In cinemas this week: Jason Statham dives into action in prehistoric shark hunt The Meg

Jason Statham and Li Bingbing in The Meg

JASON STATHAM seems the obvious man to star in an action movie set largely underwater.

A former Commonwealth Games diver for England, in The Meg he plays Jonas Taylor, a deep-sea expert who’s recruited to help save a disabled submersible from a prehistoric 75ft shark known as a megalodon.

As “The Stath” himself points out: “It’s funny because when we reference my former years as a diver, everything that I did was above water.

“So people get confused. ‘Oh, he was a diver.’ They seem to think that you’re naturally good underneath, which is not the case.

“But I learned to dive, scuba diving, years and years ago, for a movie I did with Luc Besson. And I had just gotten so addicted to it then.

“So, yeah, I’ve always been interested in the underwater world.

“And the fact that we’ve come to make a movie about something as fascinating as what lies down at the bottom of the ocean is a great thing because no one really knows what’s down there.”

Much of the movie was shot in a 2.6-million litre tank in New Zealand, which is ironic as his Commonwealth experience came at the 1990 Games in Auckland.

“We were shoved in a village that they’ve created, with these little mobile homes,” the athletic action star recalls.

“And they sort of wanted to keep a close eye on us because they probably knew what we’d get up to.

“We were sort of entrapped in this compound so we never really got to see much until we finished our competitions.

“And then the wheels sort of came off, and we found a wee pub in Auckland and so I can’t remember a thing about it.

“That was a long time ago, it was a lot of fun back then but this time I really got to experience going around and living like the locals do, or tried to.”

As for his new movie, Statham says: “It’s a cross between Jaws and Jurassic Park.

“It requires a physicality for sure for this role because he has to put himself in harm’s way for the greater good of everybody else so it’s a really great heroic role.

“Taylor gets brought in to save the crew at the bottom of the ocean that’s confronted with this 75ft shark. He encountered this shark many years ago but everyone thought he was crazy. Turns out, everybody was wrong.”

The film is based on Steve Alten’s 1997 book Meg: A Novel Of Deep Terror, the first in a series of Meg tales.

And Statham says the film will likely also expand into a full-blown franchise should the first movie strike a chord with audiences.

“I think it’s like anything in this day and age – if it makes money, there’s obviously an appetite to make more money,” says the Expendables star.

“And if it doesn’t do well, they’ll soon sweep it under the carpet. But that’s the way Hollywood works.

“Everyone tries to make a good film and it lies in the hands of the audience.

“People are the ultimate decider – the audience is the decider of whether anything gets to be a sequel or not.”

The Meg (12A) is in cinemas from Friday August 10.