It seems fitting that Jason Statham is the hero in a movie facing off against an underwater monster. Last time he faced off against aquatic beasts, he was in the 1990 Commonwealth Game finals over in West Auckland. Now back in New Zealand once again, he filmed scenes for his new movie The Meg, a movie about a long extinct Megalodon coming back and terrorising beach goers and ships alike.
Jason is more than comfortable in the water, and he brought this to his performance. In the interview he tells us about his time working in the water, one of the most demanding places actors have to give performances, as well as working with an international cast and crew on the American/Chinese co-production.
What drew you to The Meg?
The first thing I consider when reading a script is whether I can do justice to the role. The Meg played to my fascination with the underwater world and to my love of scuba diving. So, it was very appealing to me – and a nice change of pace. It’s probably the first movie I’ve done in a while where I’m not running around with a gun (laughs).
I love scuba diving, and because there was so much underwater work, I knew I could do justice to this role. And it came with some nice perks: during some time off from production of The Meg, I went diving in Fiji and hand-fed some bull sharks. That was the pinnacle of my scuba experiences over the past ten years.
I dive recreationally. Whenever I am near open water and have the time, I try to stick on the mask and fins. It’s incredibly peaceful, especially when you’ve reached the point where you can become comfortable underwater. You can get fingertip close to creatures you’d never see anywhere else. As you become more experienced, you begin looking for dangerous elements – like sharks.
Scuba diving requires a fair amount of discipline, concentration, and confidence. Filming underwater sequences can be very tricky, and my experience as a scuba diver continues to be a big help in these situations. I learned to scuba dive many years ago, when I filmed The Transporter. My progression towards scuba certification was unorthodox because I learned to dive in a cave. My instructor back then was a tough military type, who was a bit “off book”— sometimes he’d rip my mask off, with no warning. It was an intense few weeks, but it really got me hooked. I’ve always been into movies about the water, and fascinated by the world of free diving, which I was introduced to by watching the film The Big Blue. It was amazing how those divers could travel six hundred feet underwater on a single breath. It’s phenomenal and seemingly impossible – but they do it.
One of the more challenging water scenes in The Meg must have been when your character Jonas tags the megalodon, who then drags Jonas at high speed across and under the water. What do you remember about filming that scene
When I read that scene in the script, my first thought was, how are they going to film this? We obviously didn’t have a megalodon to work with, so the creative heads were busy planning everything out. I knew that it would be a big popcorn / audience-pleasing moment. We were out in the ocean all day long, and it was very cold. You have to be resilient in doing scenes like that, but I’m always up for the challenge.
What kind of set does director Jon Turteltaub run?
Jon is a real comedian. He is an absolute pleasure to be around because he never takes things too seriously. He has the entire weight of a big movie resting on his shoulders, but he’s always about having a good time on set. We had such a laugh making this movie, and a lot of that was due to Jon.
You are part of a big international cast that represents China, the U.S., the UK, Iceland, New Zealand, Japan and Australia. Did that have any impact on your experience making the film?
In my career, I often work with an international cast and crew, and I have always enjoyed it. It is a proper reflection of society. Working with an international cast, especially with actors from China, is familiar to me. I’ve made many movies with Jet Li, and a lot of the martial arts choreography teams that I worked with throughout my career have been Chinese.