The Fast & Furious franchise is heading into what has been promised to be its final stretch, with a trilogy of sequels set to bring the series to an official conclusion between 2017 and 2021. The regular cast is expected to return to finish out their iconic roles, with Dwayne Johnson becoming the latest to confirm his involvement recently, and Eva Mendes supposedly being courted for a return to the series with rumors of a potential spinoff.
But whatever the composition of the "family" of heroes in Fast 8, Dom and the rest will need a villain -- and now news is breaking that Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron is in talks for the role.
According to Variety, Theron is in "early talks" for the unspecified villainous role, with the studio apparently eager to bring the star into the fold. Theron, of course, most recently won rave reviews playing the hero of another automobile-combat thriller as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road; so there's a certain level of genre-specific logic to the casting. It is not known whether or not this new villain would be an ally or rival to Deckard Shaw, the villain of the previous installment played by Jason Statham, who is also expected to return for the eighth installment.
The series has featured female villains before, but Theron would be the most high-profile actress to join the ranks of the franchise's antagonists by a considerable margin. A proven box-office star and an award winner, Theron has previously took villainous roles in Snow White & The Huntsman and its upcoming sequel The Huntsman: Winter's War. The star has also been frequently cited as a potential contender for Marvel's still-uncast Captain Marvel feature currently scheduled for a 2018 release date.
A prominent female antagonist would certainly be a change of pace for the series, which has only recently begun to focus on charismatic villains, as opposed to stock crime-thriller bad guys whose minimal charisma yields more screen time to the ever-expanding roster of automotive action heroes led by Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto. While most of the series' action takes place behind the wheel, it's not hard to imagine that the hand-to-hand combat training Theron has picked up in prior action roles. like the live-action Aeon Flux, coming into play as well -- especially since the sequels have seemingly felt hard-pressed to deliver new female opponents for fight scenes against Michelle Rodriguez's Letty. In Furious 7, UFC fighter Ronda Rousey joined the film for a cameo role created specifically to generate such a sequence.
The move also makes sense in a film industry landscape currently scrambling to find ever more ways to integrate female characters into franchises conventionally thought to be strictly male territory. While the Fast & Furious series has often been dismissed by critics as little more than automotive-themed adolescent macho posturing, reappraisals of the franchise have lauded it for its diverse cast and emphasis on a nontraditional "family" dynamic among its heroes.
F. Gary Gray (who previously directed both Theron and Statham in The Italian Job) will direct the film, which is set to begin shooting in international locations such as Cuba and Iceland for certain sequences. Chris Morgan, who has written five previous installments in the series, returns for screenplay duties.
Fast 8 will opens in theaters April 17, 2017, Fast and Furious 9 opens April 19, 2019, and Fast and Furious 10 on April 2, 2021.