He's a little bit James Bond, a little bit Jackie Chan and a lot sexy. In the 2002 flick The Transporter. Jason Statham. 38. established himself as a new breed of action star: a rough-edged tough guy with balletic grace (he's a former diver). You better believe he does almost all his own stunts. "If I can." he says, his British-accented voice deep and gravelly. "Why should I sit in a chair with my name on it, sipping tea?"

Back as the mercenary hero in The Transporter 2 (opening Sept. 2), Statham does plenty more derring-do, including a jet ski-to-bus jump he admits was "maybe a little bit too stupid." It wasn't his first risky leap: At 15, the native of the London suburb of Sydenham left school and sold jewelry on the street while he trained as a diver. He reached the Olympic trials three times and found modeling work after talent scouts discovered him at his pool. Soon after, director Guy Ritchie (a.k.a. Madonna's husband) spotted him in an ad and cast the rookie actor in his edgy crime capers Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. He and Ritchie bonded, he says, because "we're like two big kids."

Single since a breakup with model actress Kelly Brook last year, Statham spends off-hours snowboarding, scuba diving and watching no-holds-barred cage fights in Vegas—but not taking part. "They'd kill me! Those are the toughest guys on the planet."