Furious 7
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

With Justin Lin and James Wan officially moving on from the multibillion-dollar franchise they helped resurrect and keep afloat, Universal is now ramping up the search for the director of “Fast and Furious 8.”

Sources tell Variety that “Straight Outta Compton” helmer F. Gary Gray, “The Guest’s” Adam Wingard, “Now You See Me” director Louis Leterrier and Will Eubank are among the directors who have met or are meeting for the job. Insiders add that though no frontrunner has emerged, the studio is getting closer to making a choice.

“Furious 7” grossed more than $1.5 billion dollars worldwide, even after having to postpone production following the death of star Paul Walker in a tragic car crash. The franchise is still one of the top priorities at the studio, so Universal will take its time in finding the right person for the job.

The Hollywood Reporter reported two weeks ago that after coming to terms with the fact that Justin Lin (who helmed four installments before leaving the seventh) would not be able to direct as he’s busy on “Star Trek Beyond,” Universal then approached Wan again about directing not just the next installment but the ninth film as well. Sources have confirmed to Variety that the studio did come back to Wan with a very lucrative offer after he had previously passed in order to focus on other projects.

Wan did consider the proposition, but eventually passed, forcing the studio to begin searching for the franchise’s next director. While one source close to the project said that “no stone would go unturned,” the source said it was completely inaccurate that the studio was considering star Vin Diesel to direct, and that the idea had not even been brought up during weekly meetings.

Diesel has sinced commented on his Facebook page and explained the process is ongoing, most recently taking to Instagram to tip Rob Cohen, who helmed the first pic, as a possible candidate.

While production isn’t set to begin until spring 2016, prep is expected to get underway in late October, so settling on a director by then would be ideal.

Gray’s “Compton” was a massive hit that has kept the director in demand since its release. Gray is said to also be a contender to direct “Black Panther” for Marvel.

Wingard also has fans at the studio and while he isn’t currently in production on a film, he is expected to shoot “Death Note” for Warner Bros. next spring, which would conflict with the “Fast and Furious 8” shoot. WB just announced that “Paper Towns” star Nat Wolff was in final negotiations to star, which put more pressure for Wingard to pull his name from the running.

As for Leterrier and Eubank, both options provide something different for the studio if they decide to go that route. Leterrier has more name recognition, having helmed box-office hits like “Now You See Me” and “Clash of the Titans” and would be prepared to handle the baggage that comes with a big-budget production. Eubank’s biggest credit to date is “The Signal,” which was received well by critics and got the attention of studio execs who have since wanted to work with the young helmer, although his relative inexperience with blockbusters may be a roadblock.

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