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The Reason Jason Statham Quit Kevin Hart's New Movie

The erstwhile Transporter is delivering himself from studio conflict. Jason Statham has made waves by quitting a film just weeks before production was to begin according to Deadline, leaving the studio in the wind to replace him in a co-starring role opposite Kevin Hart. The movie, entitled The Man From Toronto, is pitched as an odd-couple action comedy. Statham, the (now former) titular man from Toronto, is a globally-famous assassin who suffers a case of mistaken identity with Kevin Hart's slacker character, necessitating a team-up to defeat an unspecified common enemy.

Statham's departure is reportedly due to a disagreement with the studio over plans for the film's eventual rating. No movie has a rating until the MPAA sees a screening during the final editing phase, well after production has wrapped, but studios make plans well ahead of time to aim for a certain rating based on the MPAA's general standards. In this case, the studio was operating on the assumption of a PG-13 rating, while Statham was lobbying to stretch the content of the film towards an R. He appears to have lost that fight, and in doing so, decided to take the nuclear option and drop out of the film. Why would a rating matter so much, and what does this mean for Statham's career going forward?

Why an R rating might matter to Jason Statham

The MPAA rating methodology is murky at best, as the trade organization's operating standards are not public. Studios have been surprised before by unexpected R ratings that either require going back to the edit bay in a whole new mindset that a director may not artistically agree with, or require shipping the film as-is with the expectation of lesser box office draw because of the high rating. The greatest concern for Sony, the studio making The Man From Toronto, is probably over the loss of box office draw by the mere threat of an R rating. "Restricted" means no kids — most importantly, teenagers — allowed without parental accompaniment, and also means a whole bunch of adults will opt instead for a movie they can bring the family to. Because MPAA rulings are so nebulous, the studio is likely playing it very safe with a script that already has guaranteed violence in it, and Statham perhaps found it to be playing too safe from his artistic perspective.

It's not as though Statham hasn't been in a PG-13 film before — in fact, he's fresh off Hobbs and Shaw, which was PG-13. However, he has an identity to uphold as an action star and if he finds his role in the script too soft, or perhaps impermissibly goofy, he'd rather walk than put up with it. He's at an apex in his career, so he can do that. He's already scheduled to reunite with director Guy Ritchie later this year, so he's not exactly wanting for work.

The total uprooting of Jason Statham's career

Leaving the production of The Man From Toronto was only the start. Statham has also fired the talent agency representing him in America, WME. An actor has management staff who help him with his day-to-day, but a talent agency is essentially the middleman that finds him roles and, ideally, negotiates the legalese of contracts to his maximum worth and advantage with studios looking to hire him for a film. Only last year, Statham made news when WME signed him away from his previous agency CAA, which THR reported as "a coup" for WME, since the action A-lister is worth quite a bit of commission money these days for any representative shopping him around to the biggest films in pre-production in Hollywood. 

Whatever happened in negotiating for his role in The Man From Toronto was apparently the straw that broke the Statham-camel's unsatisfied back, and he just up and quit on everybody, talent agent included. It was only reported in January of 2020 that he was even in talks to take the role at all, so everything devolved in a short two-month span.

There will be no shortage of other talent agencies vying to snap him up, but since he's already got another job for 2020, when and who he chooses to sign with may not come together for a while yet.