Scholars tackle soaraway success of Jason Statham

Leeds Beckett University researchers are to publish a book exploring how the unheralded British actor became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars

December 21, 2017
Jason Statham in car in Palm Beach
Source: Alamy

As the “hard man” hero of Hollywood action films, Jason Statham has always been more of a fan favourite than a critics’ darling.

However, this may soon change thanks to a new academic appraisal of the British actor’s films, which will also explore his influence on popular culture and how he has helped to redefine the idea of British masculinity.

The book, which is due to be published by Manchester University Press next year, is being edited by Leeds Beckett University academics Steven Gerrard and Robert Shail.

The publication is likely to prove popular with the Stath’s fanbase, who have followed his career from the 1999 Guy Ritchie comedy Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels to the Transporter and Mechanic series, as well as his recent roles in The Expendables and The Fast and the Furious franchise. Overall, his films have grossed more than $1.5 billion (£1.1 billion) and he will next star in The Meg, a $150 million blockbuster in which he will battle a giant, super-intelligent shark.

“He isn’t the best actor in the world, but he does what he does well,” Dr Gerrard, from Leeds Beckett’s Northern Film School, told Times Higher Education, describing Mr Statham as “Britain’s most bankable box office star”.

Dr Gerrard explained that chapters will look at Mr Statham’s acting style, his performances within the action genre and his work outside cinema, including pop videos and video games. However, he is particularly keen to explore how Mr Statham – a shaven-headed ex-model and former competitive diver – has come to represent a “new idea of British masculinity”.

“The whole ‘point’ of the book is not just to show the changing face of British cinematic masculinity – he falls into the same category as [Michael] Caine, [Sean] Connery, Stanley Baker and Terence Stamp – but also how ‘Statham’ has become emblematic of a new breed of film star – one that embraces cinema across a wide range of projects, but one that also uses cross-textual media in his output,” said Dr Gerrard.

Dr Gerrard agreed that while Mr Statham did not have the range of many celebrated British screen actors, his talents had gone unappreciated by critics.

“This is the crux of the book – we want to showcase his versatility, his appeal and the way that he ‘fits’ into ideas of British, national, international and global appeal,” said Dr Gerrard.

“We really want to celebrate Statham – it sounds a tad odd, but all the contributors recognise his limitations but celebrate them and him,” he continued, saying that he “genuinely believes that Statham is a terrific screen presence, knowing and with a nod and a wink to his audience, and one that begins to open up new ideas about stardom on a global scale”.

Dr Gerrard added: “How can we not be enthused to see the mighty Jason Statham battle a 5-million-year-old killer shark in his next movie? We'd be mad not to.”

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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