transporter" and boosting Statham's profile with his placement alongside established stars Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron.
The tough guy went full-on villainous to play a kidnapper in the unsuccessful thriller "Cellular" (2004) before reversing his position in "The Transporter 2" (2005) where his deliveryman Frank Martin has to protect a young boy and his family from kidnappers. He re-teamed with Ritchie, this time taking the lead in the director's confusing and poorly reviewed con game "Revolver" (2005), as well as took a stab at straight drama in the likewise panned indie film "London" (2005). He followed up with a pair of starring roles in big budget American films, playing a New York City cop in the crime drama "Chaos" (2006) and helming the entertaining thriller "Crank" (2006) as a man who must keep his heart rate up to prevent a poison injected in his body from killing him. Statham showcased his martial arts skills in "War" (2007), going head-to-head with Jet Li in a box-office flop that enjoyed a considerably larger audience on DVD, before starring in the video game-based fantasy "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale" (2008) which unfortunately failed to find an audience in any format.
In 2008, Statham enjoyed one his biggest film successes in years with "The Bank Job," a British production loosely based on an historic London bank caper from the 1970s. The film proved what the actor was capable of when well-directed in a fresh and fun adventure, and gave audiences high hopes for his summer starring role in "Death Race," a remake of Paul Bartel's cult classic "Death Race 2000" in which Statham plays a top racer in a futuristic car racing circuit for prison inmates. Later in the year Statham hit theaters in "Transporter 3," which found his package deliverer relocating to Paris. From there, he joined the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger for the 1980s-style action hit, "The Expendables" (2010). After voicing Tybalt in "Gnomeo & Juliet" (2011), he played hired assassin Arthur Bishop, who is set up for a hit by his protégé (Ben Foster) in "The Mechanic" (2011), a remake of the classic Charles Bronson-Jan Michael Vincent thriller from 1972. In "Killer Elite" (2011), he was a special ops agent who comes out of self-imposed exile to rescue his mentor (Robert De Niro) in order to take down rogue military assassins threatening a global calamity.
By Susan Clarke