Hollywood’s "life is too short" list may have just grown a little longer.
Actor Jason Statham has parted ways with WME, and several sources tell The Hollywood Reporter it was the agency, not Statham, that severed the relationship. However, other sources counter that it was Statham that cut ties. Reps for WME and the Hobbs and Shaw star declined to comment.
At issue was the 52-year-old British actor’s abrupt March 3 exit from Sony’s The Man From Toronto, an action comedy co-starring Kevin Hart that was scheduled to start shooting in April.
Typically when an actor drops out of a movie, the cause is money. However, in Statham’s case, the dispute was over Man from Toronto’s intended rating. After agreeing to be in the movie, Statham is said to have issued a last-minute demand: He wanted the project to include material that would guarantee an R rating, according to three sources with knowledge of the situation. Sony executives resisted, insisting they wanted to make an all-audience, broadly appealing movie.
Statham then turned to his agents at WME and said he wanted out. His team, led by Patrick Whitesell, already had negotiated what sources say was a $10 million fee, and they counseled their client to stay in the picture. Besides forfeiting the money, exiting a studio production at the last minute would be a bad look for him, they explained, and Sony was willing to pay the eight-figure salary only because the movie would carry an audience-friendly PG-13 rating.
Statham bailed anyway, and soon the actor and his agents parted ways. He has since been replaced by Woody Harrelson. This wasn’t the first time Statham had made unorthodox demands. The actor insisted on a clause in his Fast & Furious contracts prohibiting his character from being beaten up too badly, a request that Fast stars Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson also made. But his WME agents apparently drew the line at asking for content changes that would potentially impact the studio’s bottom line.
"He’s got one of the biggest egos in Hollywood," says a source close to the situation. A Statham source, though, blames the blowup on Sony rushing the project.
"If a script was there or not, they were going to start shooting," he says. "That’s not his style."
Statham had been with Endeavor-owned WME just under a year, having exited CAA in April 2019. The actor also left his longtime manager, Steve Chasman at Current Entertainment, several months ago.
This story first appeared in the March 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.