The Fast and the Furious franchise is stronger than ever as it approaches its eighth installment, Fast and Furious 8. The producers and cast have all admitted that it's going to be difficult to continue the saga without the presence of the late Paul Walker, and that struggle extends to both the story of the next film, and behind-the-scenes matters like trying to find a new director.
Furious 7 director James Wan has moved on (what with the struggle he had getting the seventh film out after Walker's death), and as of late we'd heard a shortlist of names that could potentially take over as the director of Furious 8. Now we confirm one of the names for the director's chair.
Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray will be directing Fast and Furious 8, and confirmed as much via twitter:
— F Gary Gray (@FGaryGray) October 8, 2015
Gray was our pick out of the shortlist of Fast and Furious 8 potential directors; here's what our own Sandy Schaefer rightly pointed out:
Gray is ... fresh off the critical/commercial success of his N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton for Universal, which certainly doesn't hurt his chances of landing the Furious 8 directing job. Furthermore, Gray is an experienced genre filmmaker with noteworthy features like The Negotiator and The Italian Job under his belt; the latter movie in particular effectively blends heist genre elements with vehicular thrills and character drama, similar to Fast & Furious installments Fast Five and Furious 6. Suffice it to say, there's a good reason Gray has made the cut on most lists of potential Furious 8 directors that've been published online recently.
It's hard to imagine that anyone who enjoyed The Italian Job will have a problem with Gray taking on a franchise like Fast and Furious; if anything, we hope that his maturity and experience as a filmmaker might ground some of the crazier and cartoonish elements that the franchise has tacked on in later installments.
If Gray steers things back from flying cars and endless airport runaways, it can only be a good thing for this aging franchise. Hopefully if he does well with the film he can stay on as director for the inevitable followups; Fast and the Furious was arguably at its best when one person (director Justin Lin) was carrying the franchise through each installment. Of course, Gray committing to further installments might squash all possibility of him directing Marvel's Black Panther movie.
As it stands, there's enough time between Fast & Furious 8 and Black Panther's release dates that Gray could actually helm BOTH films; but that would be a hard needle for any director to thread, so don't be too surprised if more candidates for a Black Panther director start to emerge soon.
Fast & Furious 8 opens in U.S. theaters on April 14th, 2017.