The Meg star Jason Statham revealed that he went swimming with real sharks to prepare for his starring role in the monster shark thriller. Due out on August 10, the latest from director Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure) stars Statham as a deep sea rescue diver who’s tasked with saving people from the Megalodon, the massive prehistoric shark that has been the subject of both intensive scientific study and plenty of B-movies.
In 2018, the Megalodon makes its way to the big screen with The Meg, which also stars Li Bingbing, Ruby Rose, and Rainn Wilson. Statham can be relied upon to deliver both thrills and a sense of humor as he typically does with his over-the-top action vehicles. But you may be surprised to learn that he went the extra mile for The Meg; he got ready for his role by interacting with actual sharks.
Related: The Meg Author Praises Trailer As ‘Excellent’ & Explains Delay
As he explained in an interview with EW, Statham took a trip to Fiji where he swam with 20-30 live bull sharks. Though they paled in comparison to the actual Megalodon in terms of size, Statham said they were each about three meters long. He said that he felt more scared about the excursion on the ride over than when he actually did it, which would presumably help him get in the right mindset for when he encounters a giant shark in the movie. Here’s how he described the experience:
“You know, it’s funny, because you get anxiety when you’re on the boat. But once you get in the ocean, things take a very different turn. You get very relaxed, and when you’re in their environment, it’s quite a tranquil sort of thing, the anxiety goes away completely. It’s remarkable to experience. All of the fear — or the perceived fear — is done in your own head before you get down there with them. Once you’re swimming down there with all the other divers, it’s phenomenal. It’s one of the greatest experiences you could have, for me anyway. I’m a big SCUBA diver fanatic. Wherever I am in the world, if I get a chance to get in the ocean, I do.”
You can also check out an exclusive image from the movie above. In The Meg, Statham plays deep-sea diving expert Jonas Taylor, who got himself a dishonorable discharged early in his naval career when his crew had a tragic incident with what he claimed to be an attack from a 70-foot Megalodon – which ultimately cost him more than just his career. But Taylor gets a shot at redemption when he’s called upon to rescue the crew of a submersible stuck at the bottom of the ocean – and likely under attack from the same mammoth creature.
Clearly, Turteltaub and his crew weren’t satisfied with sticking Statham and the cast in front of green screens. With the movie centered around a giant extinct shark species, pre-production was ultimately the only way to give real live sharks an impact on it – unlike 2003’s Open Water, which actually filmed with real sharks. The hope is that Statham’s experience helps him get in character as Jonas Taylor, who appears to be on a trajectory from incredulous conspiracy theorist to discoverer of the massive beast – and ultimately the one to stop it. Even for Statham, who could be a kickass antihero with or without shark training, it’s important to look convincing as a man with no fear of sharks.
It’s a nice step for Turteltaub to take with prep for The Meg to get some real sharks involved with the cast before filming. The director has a lot to prove, since he hasn’t directed a big-budget action movie since 2010’s adaptation of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. That movie grossed just $215 million worldwide off a budget of $150 million on production alone. With The Meg, he gets another $150 million budget and another shot at box office success. And with Statham aboard, the movie at least has a chance to be a fun time and a worthy adaptation of Steve Alten’s novels.
MORE: Jason Statham: The Meg is a Cross Between Jaws & Jurassic Park