Looking back, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift probably should have been the death throes of the Fast franchise. It’s never a good sign when the third movie of a franchise loses all its headline stars and, instead, starts over with basically a cast of relative unknowns.
Instead of starring Paul Walker and Vin Diesel (Diesel didn’t even appear in the second installment), the film stars Lucas Black as Sean Boswell, a high school student who is sent to live with his father in Tokyo after getting in trouble with the law for racing back in Arizona. In most cases, this is a signal that your movie franchise is about over. (Obviously, now here we are five movies later, the franchise wasn’t over.) Directed by Justin Lin (who would direct three more of these after),Tokyo Drift grossed $158 million, which was down significantly from the other two films, but was enough to keep everything going. And, maybe most importantly, it gave us Sung Kang’s Han Lue, who died in the movie, but then came back for the fourth movie – a plot point not explained until the ending of the sixth installment.
Chris Morgan’s first time taking a crack at writing a Fast script was Tokyo Drift, and he has written all the Fast movies since, including this week’s The Fate of the Furious.
“Originally, I started as a fan,” says Morgan today when reminiscing about Tokyo Drift. “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.”
And as Morgan remembers, the producers didn’t really know exactly where to take the franchise next and were looking for ideas, “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.”
So the original idea was for Vin Diesel to reprise his role as the star of Tokyo Drift, but as we know that wasn’t going to happen – Diesel had already turned down the second installment to star in xXx.
Morgan remembers, “And they said, ‘Nah, can’t do that. We have to do high school.’ And so the movie became what the movie was. I was really proud of it. And the audience, they came to see it. A lot of people liked it. It kind of did the worst of all the films.”