'The Meg': Jason Statham explains how he handles real sharks and his son's dirty diapers
Jason Statham battles a prehistoric giant shark coming back to life in "The Meg." USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES – It's not every day that you see serious action star Jason Statham sliding into a pair of flip-flops. But he explains, begrudgingly, that he has a bone bruise near his small toe, which makes walking around difficult, even for him.
The 51-year-old actor doesn't want to talk about how he hurt himself. "It's a long story," he shrugs. No doubt it pales in comparison to Tom Cruise breaking his ankle while leaping from building to building in "Mission: Impossible – Fallout."
That's OK. Statham shows off the whimsical footwear for his little-toe injury with a slight smile before sitting down to talk at J.W. Marriott Hotel.
"Look at that. That’s a special look," he says admiringly. "If you bruise a bone on your foot, it takes ages to heal. But I'll be good for jumping around in no time."
That's a very good thing. Because Statham is that rare, as in nearing extinction, bankable Hollywood star who can effortlessly mix comedy with believable action for box-office results.
In other words, he's just the kind of guy who can give cred to "The Meg" (in theaters Friday), built around the campy premise of a prehistoric giant shark – the megalodon – returning to wreak water havoc.
"When people hear 'giant shark movie,' they either say, 'I like it,' or roll their eyes," says director Jon Turteltaub. "To make a giant shark movie have cinema quality, you need someone like Jason Statham. He grounds it, making the movie more believable, not more silly."
Statham, a scuba enthusiast and one-time internationally ranked diver, jumped into his research for "The Meg" the way an action star should: by swimming with bull sharks. First, he met a professional diver who lost both an arm and a leg to a bull shark. (Call that Shark Safety Prep 101.) Then Statham entered the water off Fiji to commune with what he says were 25 to 30 bull sharks.
"These things don’t mess about. If they want to get nasty, they get nasty," says Statham, who shares his shark control method. "Take some tuna heads in a nice little bag, and a chain mail glove. And feed them."
He didn't need a course in shark fear. Statham is a major fan of Steven Spielberg's 1975 classic "Jaws," calling it one of the best films ever made. That's all the prep work he really needed to play deep-sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor, who is scarred from his shark battle but goes into the water to fight the Meg anyway.
"Your imagination is where all fear comes from, and I've got a wandering imagination," says Statham. "If I'm on a surfboard and my leg rubs up against some kelp, immediately, it’s not kelp in my head. That's where you have to compose yourself, and be like, 'It’s fine.' "
With most of the filming taking place in shark-free water tanks, Statham never came up against the real predator during filming. The deadly, relentless shark was added digitally in post-production.
Which is fine by Statham, a first-time father who has a 1-year-old son, Jack, with his wife, Victoria's Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. He swears he's doing his diaper-changing research, too, still working on cracking his best time.
"It’s about getting everything laid out first, and then you go at it," says Statham. "I'm a pretty dab hand at it, believe me."
2017's "The Fate of the Furious" showed onscreen just how adorable Statham could be with a little kid. His tough guy Deckard Shaw fought off assassins while protecting a baby on a plane, one of the great comedy moments of the year.
"We had two babies and we did the best we could to keep (them) happy. It's a director's nightmare," says Statham. "You never know what they are going to come up with. But when the baby comes up with gold, it just brings the house down."
Statham also showed enough killer chemistry in the "Furious" franchise with Shaw's screen nemesis, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), to earn the superstar duo their own movie spinoff. "Hobbs & Shaw" starts filming in September for release in 2019.
He gets the appeal of watching Shaw spar with his former foe, whether physically or with insults.
"We have a good oil-and-water vibe going, we're (as different as) chalk and cheese and we’ve only really touched on what we can really get into with these two. We have a lot more room now," says Statham.
The spinoff will feature fellow Brit Idris Elba as the main villain, along with stunt coordinator-turned-director David Leitch (“Deadpool 2,” “Atomic Blonde”).
"We're just covered on this one," says Statham confidently. He gets the trash talking started with an early swipe at Johnson, whose character's name appears first in the title. But not for long.
"By the time this movie is over, I’m going to make sure it's called 'Shaw and Hobbs,' " says Statham.
At the Los Angeles premiere for his latest thriller "The Meg," Jason Statham and co-stars explain their approach to filming the movie's water stunts. (Aug, 7)