5 Action Heroes of Jason Statham Perfectly Explain His Entire Career

5 Acting Heroes of Jason Statham Perfectly Explain His Entire Career

Jason Statham smiling and Clint Eastwood as The Man with No Name

SUMMARY

  • Jason Statham’s acting heroes are Sylvester Stallone, Paul Newman, Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen, and Clint Eastwood, who all influenced his onscreen persona.
  • Statham’s action-packed films reflect the stoic screen presences of many of his idols and a preference for action over words.
  • Paul Newman’s charisma and charm also inspired Statham, who admires the late actor’s versatile career and has seen many of his movies repeatedly.

Jason Statham once revealed his five biggest acting heroes, and it’s interesting to note how each one influenced his onscreen persona. Statham had appeared in several music videos but essentially had no acting experience before his debut in 1998’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The success of Guy Ritchie’s dark comedy made it seem like the actor’s future lay in British gangster fare, but following Statham’s first action role in 2001’s Ghosts of Mars, he took a hard swerve into action movies.

Jason Statham action movies are now a staple of any genre fan’s diet, thanks to movies like The Transporter, The Expendables and 2024’s The Beekeeper. He has occasionally stretched himself with a comedy (Spy) or drama (Hummingbird), but he knows what his fans want to see him doing; punching people and delivering pithy one-liners afterwards. The box-office success of Statham’s Beekeeper shows this formula is working, as he’s still a major star over 25 years after his debut.

Jason Statham’s 5 Acting Heroes Explained

The acting ingredients that made Jason Statham an action icon

  • Sylvester Stallone as Barney from The Expendables 4 with Jason Statham in The Beekeeper poster collage
  • Paul Newman's 10 Best Movies, Ranked
  • Bruce Lee's hall of mirror scene in Enter the Dragon (1973)
  • Clint Eastwood 's characters from Gran Torino and The Outlaw Josie Wales
  • (Steve-McQueen-as-Hilts-'The-Cooler-King')-from-The-Great-Escape-&-(Steve-McQueen-as-Michael-Delaney)-from-Le-Mans

The early 2010s were a busy period for Statham, where he fronted the likes of Safe and Parker. In a Men’s Journal interview to promote the latter, Statham opened up about his career up to that point and named his acting influences. He revealed that – for better or worse – he’d never taken an acting lesson in his life, and was honored when Sylvester Stallone handed him the script for 2013’s Homefront, which Sly himself had once intended to star in.

Statham also named his acting heroes, who are Sylvester Stallone, Paul Newman, Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood. Stallone is the only person on that list Statham has worked with, in all four ExpendablesHomefront and the upcoming Levon’s Trade. There is a certain commonality between most of Statham’s idols; for instance, Eastwood, Stallone and McQueen are all known for their stoic screen presences and preference for action over words.

How Jason Statham’s Movies & Performances Reflect His Acting Heroes

How Statham’s heroes inspired his performances

Jason-Statham-as-Phil-Broker-from-Homefront-and-Jason-Statham-as-Jonas-Taylor-from-The-Meg

Custom image by Yeider Chacon

Bruce Lee

Statham has often stated his love for Bruce Lee and how much Enter the Dragon inspired him at an early age. Speaking with Rotten Tomatoes in 2008, he said the 1973 martial arts classic and Lee “… made a massive impact in my life” when he saw it on VHS, and that he’s seen it “countless times.”

Statham’s shirtless fight scene in The Transporter can be seen as a tribute to Lee also. This can be seen in how Statham lets attackers come to him before floors them with vicious strikes and improvised weapons, including bike pedals. More than anything, Lee taught Statham that even stillness can be electrifying onscreen.

Steve McQueen

Probably one of the most stylish leading men ever, Steve McQueen could do a lot with very little. He was the kind of star who pared dialogue down to a minimum, and if something could be conveyed in just a look, then he’d use the look. Statham doesn’t quite have the fashion sense of McQueen in films like The Thomas Crown Affair, though he wears stylish ensembles in the likes of The Transporter or Hobbs & Shaw. Both stars also look great driving sleek cars, with McQueen being an early pioneer of car chases with films like Bullitt.

Clint Eastwood

Just like McQueen, Clint Eastwood is also a master of being stoic onscreen. Eastwood is fully aware of how interesting his face is and likes to draw viewers in by making them wonder what he’s thinking. This isn’t true of every single performance of course, but it’s an established part of his star persona. Statham often borrows this stoic Eastwood technique in movies like The Mechanic, allowing other characters to spout dull exposition on his behalf, while he looks cool and says as little as possible in response.

Paul Newman

Paul Newman feels like an outlier on Jason Statham’s list of acting heroes for several reasons. Newman has no real action movies to his name (with The Towering Inferno being the closest he came), and he feels like more of an influence on actors like Brad Pitt. Going back to Statham’s favorite movies, he selected no less than three Paul Newman movies: Cool Hand LukeThe Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Statham had this to say about the late, great star in Cool Hand Luke.

He just had such charisma. It just really spoke to me, and it’s one of those films I can watch time and time again. Paul Newman! It was like, Oh my God, look at this guy, he’s so cool! It was pretty much the first time I saw Paul Newman and I’ve been hooked on most of his movies ever since.

Newman has had a more varied career than Statham, and branched out to just about every genre imaginable. Still, one thing he and Statham possess in spades is charm. The camera loves them both, and when Jason Statham wants to turn on the charisma, there are definite shades of Newman in the way he can weaponize his smile during a scene.

Sylvester Stallone

Jason Statham may not have the muscles of his screen idol, but he has always understood the importance of sculpting an impressive physique or deploying a well-timed one-liner.

Stallone and Schwarzenegger came to embody a certain era of action cinema, and in Statham, Sly appears to feel he found his successor. This can be seen in the way he passed Homefront to Statham, or how Expendables 4 was designed to pass the franchise reins to the British star. Statham may not have the muscles of his screen idol, but he has always understood the importance of sculpting an impressive physique or deploying a well-timed one-liner. Like Stallone, Jason Statham also constructed a unique brand around himself too, with most of his films following a satisfying, audience-pleasing formula.


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