Jason Statham has been kicking butts and taking names on the big screen for nearly two decades. Before he became an actor, Statham was a martial arts practitioner, accomplished diver (he competed for England at the 1990 Commonwealth Games), and a high-profile sports model. His physical prowess and no-nonsense attitude paved the way for his Hollywood debut in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in 1998, which he followed up with another Ritchie team-up for the 2000 crime flick, Snatch.
Statham has gone on to solidify his staying power as an action-centric A-lister by becoming a Hollywood franchise magnet. From taking down hosts of baddies in The Transporter series to, well, also taking down hosts of baddies in The Expendables movies, Statham has demonstrated his chops as an action hero time and time again. Despite his proven abilities on the big screen, not every role was meant to be for Statham. Here are 10 movie roles that Jason Statham turned down or didn’t get.
10Desolation Williams – Ghosts of Mars (2001)
Written and directed by John Carpenter, Ghosts of Mars is about a convicted criminal named James “Desolation” Williams, who teams up with a police squad to fight the possessed citizens of a mining planet. Given Statham’s early credibility as a charming antihero in his two early outings with Ritchie, he was initially considered for the part of Williams.
Ultimately, the film’s producers wanted an actor with a little more star power, so they chose former N.W.A. rapper Ice Cube for the role, who had already starred in Boyz in the Hood, Anaconda, and two Friday movies by this point. Statham, who must’ve still made quite an impression during his audition, was instead cast as Sergeant Jericho Butler in what would become his first foray into the action genre.
9Private Cooper – Dog Soldiers (2002)
While it didn’t do gangbusters at the box office, the soliders-versus-werewolves flick Dog Soldiers became somewhat of a cult classic and was praised by critics and audience members for its fun take on the action horror genre. Statham was initially pegged for the role of Private Cooper, but he pulled out after getting the Ghosts of Mars gig and was eventually replaced by Kevin McKidd. In a 2020 interview with Den of Geek, Dog Soldiers writer and director Neil Marshall discussed why he had been interested in bringing Statham aboard.
“I’d seen him in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and I thought this guy’s got real charisma, he’s going to be a star, he’d be great for Cooper,” Marshall said.
When Statham eventually got offered the Ghosts of Mars role, Marshall ultimately gave Statham his blessing, saying, “You’ve got a chance to go and work with John Carpenter. Go and work with John Carpenter.” Statham followed Marshall’s advice, and went on to become an action icon.
8Agent 47 – Hitman (2007)
Jason Statham may have vied for the main role in Hitman, but it was ultimately Timothy Olyphant who brought the video game assassin known as Agent 47 to the big screen. As it turns out, Statham’s future Fast & Furious co-star (and Hitman executive producer) Vin Diesel was initially cast in the role, but he dropped out to star in the Mathieu Kassovitz-directed sci-fi movie Babylon A.D.
Hitman was universally panned by critics, and even Olyphant himself, who was replaced by Rupert Friend in the 2015 sequel Hitman: Agent 47. So, maybe it was for the best that Statham lost out on the role.
7Thomas Shelby – Peaky Blinders (2013-2022)
It’s hard to imagine anyone else besides Cillian Murphy playing gang leader Thomas Shelby in the BAFTA-winning crime drama series Peaky Blinders. But, showrunner Steven Knight actually nearly cast Jason Statham in the role.
After meeting both actors in Los Angeles, Knight had initially wanted to go with Statham over Murphy, preferring Statham’s edgier appearance. Murphy wasn’t ready to lay down without a fight, though, and he pleaded his case by sending these four words to Knight via text: “Remember, I’m an actor.” The future Oppenheimer star had already proven his ability to take on transformative roles, and Knight eventually saw his point. The rest, as they say, is history.
6Owen Shaw – Fast & Furious Franchise (2013-2017)
With two cameos and four major roles in the Fast & Furious franchise and the co-lead role in the Hobbs and Shaw spin-off, Jason Statham has become a mainstay in the series as ex-M16-turned-mercenary Deckard Shaw. Interestingly enough, Statham almost made his debut in the F&F franchise as Owen Shaw, Deckard’s villainous younger brother.
Owen Shaw first appears on-screen in Fast & Furious 6 as the leader of a group of mercenaries bent on stealing high-tech devices to sell on the black market. While Statham and Dr. Who star David Tennant were initially considered for the role, Welsh actor Luke Evans eventually scored the part and turned in one of his best performances. Evans reprised Owen Shaw via cameo roles in Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious, while Statham made his first F&F appearance through a cameo of his own, appearing in an end-credits scene in the sixth installment as Owen’s vengeful kin.
5Frank Martin – The Transporter Refueled (2015)
Despite seeing massive success as Frank Martin in the first three Transporter films, Jason Statham ended up backing out of the lead role in The Transporter Refueled. Statham’s refusal to sign on to the fourth film ultimately came down to a business decision, as producers wanted him to sign on for three additional Transporter films and allegedly offered him significantly less money.
Ed Skrein, most known for his role as supervillain Ajax in Daredevil, took over where Statham left off and donned Frank Martin’s stylish suit. Unfortunately, the creative change didn’t do The Transporter Refueled any favors, as it was the most critically-panned installment in the franchise.
4Captain Britain – Captain America: Civil War (2016)
When Marvel approached Jason Statham to play the role of Captain Britain in Captain America: Civil War, he apparently wasn’t quite so eager to jump into the MCU. In fact, he allegedly laughed off the idea of playing the United Kingdom’s Steve Rogers counterpart.
According to Statham, it all came down to age. He was 47 at the time and thought that Marvel should go for someone at least 15 years younger. The powers that be ultimately scrapped the idea of introducing Captain Britain, but this wouldn’t be the last time that Statham would be considered for an MCU role.
3Bullseye – Daredevil (2018)
Jason Statham’s bald head and intense demeanor may have been top of mind for Marvel Television execs when they reportedly courted him to play sadistic sharpshooter Bullseye for season two of Netflix’s Daredevil back in 2015. Rumored or not, any negotiations likely came to a halt after Statham lambasted Marvel movies in an interview that same year.
“I could take my grandma, and put her in a cape and then put her in a green screen and then have stunt doubles come in and do all the action — anybody can do it,” Statham told Italian site I 400 Calci. “They’re relying on stunt doubles and green screen and $200 million budget. It’s all CGI-created. To me, that is not authentic.”
Marvel held off on introducing Bullseye to the Daredevil series until season three, when Wilson Bethel joined the cast as Benjamin “Dex” Pointdexter, a psychopathic FBI agent who serves as a composite character of Bullseye and the supervillain, Nuke.
2SAS Commander Randolph – Daisy Scarlett: Semper Occultus
Way back in 2004, Kate Beckinsale was in talks to play a super spy in the vein of Jason Bourne and James Bond in a movie tentatively titled Daisy Scarlett: Semper Occultus. Riding high from the early success of the Underworld franchise, Beckinsale had prime cache as a damage-dealing action star. Fellow ass-kickers Jason Statham and Jet Li were also attached to the film, with initial reports claiming that Statham would be playing a character named SAS Commander Randolph.
Unfortunately, Daisy Scarlett was never made. Despite the film’s disappointing fate, 2004 was still a solid year for Statham, as he played a bit part in the Oscar-nominated Collateral and made his first villainous turn as a kidnapper in the action thriller Cellular.
1Unknown Marvel Movie
Even after the previously failed negotiations with Statham, Marvel never gave up hope on his potential casting. While promoting Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige revealed that Statham had again been considered for an MCU role. While Feige didn’t mention the particular movie or role, he noted that Statham had scheduling conflicts, and despite his earlier comments disparaging Marvel movies, the actor seemed interested in another shot.
“I was in another meeting a few days later, and my cellphone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but I answered it. And it was Jason Statham,” Feige recalled. “He was saying, ‘Sorry it didn’t work out, maybe next time.’ He couldn’t have been nicer!”
Could we eventually see Jason Statham join the MCU?According to a 2022 rumor, he already has signed on and may be lined up to play superhero Union Jack in Captain America 4.