It took three guys to take down Jaws, but we bet Jason Statham could stop the massive shark in The Meg all on his lonesome and still have time to stop a bank robbery before lunch. The man who wields a smirk as dangerously as he does a sharp right jab seems like basically the only guy who could handle the mammoth prehistoric megalodon shark.

Statham is, simply put, an action icon. Though he broke through in comedies, he has gone on to anchor no less than three action franchises, while developing his on-screen persona as a dependable purveyor of satisfying thrills. Here’s how Statham has become one of Hollywood’s leading action men.

Breaking Into the Business

[Credit: Screen Gems]

Some action stars begin as sports figures and bodybuilders. While Statham had a 12-year run as a diver, which built his physique, he started his media career as a model. While working the runway, Statham got small parts in music videos, but made ends meet selling cheap goods on the streets.

Then he met director Guy Ritchie, who needed a streetwise and convincingly tough actor for a part in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. It would be difficult to imagine someone more suited for the film than Statham, who had the look, the muscle (thanks to diving) and the street smarts, due to his moonlighting gig.

That first film with Ritchie led to Snatch, which thanks to co-stars like Brad Pitt earned a broad international audience. Even then, it was obvious that Statham, who could hold his own against far more experienced actors, was going to stick around.

He then appeared in sci-fi flicks like Ghosts of Mars and The One and the British comedy Mean Machine. In 2002, just four years after the release of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Statham cruised into the title role of The Transporter. After that, everything changed. Statham commanded attention as mercenary-driver for hire Frank Martin. Whether maintaining control of difficult situations or just strolling coolly away from an explosion, he looked completely at home in the film’s exaggerated world.

Transported to Action

[Credit: 20th Century Fox]

The Transporter opened a lot of doors. In fact, between that film and its eventual sequel, he starred only in action movies, highlighting just how much of an impact The Transporter had on his career. After playing lead roles in both The Italian Job and Cellular, he reprised his game-changing role in Transporter 2.

It’s like that was it, like Statham was so good at one thing that the genre seemed to be made for him. He was just waiting for that first chance with Ritchie, and then a scrappy franchise he could call his own.

But true icons have more dimensions, and Statham quickly defined his own. His ability with comedy as seen in the films with Ritchie suggested the actor could flex his personality just as easily as his muscles and his driving skills. So a run of films quickly pushed him forward as a dramatic actor, from the Ritchie reunion Revolver, to Chaos and War. Those films were grittier and more dramatic than straight action flicks like The Transporter — and they helped Statham hone his image from film to film.

That work led to the acclaimed heist thriller The Bank Job in 2008. That same year, he returned to the Transporter franchise for the final time in Transporter 3.

Franchise Master

The end of one action franchise was followed by the start of another, as Statham joined the ensemble cast of The Expendables in 2010. His character was Lee Christmas, a former soldier highly skilled with throwing knives and in hand-to-hand combat. He looked right at home in a pack that included long-established stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, which was further proof that he had become one of the biggest action stars. Two more Expendables films followed, in 2012 and 2014.

[Credit: Universal Pictures]

As with the previous stage of his career, Statham evolved his persona in films between franchises. New efforts included Safe and Parker, which gave him a chance to play with the suave side of his on-screen persona.

However, a cameo in Fast & Furious 6 became another turning point. A brief appearance as UK Special Forces assassin Deckard Shaw led to an expanded role in Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious, alongside action heavyweights Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Vin Diesel. More crucially, Statham maintained his standing as an audience favorite despite the role he played in the franchise, as the man who killed one of the most popular characters in the series.

Statham now turns his attention to The Meg. Though the prehistoric odds are insurmountable, the action icon has proven time and again that we should never bet against him. By the time it’s all over, even the shark will probably be on his side.

The Meg hits theatres August 10. Get your tickets at AMC today.