×

‘Fast & Furious’ Franchise Finds Family

Ties Shift from street racing to heists supercharged grosses

Hardly a low-budget actioner in 2001, when it was made for around $38 million, “The Fast and the Furious” sequels now cost Universal Pictures north of $125 million for. The sixth installment opens May 24, with a seventh to follow in 2014, and U is aiming to spin off Dwayne Johnson’s character into his own franchise.

With Justin Lin in the director’s chair, the “Fast” franchise has thrived by steering away from the first three films’ narrow focus on street racing and urban car culture in the U.S., which appealed to a limited audience, and reframing the series as stories about a close-knit team that pulls off daring heists around the world.

“At Justin’s core and what makes him a really special filmmaker, he’s always a champion of the underdogs,” says Troy Craig Poon, president of Lin’s production company, Perfect Storm Entertainment.

“I think what people resonate with in “The Fast and the Furious” is these characters become a family, an unconventional family. People from around the world can’t wait to see this non-traditional family come together.”

Donna Langley, co-chairman of Universal Pictures, says that while “Fast” has evolved into a legitimate action franchise, “what’s unique is that we’ve maintained the heart and soul of the original film — a movie about family, people with a code and characters that are archetypal even though they’re anti-heroes and on the wrong side of the law.”

Langley says with the original stars coming back and that theme of family, “the team is now assembled as a team of Robin Hoods. They have a noble cause.”

So the franchise can go anywhere in the world their driving skills might be needed: Los Angeles and Miami, the Mexican desert, Rio de Janeiro and now Spain and London.

The shift in tone clearly helped Universal, and longtime producers Neal H. Moritz and Vin Diesel, expand its audience for the “Fast” films — especially in overseas territories.

Langley says the plot of the fourth installment forced the series to shoot abroad: the characters can’t return to the U.S. since they were extradited. “So we set it in Rio to maintain the Latin roots of the franchise before heading to Europe (something fans had asked for).” With the sixth film also set partly in Spain, the studio also hopes to appeal to Spanish speakers.

Casting has also revved interest, with the addition of Johnson, Luke Evans and Gina Carano to a multi-racial cast that includes Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Elsa Pataky, plus original stars Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster.

Says Poon: “It can’t be underscored enough how much people want to have characters to identify with, whether it’s gender or ethnically or belief-wise. Justin has done so much more in that space than most filmmakers.”

More Film

  • A Faithful Man

    Film Review: 'A Faithful Man'

    French actor Louis Garrel has been married twice, first to Iranian talent Golshifteh Farahani, and now to model-cum-actress Laetitia Casta. He has also directed two features, the first a free-wheeling love-triangle comedy called “Two Friends” in which Garrel plays the cad who comes between his best friend and the object of his obsession (played by [...]

  • LGBTQ Film Festival Outfest Opens With

    LGBTQ Film Festival Outfest Opens With Documentary About Gay Porn Shops Circus of Books

    Granted, the red carpet at the opening night of Outfest in DTLA may not have been the most star-studded but it was without a doubt the most diverse, inclusive and, yes, fabulous. “I’ve never been here before,” admitted “RuPaul’s Drag Race” vet Trixie Mattel, who stars in the documentary “Moving Parts.” “It’s supposed to be [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Russ Tamblyn's Career Had Legs After Childhood

    With an acting career that spans work for Cecil B. DeMille and Joseph Losey to Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch, Russ Tamblyn’s creativity and longevity is proof that there’s life after child stardom. In Tamblyn’s case, there’s also been a bounty of juicy film and TV roles long after his legendary legs no longer kicked [...]

  • Olivia Wilde Booksmart Director

    Film News Roundup: Olivia Wilde to Direct Holiday Comedy for Universal

    In today’s film news roundup, Olivia Wilde has landed another directing gig following “Booksmart” and revenge thriller “Seaside” and “Woodstock: The Directors Cut” get August release dates. PROJECT LAUNCH Olivia Wilde will direct and produce an untitled holiday comedy project for Universal Pictures with her “Booksmart” partner Katie Silberman. Universal outbid five other studios for [...]

  • Choas Charles Mansion and the CIA

    Amazon Studios Takes Film Rights to Manson-Centered Drama 'Chaos' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the grisly murders executed by the followers of Charles Manson, Amazon Studios has optioned film rights to a nonfiction title about a journalist who spent decades obsessively following the case. The studio will adapt “Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties,” from [...]

  • Sword of Trust

    Marc Maron on 'Sword of Trust,' Lynn Shelton and Conspiracy Theories

    Marc Maron has interviewed everyone from Bruce Springsteen to President Obama, so he’s probably learned a few things about being a good interview. Of course, as he points out, he generally has over an hour to talk leisurely speak with his guests in his home and draw out stories beyond the public narrative; it’s a [...]

  • Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The

    Andrew Lincoln's ‘Walking Dead’ Movies to Be Released Only in Theaters

    The first planned movie centered on “The Walking Dead” character Rick Grimes will now run in theaters rather than on AMC. The announcement was made with a brief teaser video played at San Diego Comic-Con on Friday, with the video ending with the words “Only in Theaters.” The film will be distributed by Universal Pictures. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content