In October, Universal Pictures invited us (along with a small group of other journalists) to Atlanta to visit the set of Fast Five. The fifth installment of the Fast and Furious franchise was in Atlanta to shoot warehouse interior scenes that take place in the film’s main location – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The fourth film in the franchise, Fast & Furious, grossed over $350 million worldwide and injected new fuel into the franchise. The third installment, Tokyo Drift, has a core fan base, but is generally considered the weakest of the saga. 2 Fast 2 Furious was the hip-hop-centric sequel to the surprise hit original film, The Fast and the Furious. All four films grossed over $150 million worldwide individually, solidifying the argument that Fast and Furious is a true blockbuster franchise.
The one consistent element in each of the previous movies is family. All four films are clearly action movies with a car-centric theme, but it is all gear head mania is interconnected by an over-arching theme of family and trust. The franchise began with a complicated yet budding relationship between Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) that brought her brother, Dom (Vin Diesel) and his group of street racers head-to-head. Ten years later, Brian and Mia are in the prime of their relationship and everybody involved is on the run from federal agents.
The cast and crew of Fast Five all spent some time with us on set to discuss the state of the franchise and where Fast Five rests in the saga. While this is the fifth movie, it actually acts as the fourth chapter of the story. Universal confirmed that the correct order of the Fast and Furious films is as follows:
- The Fast and the Furious (2001)
- 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
- Fast & Furious (2009)
- Fast Five (2011)
- The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
One of the easiest ways to locate the timing of Fast Five is the appearance of Sung Kang, a character who [SPOILER ALERT] is killed in Tokyo Drift. In addition to Kang, nearly every major character from all four films has a role in Fast Five. Dom and Brian gather the all-star team of street racers to pull off one of the most insane heists in recent memory.
The Set Visit
Fast Five has a lot going for it. There is a major heist that involves an armored car and customized Chargers, high-speed pursuits down the dangerous favelas of Brazil and, of course, the addition of Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs, a formidable foe for Vin Diesel’s Dom. But Hobbs is not a true villain in Fast Five and Johnson told us he isn’t sure what side the audience will put him on. Universal has asked us to save some of the juicy secrets of the plot, but Johnson’s character will introduce some dynamic issues for the entire cast to overcome.
The set in Atlanta was massive. An abandoned train yard was transformed into a secret hideout for the gang – but it is more than just a location. The warehouse is used as an obstacle course for a special group of cars the gang will test before a big heist scene. Essentially, it is a training course to see if certain vehicles can handle the unconventional job they have planned.
While much of the film was shot in Puerto Rico (doubling as Rio de Janiero), the entire cast, crew and cars were on set in Atlanta. The cast and crew also shared some intriguing details about the direction of the fifth installment.
The interviews spanned two days. Some took place in the trailers, while the last few were held in a corner near the filming area. Each cast member was given a small scooter to use for on-set transportation during production and some curiously rode to the interview on them – Tyrese, for example, was a huge fan. Obviously, the cast will find themselves in much more capable vehicles in the film. Check back this week for an article specifically devoted to the vehicles of Fast Five.
We had an opportunity to watch a few pre-cut segments from the Puerto Rico shoot and it was a mind-blowing scene. The action in Fast Five is arguably the best we have seen yet from the franchise. Dwayne Johnson brings an extra dose of muscle to the scenes, allowing the movie to get out of the cars for some on-foot action. The one scene we are all waiting to see is the epic fist fight between Johnson and Diesel. While we were unable to watch the fight in action, both actors stepped away bloodied and exhausted. The scene took multiple days to shoot and even more to choreograph, so the only question that remains is: who will come out victorious?
Once we sat down with the Fast Five cast and crew, the group of journalists had an opportunity to really get into the details of the film. Check back this week for separate articles of the main cast interviews, including Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, car coordinator Dennis McCarthy and director Justin Lin. For now, let’s give the rest of the cast a chance to share their thoughts on the film.
The Cast: Old Faces, New Faces
Working with a cast as big as that in Fast Five can be difficult. Movies have tried hard to bring as many talented actors in one film as possible, but that can create a tense atmosphere. Luckily, the loose setting of a Fast and Furious movie gave everybody a little more freedom to just have fun. Much of the cast had worked together at some point in the franchise, but a good portion were just meeting each other. The one constant across all the interviews was everybody’s belief that the larger cast will make Fast Five a better movie.
Since we now know Fast Five rests in between Fast & Furious and Tokyo Drift, the main questions revolved around the relevance of each character within the overall saga. The supporting cast discussed their individual character’s place in Fast Five:
Matt Schulze (Vincent, The Fast and the Furious) – He’s stronger. He’s stronger, but he has a heart now, which is a little different… He abandoned everything and ended up getting to Rio to do his own Scarface kind of thing… Sort of like when Kurtz went into the jungle [in Apocalypse Now], Vince went into his own jungle and became one with what that was. I think he’s happy with that – the rawness of it.
Elsa Pataky (Elena Neves, new character) - Even though [she] is a cop, she lives in the favelas and I get the impression of how she lives and what she is fighting for – [fighting] against the corruption and to help the people get through it. It is funny because Dwayne is this big guy playing this tough guy and she is trying to be a tough woman in a man’s world.
Tyrese Gibson (Roman Pearce, 2 Fast 2 Furious) – Roman grew up. Roman is still funny. Roman [tries] to figure out every way possible that [even] when you watching him he’s having a good time… I don’t like [Dom]. I have a problem with authority. Dom’s character in this movie tends to believe he has the final say about anything we are supposed to do and how we are supposed to go about doing it? I’m not a groupie. I don’t care who you are. That s**t don’t make sense to me. Hobbs is mainly after Dom in this movie and we’re kind of a part of a clique, but he specifically has an issue with Dom. I’m actually kind of happy about that, because I would shoot him. I’m not fighting no damn Dwayne Johnson.
Sung Kang (Han, Fast & Furious, Tokyo Drift) - It’s kind of like a family reunion with cousins you’ve never met before. You’ve heard about them. They are legends within the stories, but getting to actually work with them is great. Paul and Vin are such great contributors on set because they started with the first franchise, especially Paul, being a car fanatic.
Gal Gadot (Gisele, Fast & Furious) – Working with so many stars in this one makes the movie that much more interesting.
Jordana Brewster (Mia Toretto, The Fast and the Furious, Fast & Furious) – Once I read the script, I wasn’t too worried about this many characters in the story.
Justin Lin (Director, Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious) – Coming off the last movie, I thought that was it for me. When the conversation came up of what would it take to come back and do another one, I always love it because for a big action franchise, the theme of family is so strong in this one that it felt appropriate to have them all come back for this one.
The cast and crew may have grown, but they all still recognize the franchise as an action series with cars in the spotlight. The filmmakers have tried hard to make the movies about something more than fast cars, but they have thrived on the general attention to great vehicles. Fast Five continues that trend, but brings the focus back to the street and away from controlled rallies.
There are not as many hot candy cars this time around. Instead, the older classics make their way onscreen. Dom’s Charger is resurrected, making it the only franchise mainstay in Fast Five. Brian still drives his trademark Skyline, only this time it is an old, beat up ’72 Skyline. New Dodge Chargers play a significant role in the final heist scene that includes the previously mentioned bank vault and Dwayne Johnson adds a massive piece of metal with his Gurkha. Check back later this week for an article strictly about the cars of Fast Five, but for now we can guarantee you the Gurkha does some serious damage.
The cars will never go unnoticed by the cast and crew, which allows the movies to be a little lighter and pack a bigger action punch. The cars act as motifs for each character, thrusting the story along as the cars rush by the screen. While some of the franchise films have offered poorly-utilized green screen driving, director Justin Lin assured us he does not want to disappoint car enthusiasts:
Justin Lin – There is something very special and unique when you crash a car. Car people were pissed off because of the CGI, and I agree, and I wanted to understand why the people who loved cars had an issue with that and the articulation of the cars we shot for real. The CGI that helped in the last two were environmental. The last one, we had certain challenges like the tunnel – there is just no tunnel like that that exists. All the stunts were real, but we had to build the environment. On this one I was very conscious to not even approach that. There are effects, but our approach, and even our coverage of it, I would hope at the end of the day it’s not even noticeable at all.
Sung Kang - I do the heist with the boys. Unfortunately in this one we don’t celebrate the cars as much, but there are these Dodge Chargers that we steal. There’s a real fun scene where Dom, Brian, Roman and Han go and steal these cop cars in Brazil for this final heist and pull up to a stop sign before we get to our hideaway and all look at each other and go, “Hey, this is a good time to see whose skills are top,” and then we go for it. Each of us brings in our own style.
Gal Gadot - I’m the only one who drives a motorcycle, a Ducati.
Tyrese Gibson - I’ve got this one scene I’m really excited about after we conquer a few missions I show up looking extra wealthy and what I’m wearing and driving and pulling up with is extra “hmm” and Roman has a moment to shine.
Dennis McCarthy (car coordinator) - Gosh, we’ve got a lot of cars. You start off the film with a train heist. We have a ’71 Pantera, an original GT 40 and a 1965 Corvette Grand Sport. There is also a vehicle built – we call it the heist truck – it’s sort of a one-off, custom-built vehicle with big tires – almost monster truck style built for a specific purpose. That was probably the most challenging sequence in the film because we were out in the desert in 120 degrees in the sand and keeping things running in that environment is always a challenge. We also have the Charger back. The old one and the new one. The ’70 Charger is back and Vin is in his Charger in South America. It’s not as flashy – it doesn’t have the motor. He’s tried to make it a little more inconspicuous. And that’s when you see Paul Walker in the ’72 Skyline. The other car you see down there is Han’s Ford Maverick – one of the top muscle cars in Sao Paolo. I really want to get the Chevy Opala in there. There is also a Silver 370Z, a brand new Subaru that they’ve donated to our cause, a Porsche GT-3 clone, the Toyota Supra is back and a 2010 Skyline. There is the new Lexus LFA – a car I literally tried to get in the film since I read the script. We got it for 24 hours, which was a sense of accomplishment just to get it. The Gurkha fits The Rock perfect.
Fast & Furious put a spark in the Fast and Furious franchise that should easily carry over into Fast Five. The franchise is a money-making machine and constantly redefines itself by tackling different car cultures in each film. Fast Five hopes to continue that trend by being a story-based action thriller that happens to have cars.
There is no guarantee for success in Hollywood, but the Fast and Furious movies have not slowed down yet. The last movie cost more and made more than any of its predecessors, and Fast Five has raised the production budget even further, allegedly breaking the $100 million mark. But if history has proven anything, that money will not be difficult to make back.
However casual movie fans don’t necessarily care about the film’s box office potential. They go to the theater for quality entertainment that’s worth the ticket price. From what we saw on set, and the overall enthusiasm of a team that has worked on this franchise for a decade, Fast Five should have no problem entertaining the masses.
Watch the trailer for Fast Five below to see only a fraction of what waits in the action-packed fifth installment:
Whether Fast Five is a success or not, Universal and Vin Diesel have begun developing Fast and the Furious 6 to follow this fifth film. Director Justin Lin told us “These characters have a lot left in them and this franchise can branch off in many different directions. Tokyo Drift proves there is life beyond this, with or without me.” As long as the franchise stays away from straight-to-DVD quality, as far as I’m concerned it deserves to keep returning to theaters.
If you enjoy the Fast and Furious movies, there will be plenty more to follow Fast Five – I guarantee it. For now, Dwayne Johnson’s addition is enough to keep the story fresh and give audiences something to anticipate other than fast cars and an angry Vin Diesel.
BONUS: Check out a new Fast Five teaser poster, which highlights the all-star cast:
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SIDE NOTE: Be sure to check back this week for more coverage of our Fast Five set visit, including interviews with franchise stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, new addition Dwayne Johnson and director Justin Lin.
Fast Five spins into theaters on April 29th, 2011.