It’s not too unusual for some of Hollywood’s biggest action stars to have a history in athletics, with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson having played American football for Miami Hurricanes and Arnold Schwarzenegger almost as famous for his bodybuilding past. Though, particularly for these tough, muscly individuals, athletic interests don’t seem to go much further than American Football or wrestling, a truth that is questioned by gruff English action star Jason Statham.
Having made a name for himself as one of Hollywood’s most bombastic action heroes due to appearances in the Transporter series, alongside Crank and the early films of Guy Ritchie, Statham has seen a sudden rise in popularity since the start of the millennium. It was whilst working as a model for French Connection that he was introduced to the young, budding filmmaker Guy Ritchie in the search for someone to fill the role of a ‘street-wise con artist’ in his debut film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Ritchie’s film would go on to be a milestone in crime, drama filmmaking, encouraging a whole sub-genre of British action films that focused on street-wise criminals as opposed to high-rolling businessmen. Currently sitting at number 152 of IMDB’s top-rated films of all time, Lock, Stock was a crucial film in Statham’s rise to prominence, appearing alongside fellow debutant and former professional footballer Vinnie Jones.
In fact, Jones and Statham had grown up together in their youth in Norfolk, where the two played football together, with the latter sharing his love of the beautiful game with his newfound passion for diving. Diving was more than just a hobby for Statham, however, practising his technique daily until he joined Britain’s National Swimming Squad and even competed for England at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in the 10-metre, three-metre, and one-metre competitions. Speaking to IGN in 2003 about his time in the team, Statham commented that his time with the national team was “a great experience” and one that “teaches you discipline, focus, and certainly keeps you out of trouble”.
Despite him reaching the top of the Hollywood pyramid, it seems as though Statham was pretty disappointed never to reach the heights of the professional sport, noting in an interview with the Press Association, “It’s a bit of a sore point I never got to the Olympics”. Continuing, the actor commented on the attraction of the sport: “I just heard they got seven million or something for the diving per year. They deserve it. The divers we’ve got now are just terrific”.
“I started too late. It probably wasn’t my thing. I should have done a different sport,” Statham admits, though his legacy in the sport certainly makes him an interesting figure and explains the actor’s athletic figure. For an eclectic actor who often draws from comedy roots, his past achievements in diving feel like the perfect backstory for the much-loved actor.
Take a look at footage of Jason Statham competing at the Commonwealth Games below.