The Fast and the Furious franchise has somewhat quietly amassed one of the most (if not the most) high-profile ensemble casts in Hollywood right now, what with the L.A. underground racing-turned international heist series’ mainstays – Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and so forth – being joined in next summer’s Fast & Furious 7 by Jason Statham, Kurt Russell and Tony Jaa (with MMA fighter Ronda Rousey and Fast Five/Furious 6 costar Dwayne Johnson both rumored to make an appearance in the film).

Add one more prolific actor to that roster, now that Djimon Hounsou is reported to have joined the F&F7 cast. The two-time Oscar-nominee – renowned for his dramatic performances in films like Amistad, In America and Blood Diamond – was already poised to appear in several titles slated for theatrical release in 2014 (before he joined F&F7 that is), including the delayed Seventh Son fantasy novel adaptation, horror pseudo-documentary Vatican Tapes and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, featuring Diesel in a mo-cap performance as anthropomorphic tree Groot (Hounsou’s also voicing a character in How to Train Your Dragon 2 next year).

Variety, which broke the news about Hounsou being cast in Fast & Furious 7, doesn’t mention in its report whether the actor will play an ally to Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and his ragtag crew, or if he’ll be a minion that works for the (SPOILER?) vengeance-minded British gentleman (Statham) glimpsed during the mid-credits scene for Fast & Furious 6.

On that note: it is kind of fascinating how naturally the Fast & Furious franchise has transitioned into resembling the best aspects of Marvel Studio’s Cinematic Universe, what with these films’ mid-credits sequences and diverse casts featuring the cream of the crop in character actors and/or rising talent; not to mention, the way these movies blend crowd-pleasing action and spectacle with meaningful character drama and relevant themes about the modern world (like we said: this really is a superhero franchise in disguise).

Similarly, Diesel has gone ahead and let the cat out of the bag, revealing one of the important connective tissues between Fast & Furious 7 and the already-planned eighth installment (a la the overlapping characters and plot threads in the MCU). Meanwhile, The Conjuring and Insidious Chapter 2 director James Wan has begun shooting the seventh Fast movie, with the intent of tweaking the franchise’s genre once again so that this movie resembles a gritty 1970s revenge thriller.

Fingers crossed, that should allow the series to continue thriving and evolving at once, like how Marvel has found success by bringing in auteurs to shape each of the studio’s comic book movies in a unique fashion (see: Shane Black’s Iron Man 3). Be sure and let us know your own thoughts about how Fast & Furious 7 is shaping up; not to mention, your reaction to the news that Fast & Furious 8 looks to become a reality in the next couple years.

Fast & Furious 7 opens in U.S. theaters on July 11th, 2014.

We shall keep you posted on Fast & Furious 8 as the story develops.

Source: Variety