BY CINDY PEARLMAN | FOR THE SUN-TIMES

Jason Statham was always a driven type. He just wasn’t always legal.

The star of “Furious 7” admits to his troubled past with cars during his failed driving test as a teenager. “I failed it two or three times,” says the 47-year-old with a laugh. “I drove to the test, failed and then drove home.”

He brought his rule-breaker bravado to a new rule in “Furious 7” opening Friday. The franchise is now 15 years in the making and has grossed a worldwide box office of $2.4 billion.

In the film Statham plays a cold-blooded British black ops assassin named Deckard Shaw whose mission is to hunt down anyone involved in the death of his little brother Owen (Luke Evans). Fans got a preview of his character during the last minutes of the last film — and the reaction was raucous cheers.

“I heard from a lot of people that the fans went absolutely bonkers for that cameo,” Statham said. “It’s good when they go nuts, right?”

Statham also has driven fans nuts because he can’t say much about his character.

“I’m there to do my thing. I’ll do what I do,” he hedged. “I’m just not gonna tell ya what I’m gonna do. I won’t be spilling the beans too much because that spoils the fun.”

In the movie, Shaw blows up the Toretto house, which means that Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) must then involve a high-level government operative (Kurt Russell) as he seeks vengeance. The “Fast” crew turns the key in the ignition again as they try to secure a prototype tracking device for the U.S. government. The deal is they can use it to find Shaw before he can strike again.

Statham said he was happy to get the call and join the crew.

“Everyone was very welcoming. These people know what they’re doing,” he said. “It’s a great ensemble. It’s also an ever-expanding ensemble that welcomes the newcomers like you’re just another member of the family.”

Statham also said that he looked forward to the complex action scenes.

“I’m also someone who can’t wait to jump into the next project as long as it’s right for me,” he said. “I’m not that guy who just likes sitting around, so when you get a call to come to work on ‘Furious 7,’ it’s exciting. It would be insane to not do it. “I knew that there would be cutting-edge, mind-blowing action, which is a good day’s work,” he said. “Plus, I love cars, and I’ve never seen a movie do what this film does with cars involved.”

He spent his usual gym time and also trained in mixed martial arts, kickboxing and Jujitsu.

“I love the scenes where you have the cars and the ‘copters, but even more I love just the fists and kicks. I love going back to basics.”

Statham also noted the emotional aspects of losing Paul Walker, who died in an unrelated car crash while “Furious 7” filming was under way.

“I have so many good memories of Paul. He was an amazing chap,” Statham said. “We went to the racetrack and it was a really great time.”

Big Picture News, Inc.