Once it had been confirmed that Fast & Furious 6 wouldn't shoot back-to-back with the seventh installment, the natural assumption was that Fast & Furious 7 wouldn't release in theaters until 2015 (at the earliest). That changed this month, after Vin Diesel dropped the news that filming on the seventh movie begins this summer, followed two weeks later by Universal's formal announcement of a July 2014 release date target.
Fast and the Furious producer Neal H. Moritz is out and about promoting the sixth installment right now, which has provided him the chance to clear up a few things about the seventh movie; that includes who is directing - now that Justin Lin (Fast and the Furious 3-6) has stepped aside - and whether or not Dwayne Johnson will make an appearance as Agent Luke Hobbs.
Development on Fast & Furious 7 began well before Fast & Furious 6 entered production, because (according to Diesel) the amount of story and character relationship payoffs set in motion during Fast Five became too much to handle for a single movie. Moritz re-affirmed the start date for the seventh installment, during a recent interview with Collider.
“Yes, we are gonna film this summer. We have been talking about it for quite a while, because while we’re making any of the Fast movies we’re always talking about what could happen in future Fast films. So it’s something that we have been talking about for quite a while.”
By extension, it sounds as though Universal always intended to get Fast & Furious 7 into theaters as quickly as possible, but without resorting to the problematic back-to-back production scheduling (for more on that, listen to the Screen Rant Underground Podcast crew's discussion). Hence, while Lin's departure came as a surprise to the rest of us, it might have been something the studio anticipated well in advance.
Speaking of surprises: the decision to approach director James Wan to replace Lin on Fast & Furious 7 was not at all the obvious choice, given that Wan is known for making horror fare (Insidious, The Conjuring) and extremely gruesome material (Saw, Death Sentence). That's not exactly the sort of resume that makes a filmmaker seem like a good match for a consumer-friendly series that's big on action set pieces and eye candy.
Moritz confirmed that Wan is directing Fast & Furious 7, adding that:
"He’s a terrific, terrific director at the top, top of his genre. He’s done everything you could do in the genre he’s been working in, and as he said to me the other day, everything he has trained himself within that genre has been so he could take the next step up into something like Fast & Furious. I’ve always been a fan of his, he’s one of the people that we initially had on our list as a possible replacement, but I can just tell you when he came in and told us what his vision was, when he left the room we all looked at each other and said 'That’s our director.'"
Wan, as I've mentioned in previous articles, has earned a reputation for being a hard-working and efficient director; case in point, he will release The Conjuring this summer, followed by Insidious Chapter 2 just a couple months later. Moreover, he's skilled in the area of using practical tools and in-camera techniques, which is in keeping with Lin's philosophy that "CGI never replaces the real thing" when it comes to stunt-work and spectacle.
As for his lack of big-budget filmmaking experience: similar to how Joss Whedon had plenty of assistance tackling The Avengers - and Colin Trevorrow will collaborate with seasoned blockbuster producers while he directs Jurassic Park 4 this year - Wan will have the support of people who have been making these Fast and the Furious movies for over a decade now.
Lastly, despite rumors that Agent Hobbs could get his own standalone movie at some point, there's reason to wonder if Johnson will have to pass on Fast & Furious 7 due to him headlining director Brett Ratner's Hercules comic book adaptation (which also begins production this summer); at the least, it's unlikely the actor will play as central a role as he does in Fast & Furious 6.
For the time being, all Moritiz has confirmed is that Johnson will show up in some capacity in Fast & Furious 7, by saying:
"It’s a new chapter, but The Rock will be involved as well."
Fast & Furious 6 stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky, Gina Carano, Luke Evans, Joe Taslim and Clara Paget.
Look for Fast & Furious 6 in theaters (regular and IMAX) on May 24th, 2013.
Fast & Furious 7 hits theaters on July 11th, 2014.