1,700 to 1,800 visual effects shots later and the Fast and Furious franchise is back! In Fast and Furious 6 we find the gang enjoying their newfound wealth, until Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs steps in to see if they’re down for another mission. Everyone’s grown quite comfortable enjoying their fortunes and laying low, but Hobbs offers them something no amount of money can buy – full pardons and the chance to reconnect with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). But in order to lock in the goods, the team has to take down Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), the leader of a gang packing so much firepower and horsepower, no formal law enforcement agency can take them down.
In honor of Fast and Furious 6’s May 24th release, Screen Rant and journalists from three other outlets got the opportunity to participate in a Google+ Hangout with director Justin Lin and star Luke Evans. While they sat down on a rooftop in London, we manned our computers here in the states to run through the variety of challenges involved in both upping the action and expanding the franchise mythology.
Think you have a sense of the action this franchise is capable of, based on seeing the first five films? Just wait until you see Fast and Furious 6. The tank, doomed airplane, and vicious hand-to-hand combat teased in the film’s trailer is only scratching the surface and the fact that this installment required 1,700 to 1,800 VFX shots should prove it. But, then again, Lin noted that you shouldn’t even be able to tell the difference:
“I joke with the visual effects supervisors and artists on this film because when they do Harry Potter and stuff like that, they get to show off their craft, you know? And when they come on this franchise, if it actually becomes evidence of visual effect, then they're not doing their job. We have about 1,700, 1,800 visual effect shots in this film and it took a long time to craft and make sure how we were gonna use that tool. And there were a lot of people, I mean, around the world. I had to fly to different cities to kind of talk and hang out with the artists and stuff and a lot of hard work had gone into making everything kind of seamless and believable and real. So, that’s probably one of the proudest things about doing this franchise is utilizing certain tools so that you never notice it's being used.”
Even though there was an extensive amount of VFX work, Evans also pointed out that a good deal of what we see on screen was there, in the flesh, on set, too. “I think what's brilliant about Justin's approach to this film is that if it can be done for real, then do it for real.” He added, “Those big action sequences with the tank and all that stuff, I mean, that actually happened. I saw the film footage the day after it was done and you can't actually believe that you were able to do it for real.”
One of those very real elements was actually inspired by Owen Shaw himself. Lin recalled, “I remember working on the character and people came to me and said ‘Well, what car do you think he would drive?’ And I said, ‘Well, I don't think he would modify any cars. I think he would actually build the car for its function.’” Dennis McCarthy, the film’s picture car coordinator, went off and came back with a Mercedes SUV, but Lin insisted that it just wasn’t right. When Lin suggested starting with an F1 Model, that’s when McCarthy got the spark of inspiration he needed and Lin had the blueprints for the flip car a short while later. “All the credit goes to Dennis for really listening and then participating and building it and making it. I think it's a big part of Shaw and Shaw's introduction.”
As much as the franchise embraces a bigger and better mentality, this is still a movie with a story and characters, so you’re bound to have a handful of more intimate one-on-one dialogue driven moments, and for Lin, it’s those scenes that must come first.
“I feel like these action sequences are always kind of last for me to design because I have to figure out thematically and the character arcs where they are because if you look at these films there's actually not a lot of real estate for non-action moments, so I treat them equally. And I think in picking the lenses and how to design the sequences - I would get lost if I was just going to do action for action's sake. So, you know, the treatment of both action and non-action to me is the exactly the same way.”
To narrow it down, Lin admitted, “We've had antagonism in this franchise, which was basically there to service maybe the plot.” However, with Owen Shaw, we get much more than an equal physical threat. As Lin described, “I wanted to create an antagonist that really had a valid philosophy that was gonna challenge Dom Toretto.” And this is where we get one of the film’s calmest yet most compelling scenes. Evans recalled:
“There was basically an open space. There was two cars and two men, and there’s this appreciation and respect for each other. I liked that the theme that was running through that scene it was, you know, it was almost like we could have been friends. We could have been on the same team if this had been a different world, a different life.”
Fast and Furious 6 has yet to hit theaters, but we’re already talking about round seven and, naturally, where the story could go from here. You’ll have to wait and see whether or not the casting bomb Michelle Rodriguez just dropped has any validity when the film comes out - but, for now, Lin did dish on how the franchise narrative came to be, which might shed some light on what to expect from this installment and beyond:
“The first obstacle was convincing Vin to come in and do the cameo for Tokyo Drift because I heard all the rumors about whatever this and that, and that he would never do it. But, once I was able to meet with him, show him the footage, tell him what I was trying to do and he said yes, I felt like, okay, Dom is the patriarch of the family and now that he's gonna be in, that’s the first step."
We made Fast and Furious, the fourth one, and then I went to the studio and said, ‘Well, Han now has to be in the fourth one,’ and everyone's confused. They think I'm crazy. They said, ‘Well, didn't he die in the third one?’ I said, ‘No, that’s the postmodern take and we're building a mythology. We're gonna build the relationship.’ And to everyone's credit, they said, ‘Okay. Do it.’”
As a big fan of Sun Kang’s Han, especially in film six, I’m very thankful Lin’s collaborators gave him the OK to essentially bring a character back from the dead, but for Lin, it meant much more than that. “It's funny looking back and they're just two small little scenes, but at the end of the day, without those two elements, I don’t think we could have been able to kind of build everything.” And those two elements aren’t only responsible for building the series narrative. Lin also pointed out, “It has been twelve years later, it has been eight years later, and that they're not still doing the same thing over and over again.” He added, “As the characters grow, the obstacles grow.”
And so with Fast and Furious 7 heading towards a July 11, 2014 release, those character and obstacles will only continue to do so. They may be forging forward without Lin behind the lens, but Lin did note, “I can't wait for another filmmaker to come in, for me to hand off the baton and for him or her to take it and then see what they're gonna do with the franchise.” The pressure is on, James Wan.
Check out the full Google+ Hangout below and catch Fast and Furious 6 in theaters on May 24th.
Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.