You might not remember it, but there was a time where the Fast and the Furious films were about as hot as Michael Jordan in a White Sox uniform. While the original movie went from obscurity to commercial success, its much-hyped sequel with its loose storyline and cartoon-esque car sequences turned off audiences and, more importantly, automotive enthusiasts alike. But just as the franchise looked like it was going to die just as fast and furiously as it came to existence, a third, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift quietly made its way into theaters.
Directed by a then relatively unknown Justin Lin, an indie film director who made his mark with A Better Luck Tomorrow, a critically acclaimed film that delves into the Asian-American experience, Tokyo Drift was everything the second was not. The cars, albeit brightly colored in lavish livery, were cars enthusiasts could relate to and the stunts were believable to fans of drifting.
For Hollywood, it was as accurate of a portrayal of the tuning scene as it got. And it was thanks to Justin who set out to make a film that paid respect to the core: the car guys. After all, if they weren’t going to embrace it, who would?
After Tokyo Drift, Justin signed on to make the fourth in the series, Fast & Furious. Released April 3rd, 2009, the film broke April box office records. Not just for the year, but records period -- as in, of all time. With fans (and the studio) pining for more, the franchise is back with Fast 5, currently in theaters.
Fast Five Movie Trailer
Interview with the Director
Where does Fast Five begin?
It takes off exactly where the fourth one ends. When we started working on the fourth Fast and Furious, Vin Diesel and I talked in great length about the mythology of the franchise. And from those discussions, we decided that the fourth one was going to be darker exploring the characters while the fifth film was going to be a bit more fun and a way to tie things together.
For fans of the series, what can they expect from the new film?
A lot of action, a lot of fun and a chance to see the franchise go to a whole new level, something I hope the fans will really appreciate. It’s funny, originally, I thought I was done with the franchise after filming the fourth one, but after traveling to the different premiers and talking to fans throughout the world, it really reinvigorated me to take on the fifth. So really, it’s always been about the fans.
The new film is heavily influenced from heist movies. Where did that come about?
It was actually very organic. When the studio called about making another sequel, I agreed to do it if I could work with all of the characters from the entire series. But to bring everyone back story-wise, there had to be something compelling to draw all of them, which was where the heist idea came about.
Was there a reason for reuniting the cast from all of the films?
As a movie fan I like to get a sense of mythology, and at its core, this Fast and Furious has always been about family in the non-traditional sense. And since Brian (Paul Walker) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Dom (Vin Diesel) and Han (Sung Kang), and all of the other characters were all interconnected, it made sense to bring them all together as one big family.
Other than the delicious bbq and popularizing skimpy swimwear, was there any other reason for picking Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the setting?
It’s a country with a rich history and Rio is a visually stunning city with sharp contrasts. On one side there are the favelas in the hills. On the other, there are million dollar homes off of Copacabana Beach. I’m also proud of our diverse cast and Brazil is a country that’s equally diverse -- I don’t know if there would’ve been a better locale to pick.
What was the biggest challenge to filming Fast Five?
The ambition of the film. It sounds like it would be easier with a bigger budget but with a larger cast comes a larger cost. There wasn’t enough to do all of the things we wanted to do. To make things more difficult, we had fewer days to film than the third and fourth film. Taking that into consideration, to keep the favella chase, train crash and all of the other stunts within the time and budget constraints, that was the most challenging.
Some of the cars we would wreck, repair and re-wreck. We would go to the junkyard and buy extra cars for dollars just to crush them.
How many cars were harmed in the filming of Fast Five? Let’s hope PETA isn’t reading…
[laughs] I don’t have the exact number but it was over 200 for sure. Some of the cars we would wreck, repair and re-wreck. We would go to the junkyard and buy extra cars for dollars just to crush them.
Speaking of crush, the vault made for what is arguably the sickest car chase sequence ever, how did that come about?
The idea of the vault originally started back when I was working on Tokyo Drift. The way cars drifted in tandem, I wanted to incorporate two cars working together at once. So when the idea of the heist came about for the fifth film, I thought about what our characters could do that George Clooney’s character in Oceans 11 couldn’t do and that’s when heisting the vault with cars came to mind.
From there we started played with toy cars dragging a Rubik’s Cube and escalated it to testing real cars dragging a makeshift safe. A random tidbit about the cliff jump scene at the end of the train heist was that it too was something I originally wanted to do in Tokyo Drift.
If you could pick a vehicle from the film to drive off set and keep for yourself, what would it be?
That’s easy. The classic Nissan Skyline. It’s funny, we talked about Brian and Mia coming to Brazil in an old vehicle and we started to look at pictures of classic cars. When I saw a picture of the old Skyline, I knew instantly that it was the perfect car.
Million dollar question: Vin Diesel versus the Rock in a hunky throw-down, who would win?
[laughs] I get asked that a lot. It was a challenge trying to figure out when and how the fight would go down in the film. Once we determined that, then it was figuring out who would win. We came to the conclusion that a fight between the two would be even and it would boil down to the character’s motivation to win.
Hobbs, the Rock’s character, is fighting to capture Dom and complete a job. Dom, or Vin Diesel, is fighting to keep a promise he made to his sister. At the end emotion is what would win out.
If Mia and Gisele were to get into a catfight, how would it go down?
[laughs] Oh man, that’s tough. Honestly, I don’t know. I can’t see either one of them fighting. And knowing both of them personally, I don’t want to ever see that happening.
Lastly, thanks for including my name in the Special Thanks portion at the very end of the credits … so how much do I owe you?
[laughs] I was very appreciative of your help consulting on the film -- you were always positive and you were always there for us when we needed you. Ultimately I wanted to make a film that would appeal to someone like you who loves cars and it was helpful to listen to what you had to say.
And getting us the Lexus LFA…that was f’ing awesome. I was looking for the right car for Han and Gisele to drive and I looked at a bunch of options. I almost considered the Porsche Panamera, but when I saw the Lexus, I knew it was the perfect car. Thanks!
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