The most surprising thing about the Fast & Furious franchise isn't that it's as popular and successful as it is, but that it's still going. The fact that the franchise is nearing the theatrical release of its eighth installment, and is only growing more and more popular with each new outing is practically unheard of in the entertainment industry.
But as it turns out, one of the franchise's biggest critical disappointments, The Fast and Furious - Tokyo Drift, actually wound up being the beginning of a new era of the franchise, whether fans knew it at the time or not. With the introductions of some fan-favorite characters, and a cameo appearance from Vin Diesel's Dom at the end, the film laid the groundwork for what would later become a streak of massively successful -- both critically and financially -- additions to the Fast and Furious canon.
However, there was a moment in time, it turns out, when Tokyo Drift was going to be a much different film than fans ended up getting. While recently speaking with UPROXX, screenwriter Chris Morgan revealed that when he originally pitched the idea for the third installment of the franchise to the studio, he intended for Vin Diesel's Dom to be the lead of it. The only reason that didn't happen, was because Diesel was tied up at the same time with his xXx films to do it:
“Originally, I started as a fan. I went to see the original film at a late-night showing. I just loved that brotherhood between Dom and Brian. And then I got asked to do the third movie. There was an open writing call for the third film. I think originally I came in and pitched. Essentially it was Tokyo Drift, but it was with Vin, and his character kind of had to go out and learn drifting. And there was a murder he had to solve.
It is so funny. It could have been the death throes, and then thankfully, the thing that kind of saved us was that we got Vin at the very end of the movie to come in and kind of hint where we’re going to go in the future. That moment at the end, everyone’s like, ‘Oh my God, what does this mean? Are they going to do something else?’ And that gave us the ammo to go in and do the fourth one, which led us to do the fifth and the sixth and the seventh and the eighth. So it all kind of built from there.”
As fans know, a movie about Dom having to learn how to drift and solve a murder could not be any different than what Tokyo Drift turned out to be. Instead of that, the 2006 film directed by franchise veteran, Justin Lin, centered around a high schooler who winds up becoming a major competitor in the dangerous world of drift racing. It went on to be considered one of the more critically panned outings in the franchise, even if it did act as the introduction to Sung Kang's Han, who Morgan admits they altered the entire franchise's timeline to include more of in the later films.
It's interesting to consider what Tokyo Drift might have been like if Diesel's Dom had been the lead of it, though, since in many ways, Diesel has been the saving grace of the Fast and Furious franchise over the past few years. His behind-the-scenes shepherding of the franchise has led it down paths most fans might never have thought it would go originally, and led to the additions of stars like Dwayne Johnson, Luke Evans, Jason Statham, and Kurt Russell. So one can only imagine, as it nears the upcoming release of its biggest installment yet, where exactly the Fast and Furious franchise might go from here.