It’s more than just a little absurd that the Fast & Furious franchise is still going. Especially considering that the first film, 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, was essentially just a small-budget petrolhead showcase that ripped off Point Break. And let’s not even talk about the overwhelming silliness of its sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious. How did this series not only survive that fiasco but actually thrive? The answer, of course, is Justin Lin.
When the filmmaker took over the reins with 2006’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, he breathed new life into the franchise. Then over the course of the fourth to sixth installments, he transformed the adventures of Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto, the late Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner, and the rest of their “familia” from just car-porn action movies to globetrotting heist movies bigger than anything else out there. And while the seventh and eighth installments were helmed by other directors, it was only fitting that Lin is returning for the upcoming F9: The Fast Saga, as well as the next two-part tenth chapter finale, to wrap up this impossible franchise that started two decades ago.
Chatting to Collider, Lin revealed that even though he wasn’t in the director’s chair for Furious 7 and Fate of the Furious, he was always still in contact with Diesel and chatting about this world they created and where to take it next. That made returning to it so much easier, not only because they already had new ideas, but it helped to define how they end it all off.
When I left, I thought, “Okay, this is time for me. I don’t have any more to contribute.” And I remember, I would be shooting a film or be in a cutting room, and Vin would call me and we’d just be talking about Dom and the Fast family. It’s through that and also just a lot of the conversation through the years, whether it’s just fans stopping me and talking about the characters and the world. When the right idea and the right themes landed, it just felt very organic. It felt like I wasn’t really away, at all. Our mantra, from the very beginning was that we earned our next chapter. This is the first time, for me, where it’s not just talking about one movie, it’s talking about the final chapter. That’s very exciting. I feel very grateful. To be back with everybody, the fact is that I get to grow and we actually developed this family. A lot of times with sequels, it’s like, “Well, let’s do the same thing over again.” That’s not the case here. We’re always challenging each other to evolve and to push. So, it felt like I was away, but it also felt very poetic to be back, trying to wrap everything, or at least this saga, up.
Of course, Diesel has been in this world even longer than Lin, playing Dom from the very beginning and only not making an appearance in 2 Fast 2 Furious (he has a brief but rather important cameo in Tokyo Drift). So how does it feel to put this character, with whom he has shared nearly half his life, to bed?
It is bittersweet. It has been a part of my life. The family that you see on screen has become my family off screen. It’s such a blessing to have been able to work with people that I love and to work with people that share that passion and that desire to make magic at the highest level. Who can tell where the future goes? I do know that we had always envisioned, at least in the first phase, what the finale of this mythology would be. So, I’m very excited about that. I’m very excited about 10.1 and 10.2. But it is bittersweet because I hope to work with these people that I call my family for the rest of my life.
“10.1 and 10.2”, as Diesel calls them, are the still-untitled final two films in the series. They won’t be sequels, but rather a single film split into two parts. As Diesel revealed, this was approach was dictated purely by the scale of film they are going for.
One of the magical things about this saga is that we get to travel to all of these wonderful places. Part of the reason why Fast 10 has to be broken into two different movies is because there’s so much ground to cover, and there are so many places and so many locations in the world that we have to visit.
As you may have noticed in Diesel’s earlier statement, “family” has always been a big deal in the Fast Saga (as it’s now been officially dubbed), but that takes on a new wrinkle in F9 as it introduces John Cena as Jakob, Dom’s younger brother… who Dom has somehow just failed to mention once over the years. Obviously fans are intrigued as to why Jakob has been a secret up to now and just what he is up to, as he (along with Charlize Theron’s returning Cipher) appears to be the central antagonist for this film’s final hurrah trilogy. And that task is something that Cena is taking very seriously, saying that “I certainly didn’t overlook the responsibility of the opportunity.”
I get to reap the rewards of this family who has poured the foundation and built the structure of a global delivering blockbuster. I get invited into the ninth installment to share the last name Toretto and to be Dom’s greatest adversary of all time. That is not lost. I think it has to start there. It has to start with respect. It goes back to what Justin says about earning your next chapter. I believe that’s a nice metaphor for life, as well. Everything we get should be earned. I was grateful enough to develop a relationship with Vin, and Vin was gracious enough to give me a chance. I forever thank him, and I always do, for betting on me. I remember telling him a long time ago that I wouldn’t let him down because I love the body of work that’s been established and it’s an honor.
Cena cited his own experience in the WWE, knowing what it’s like to be “the new kid in the locker room” as well as the “15-year vet”, which helped to fit in with this longstanding crew. After co-star Michelle Rodriguez commented that Cena is no new kid and is a “perfect fit” for the Fast Saga given his past work, Diesel went on to explain how the idea of introducing Jakob first came to be. And how he believes the late Paul Walker played a hand in it.
I will just add that years before we actually started casting, Justin and I were playing with this concept. Justin and I both have brothers. All of us have brothers. That interesting dynamic of what your brotherly love is and how complex it can be, at times, makes for great storytelling. But I remember, once we started getting closer to production, Justin and I would talk about how harrowing it would be to actually have to cast a new Toretto, for the brother of Dom Toretto. There are so many different directions that you can go. And I remember John Cena coming into this Dom shrine that I had, where I would go meditate and train and start getting into that Dom state of mind. John came in and call this crazy, but I remember feeling as though Pablo – Paul Walker – had sent him in. I talked to Justin that night and said, “My gut and my heart feels like this was meant to be.”
Wait, Diesel has a “Dom shrine”? Well, okay then. I guess that’s just par for the course for a series of films that has been admittedly getting more over-the-top with each installment. Due to the escalation of each film, a long-standing joke used to be that it would only be a matter of time before they head to space… and now in last week’s trailer for F9 we see they may be doing just that! So what is there still left to do then? How do you top rocketing a car into the stratosphere? Well, dinosaurs.
Confused? As Collider jokingly points out, the Fast Saga is one of Universal Pictures’ two biggest franchise, with the other being Jurassic World. So would they ever consider a crossover between the two? As Rodriguez responded, “Once you reach a certain pinnacle, there’s nowhere to go, but to cross brand and merge”. Which is something that Lin, ever the diplomat, is not ruling out.
I never say never to anything. Part of our philosophy is not to ever be boxed in or labeled. That’s all I will say.
F9: The Fast Saga is scheduled to release in cinemas on 25 June 2021.
Last Updated: April 19, 2021