Jason Statham: The Early Years

What did Jason Statham get up to before he became an action superstar? Hint: it involved quite a lot of metallic body paint...

The other week, a piece of footage hit the internet which sent ripples through the very foundations of our culture. It wasn’t an alternative angle on the Zapruder footage. It didn’t show a well-loved celebrity being debauched in a hotel room. It wasn’t a leak of Star Wars: Episode VIII footage. No, it was the BBC posting a clip of a young Jason Statham diving for England at the 1990 Commonwealth Games.

It took us back to a time when names like Chev Chelios, Frank Martin and Lee Christmas were just twinkles in a screenwriter’s eye. Back to the 90s, when The Stath was merely a diver-turned-male-model, jobbing his way in adverts and music videos. Come with us now on a journey back to The (Very) Early Days Of Jason Statham.

1990 Commonwealth Games

Beneath an unusually full head of hair, a sullen and dejected Statham clumsily disappoints for England at the 1990 Commonwealth Games diving competition in Auckland. The disappointed commentator mutters grumpily, seeing only the failure of a young man’s dreams and not a figure who will soon become the greatest Englishman since Churchill. Viewed in hindsight, this would make an excellent opening reel for an inspiring sports drama, where the present-day, washed-up Statham teaches Tom Daly (in his first acting role) to Olympic gold.

The Shamen – “Comin’ On Strong” (1993)

Novelty acid house act The Shamen were possibly the first to see the great potential of The Stath, casting him as a backing dancer in the video for their 1993 semi-hit “Comin’ On Strong.” Statham is the photographically enlarged monolith sporadically appearing in the background, gyrating around in just his pants. Surprisingly, Statham has never appeared in a barbarian movie, and this video gives us a glimpse of what his Conan would look like (if it was set in an early ’90s Windows screensaver instead of Cimmeria).

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Erasure – “Run To The Sun” (1994)

For a brief period, it looked as though Statham’s true calling may in fact be electropop videos, not action cinema, when he appeared in this promo for new wave duo Erasure’s “Run To The Sun.” In a somewhat Da Vinci inspired video, Statham plays one of the living statues spinning around frontman Andy Bell in front of the Berlin TV Tower, because why not? Pro-wrestler Dave Batista would later cite Statham’s silver body paint as the source of his look in this summer’s Guardians Of The Galaxy.

The Beautiful South – “Dream A Little Dream” (1995)

Jay-Stay makes a brief appearance at 1:35 of this song from the 1995 rom-com French Kiss soundtrack, offering an Anne Heche look-a-like  a piece of chewing gum. Lead singer Jacqui Abbott is romanced by an actor who comes to life from the cinema screen, not realizing that the future biggest star in Hollywood is already in the audience. Hopes that Statham will take on the cinema invader to get the film running again, like Hulk Hogan in Gremlins 2, sadly come to nothing.

Soccer Nation advert (1997)

Remember the mid-90s, when lad culture and Loaded and Oasis and The Big Breakfast were all things to aspire to? The Stath has always had a way with the ladies, stepping out with the likes of Kelly Brook and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. But here he chucks one girl for another, just to get his mitts on a below-par ’90s football game. God knows what he’d have done if someone offered him FIFA 97

Lee Jeans advert (1997)

Gravity was okay, I suppose. A tad overrated really. If only it had starred Statham instead of Sandra Bullock. He wouldn’t have all that nonsense with random Russians and George Clooney hallucinations, he’d have just got it on with his sexy co-pilot and nabbed himself a pair of fresh new jeans. Plus it would have all been over in 60 seconds.

A year later, Guy Ritchie would cast the young Statham in his debut cockney crime flick, and cinema would never be the same again.

This article was originally published in 2014.

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Follow Wil Jones at @achinglychic, and check out his action film zine Kill You Last here.