Before Jet Li came aboard The One the movie was intended for Dwayne Johnson, and it would have paired him with Jason Statham many years before Hobbs & Shaw. Statham’s movie debut was Guy Ritchie’s sleeper hit Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, and he had an unlikely journey to becoming an action hero from there. Statham’s screen presence was immediately apparent, but outside of his Ritchie collaborations, he’s struggled to score a hit. Statham’s first action role was Ghosts Of Mars, John Carpenter’s sci-fi horror, but it wasn’t until 2002’s The Transporter that audiences saw his true potential.
Following the surprise success of that star vehicle, Statham scored more successes like Crank. He later joined The Fast And The Furious series as Deckard Shaw, who swears bloody vengeance against Dom and company in Furious 7. Statham made for a formidable foe, but as the series is wont to do, it began a redemption arc for Shaw with The Fate Of The Furious. This entry marked a turning point for Dwayne Johnson’s involvement with the franchise too. Behind the scenes issues with Vin Diesel saw that they didn’t film scenes together, and Johnson later vowed to never return to the main series. Fate Of The Furious also showed there was remarkable chemistry between Johnson’s Hobbs and Statham’s Shaw – whose family need their own spinoff – leading to talk of a solo movie fronted by the duo.
This eventually came to pass with 2019’s Hobbs & Shaw, which played like an even more cartoonish Tango & Cash. However, there is an alternate universe where Johnson and Statham would have been paired earlier onscreen. The One is a 2001 sci-fi action movie starring Jet Li, with heavy shades of The Matrix. The movie’s concept revolves around multiple universes, with Li playing both the hero and villain, with the latter seeking to murder all his alternate dimensions selves in order to gain power and become the titular “One.” Before Li signed on, it was meant to be Dwayne Johnson’s first leading role, and he would have shared the screen with Statham’s Funsch.
Funsch is a multiple-universe agent in The One, who teams with the heroic version of Li to stop his evil doppelganger. Had Johnson – who has a perfect superhero role in Black Adam – accepted the part, the two would have been both friend and foe and there was a fight scripted between the pair. There were even early animatics conceived for The One involving Johnson brawling with himself, but he later quit the movie to make The Mummy Returns instead.
The One was an early action role for Statham, and the studio forced him to speak with an ill-fitting American accent for the movie. He later lamented that his planned fight with Li was dropped before it was filmed to simplify the story, though the pair later worked together on War and The Expendables series. Much like The One’s alternate dimensions, there’s a parallel world where Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham shared the screen long before Hobbs & Shaw or the Fast & Furious movies. Whether it would have been a better film is open to debate, however.