Universal’s Fast and Furious franchise, which launched nearly 15 years ago is forging ahead, despite the untimely death of Paul Walker midway through production of Fast and Furious 7. However, there will still plenty of familiar faces returning for the latest sequel, Fast and Furious 8 -- including Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, and Jason Statham -- while F. Gary Gray will assume the director’s chair fresh off the success of the NWA biopic, Straight Outta Compton.
Few plot details are known about the upcoming film, but more information is being made available about the film’s setting. Vin Diesel previously confirmed that the Los Angeles-based franchise is heading to the East Coast for the first time to film in New York City.
Now comes word that Universal wants to shoot parts of the stunt-filled movie in Cuba. According to Variety, the studio has confirmed filmmakers have already made a trip to the island nation to scout for possible locations:
"Universal Pictures is currently in the process of seeking approval from the United States and Cuban governments to explore shooting a portion of the next installment of the 'Fast & Furious' series in Cuba."
The Fast and Furious films are certainly no strangers to filming in exotic locales, with previous visits to the Dominican Republic, Dubai, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo. However, a Cuban setting would prove to be a historic move, making it by far the biggest Hollywood production to shoot in the Communist nation. It comes as various Hollywood studios are seeking to capitalize on the recent decision by the Obama administration to normalize relations with Cuba after decades of tension between the two countries, resulting in the lifting of the trade embargo, lightening of travel restrictions and the opening of a U.S. embassy last year.
So far, two American shows have already taken advantage of the move, including the Showtime comedy House of Lies, which will film parts of season 5 in the country, and the TBS talk show Conan, which sent host Conan O’Brien to film a special episode in the capital city of Havana. Netflix has also just announced plans to launch a streaming service in the country, despite its lack of Internet service, as part of an effort to expand its service worldwide.
Though sources close to the production caution the decision is still "in the exploratory phase," if the folks behind Fast and Furious 8 do decide to move forward, experts such as John Kavulich, senior policy adviser to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, maintain that getting permission from both the American and Cuban governments to film in the country shouldn’t be a difficult task. After all, the shooting of a major Hollywood blockbuster could be seen as a way to further strengthen relations between the two countries:
"The Cuban government is supportive and the U.S. government is supportive. Licenses for television and motion picture productions are bilateral issues and they will receive bilateral support."
Although Cuba has never seen a production on the size or scale of something like Fast and Furious 8, it does have its own homegrown entertainment industry with sound stages and trained professionals that would prevent them from having to start completely fresh. Despite the tumultuous history between the U.S. and the isolated island, the Cuban people also have a strong interest and fascination with American films and pop culture, which makes it likely that they would be more than willing to welcome a Hollywood film production to their country.
Though there are several drawbacks to filming in Cuba, there are also quite a few advantages. Firstly, the country is home to various beautiful beaches and tropical mountains that few people in the U.S. and around the world have ever seen. Production costs would also go down, given that food and labor is substantially cheaper than on American soil. Lastly, the franchise has a sizable and passionate Hispanic fan base in the U.S. and across Latin America that may find the setting appealing.
Whether Fast and Furious 8 chooses Cuba as its tropical setting or not, what is clear is that the sequel will likely prove to be another successful entry in the franchise regardless of where it is set or filmed. Production on the film is slated to begin this spring in New York and Atlanta for a 2017 release.
Fast and Furious 8 will hit theaters on April 17, 2017.