Superstar Jason Statham is building an incredible success story. Hereâ€™s how he uses his home base to fuel his passions
By: Mike Zimmerman
As if someone called ahead and choreographed it. Thatâ€™s the traffic setup before us on Sunset Boulevard: a half-dozen cars staggered at intervals between two lanes. Jason Statham, the Transporter himself, sees this and smirks. â€œOh yeah, mate.â€ He drops the stick down into second and pops it. The engine wails and my skull slams back into the headrest. The wind tears through the open window, and I clamp onto the window frame, because this little monster car has nothing else to hold on to. That may be its only design flaw.
Statham weaves through the traffic. Slips it into third. Approaches 70 on the speedometer. Two cars, three, four. Weâ€™re in a frigginâ€™ movie now. Then I see it coming up fast, less than 100 yards ahead: yellow light. Statham snakes past one more SUV, slips in front of it, and comes to a perfect, nonscreeching halt at the red light. He chuckles and shakes his head, clearly in the car loverâ€™s private nirvana. â€œI tell ya, mate, a fast car is the absolute best gift a man can give himself.â€
This particular gift is the Audi R8, a two-seat, six-speed V-8 thatÂ has maybe four fingersâ€™ clearance between the frame and the pavement. â€œWhy couldnâ€™t they shoehorn a V-10 in there?â€ Statham wonders. Audiâ€™s letting him play with it, but he has every intention of buying it. The price tag hovers around $120,000. To Statham, itâ€™s money well spent. A man is not defined by his possessions, he figures, but by his passions. And carsâ€”specifically, fast German carsâ€”make this tough guyâ€™s knees knock.
â€œWhen you get into an R8, all that childhood shit comes back to you,â€ he says. â€œI got in a race the other day with some guy in a Mercedes. And itâ€™s one of those things, â€˜Oh no, I really should not be doing this.â€™ But this guy was such an ass. In one of those new SL55 AMG convertibles with his chick, and the music on. He pulled up really quick next to me. Then he zipped in front of me at the next light. So I got aside of himÂ and heâ€™s giving me that look. So I dropped it into sport and just went whoosh like a missile. He never even saw my tire smoke.â€ Statham grins. â€œI know I shouldnâ€™t have been doing it. But everyone has a maturity relapse sometime.â€
Careerwise, Statham has never taken a step back. Film work has been steady: two Transporter films, several others with his friend Guy Ritchie, 2006â€™s Crank, and most recently War, opposite Jet Li. (â€œHeâ€™s the worldâ€™s greatest martial artist and has been ever since Bruce Lee passed away,â€ Statham says.) There was also a remake of the cult classic Death Race 2000. And that was his entire goal when he moved to Los Angeles 4 years ago. â€œI wasnâ€™t coming here to schmooze and find out where the cool places are,â€ he says. â€œScrew that. I wanted to come out here and get some work done.â€
Statham learned that lesson early. Born in a working-class family in London, he had his first job with his father and brother, demonstrating products at trade shows: car wax and carpet cleaner at car shows, for example. This was a big thing in the United Kingdom. Trade laws kept local shops closedÂ on Sundays, so places like Wembley Stadium would host massive Sunday markets. Then the laws changed. â€œWe had 10 years of good money,â€ he says. â€œLucrative, cash, plenty of it. Then it all went away.â€
Fortunately, Statham had created a backup plan without even knowing it. Heâ€™d been a competitive diver. A good one. Good enough to land on the British National team. Diving isnâ€™t the easiest way to make money as an athlete, of course, but Stathamâ€™s gymnastic skills and conditioning habits unwittingly laid the foundation for his upcoming film career.
It was during these hard times that director Ritchie famously discovered Statham, asking him to audition by playing a street vendor and casting him in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. A film career was bornâ€”a career hot enough to let Statham indulge his automotive passions while still living very much by his intense working-class standards.
â€œI know that a good thing usually does come to an end,â€ he says. â€œYou want to shovel as much under the mattress as you can, so if a rainy day ever comes, you can just drip-feed from that. Youâ€™ve got to handle things delicately. And my career has to be handled very delicately. If I donâ€™t produce, theyâ€™re on to the next guy. So Iâ€™m always thinking like that. Youâ€™re never on safe, hallowed ground in this game.â€
That attitude isnâ€™t at odds with the purchase of six-figure autos as much as it appears to be. The more time you spend with Statham, the more you see that he is hardly extravagant by Hollywood standards. In fact, heâ€™s done what many men try, and fail to do: arrange his lifestyle in such a way that it supports and streamlines everything he does. It actually helps him succeed, because it allows him to be happy and be himself. All thatâ€™s left to do is kick ass and collect a paycheck. And for Statham, that lifestyle starts at home.
Statham lives in the hills of West Hollywood, about 20 seconds and one R8 fishtail from the Sunset Strip (as I found out firsthand). From the outside, it looks unremarkable: nothing but a concrete wall, impenetrable vegetation, and a garage door. (Thatâ€™s for the R8 and his Audi RS6 sedan, â€œthe black stealth bomber,â€ Statham calls it; his bum-around vehicle, an Audi Q7 SUV, gets the short end out by the curb.)
Inside, itâ€™s a sanctuary. Thatâ€™s what drew him to itâ€”that, and the architecture. Itâ€™s essentially a one-story glass house cut into the hill, tucked in with retaining walls on three sides. Thereâ€™s a small wading pool in the front patio. (â€œA birdbath,â€ he calls it. â€œNo fear of drowning in there.â€) If you stand by that pool, you can see clear through three glass walls into the living room, the dining room, another outdoor seating area, and his bedroom.
â€œI had this old Spanish place in Hollywood,â€ he says as he gives the tour, â€œwhich was lovely. But I split up with a girl, so I was a bit like, â€˜Screw this, I want something less chintzy.â€™ Iâ€™ve always liked modern, contemporary architecture. Lots of light. Simple. Easily maintained. Iâ€™ve always wanted a midcentury glass house, because you canâ€™t get them in England because the weatherâ€™s such crap. Youâ€™d freeze your nuts off and be constantly cleaning the windows.â€
And in this house, there are windows everywhere. And skylights. In fact, during the day you donâ€™t have to turn on any lights. The kitchen is wide open, looking into a rec room with a big plasma TV and couches. You can see his bedroom from here, too. And his office. Thereâ€™s even a floor-to-ceiling window looking into the guest bathroom from the kitchen. â€œYouâ€™ll catch someone having a moment if they donâ€™t close the blinds,â€ Statham says, chuckling.
He loves the house because it fits exactly what he needs to doâ€”and not do. It allows him to work and travel, but also to live and entertain well when heâ€™s home. The white marble tile floor doesnâ€™t need vacuuming. No gardening, because thereâ€™s no yard. The fireplace is gas. And in the outdoor seating area between his bedroom and the dining room (encased in glass, naturally), thereâ€™s a koi pond that was recently rendered maintenance-free by local raccoons. â€œI had some big, juicy carp,â€ he says. â€œThe rat bastards cleaned me out. I watched them do it, but I donâ€™t have a gun.â€
Next to the pond is a curious itemâ€”a concrete urn filled with black sand. Statham smiles, turns a knob next to it, and puts a match to the sand. Whomp, instant campfire. â€œThereâ€™sÂ a gas ring beneath the sand,â€ he says. â€œThis looks the bollocks at night. This is where the beer drinking and bullshitting are done.
â€œItâ€™s a lot like a big apartment,â€ he says as we adjourn to the white living-room couch. â€œThatâ€™s why I bought this place. Thereâ€™s a line of sight everywhere. You can always be heard or seen in any part of the house. I love the open kitchen. If the boys come around to watch football or boxing, you can be doing a bit of cooking and see the TV. Itâ€™s the most practical kind of setup I could ever wish for.â€
Thatâ€™s what he believes men should strive harder for. Rather than trying to impress with your digs and your car, turn the attention inward and find the place that feeds your lifestyle and passions. Youâ€™re the one living there, after all. Everyone else just visits. Statham certainly couldâ€™ve blown more money on a bigger, more extravagant place higher in the hills. But he doesnâ€™t see the point. In the 2 years since he moved in, heâ€™s lived, worked, and played in peace. â€œThis is all I need.â€
Whether itâ€™s a garage, workout room, or finished basement, every man has some small territory he can call, and make, his own (Hyo’s note – Amen). To that end, Statham suggests following these rules.
Always choose your own stuff. The Hollywood way would be to hire a home stylist to come into your new house and outfit it with the latest appointments, from uncomfortable sofas to offensive color schemes to incomprehensible artwork. â€œBollocks,â€ says Statham. He decorated the entire place himself. The color scheme is monochromatic, which works well in the natural light. The couches are for sitting. The kitchen is for mess-making. The floor is for spilling. And yet it all has cohesive class. The real secret, Statham says, is lots of patience. â€œI didnâ€™t do it all at once. I picked as I went. Within a few months, I was done, and I donâ€™t have to worry about it anymore unless I see something I really like.â€
Decorate from within. Interior decorating should not be scoffed at. In fact, if you put your imagination to work and think about what reflects you, itâ€™s easy. Statham has some cool photography on the walls. Thereâ€™s a massive pic of Steve McQueen driving a convertible within sight of virtually every room in the house. â€œMcQueenâ€™s the original icon, isnâ€™t he? Thatâ€™s the first thing Iâ€™ve ever spent an extravagant amount of money on, an original by William Claxton.â€
Another photo of Muhammad Ali dominates the guest bedroom. â€œA mate gave me that for my birthday last year. His dad took it, Chris Smith. Iâ€™ve always been a massive fan of Ali.â€ His office shelves are full of personal photos, and a matted, framed trio of (unscathed) silhouette pistol targets hangs in his kitchen. Hang whatever makes you feel more like yourselfâ€”if itâ€™s framed, itâ€™ll have class.
(BTW – Here’s the workout of the “original action superstar” Bruce Lee -Â “Getting Fit & Strong The Bruce Lee Way“)
Get away as much as possible. If your place becomes too much of a sanctuary, youâ€™ll destroy the point of creating it in the first place. You have to go out and live well.
Statham, surprisingly enough, has no home fitness equipmentâ€”which is significant when you consider his line of work. He prefers to leave his place for fitness. Right now heâ€™s training for the Death Race remake, hitting a gym near the airportâ€”all the more significant, given what a pain driving can be in L.A. (even in an R8). But stuntmen work out at that gym, and itâ€™s outfitted with exactly the things Statham needs to prepare for a job (He recently lost 17 pounds in 6 weeks prepping for this role). Again: Itâ€™s one less thing to maintain on the home front, and going to the gym allows him to interact with his coworkers.
Try to impress womenâ€”but not too hard. You donâ€™t wantÂ your place to turn off the ladies, of course. But at the same time, â€œIâ€™ve always thought it was uncomfortable to strategically set up some kind of situation with scented candles, a fire, the right music on,â€ says Statham. â€œYou just donâ€™t know what runs through girlsâ€™ heads. One might be like, â€˜Okay, heâ€™s definitely trying to get in my jeans, the bastard.â€™ Another might be like, â€˜Oh, heâ€™s trying really hard to impress me. He must really like me.â€™ â€
Statham pauses, and then smiles. â€œBesides, women will always find something to make you wrong. So just make yourself happy.â€ He bursts out laughing. â€œThen at least one person will be happy!â€
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