Good grief, it sounds hard to make a Fast and Furious movie. When you talk to F. Gary Gray – a man who comes off as eternally optimistic – it’s hard not to notice an almost underbelly of relief in his voice that this movie is done. Despite the fun we see onscreen, directing one of these just sounds like an incredibly stressful job. And maybe that’s why after Justin Lin’s now, in retrospect, almost Herculean effort to make four of these movies in a row, the last three movies of this franchise have been made by three different directors (Lin, James Wan, and now Gray). When I suggested someday all the ex-Fast directors will all have a retreat someday to share war stories, F. Gary Gray laughed maybe a bit too loud. Then he offered to organize that retreat.
We last saw Gray receiving accolades for 2015’s Straight Outta Compton, but in-between that movie and his debut with 1995’s Friday, Gray has worked on a lot of action movies. To the point that The Fate of the Furious seems like a culmination of all the action set pieces that had come before. That memorable MINI Cooper scene in The Italian Job (and don’t forget, that scene was a big deal when that movie came out), well, Gray thinks back on that and laughs in retrospect compared to what he had to pull off in The Fate of the Furious.
Ahead, Gray discuses the ins and outs of making what is sure to be another blockbuster in this series. Yes, Dom (Vin Diesel) has turned against his team, which creates a whole new dynamic. And added to this is the fact this is the first Fast movie without Paul Walker since his untimely death. (Walker also did not appear in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.) And Gray explains how The Fate of the Furious acts as a fresh start for the franchise, while also keeping Walker’s memory alive.
There are maybe ten things in this movie I’ve never seen before.
Isn’t that a good thing? That’s a good thing, right?
Dom races a heat-seeking missile. I have never seen that before.
And you probably never will again! [Laughs.] Dom racing a heat-seeking missile! Oh, well, I’m trying to wonder if I’m giving away too much? I’ll just say this. You will see quite a few things that you’ve never seen before, and you probably never will. And that’s part of it as a filmmaker, you want people to be engaged and on the edge of their seats, and how you do that is by just showing stuff you’ve never seen before, for sure.
You’re new to the Fast and Furious franchise, but while I was watching I realized you’ve worked with a lot of people in this movie before.
Yeah, you know, I think there’s kind of a benefit to having worked with Vin on A Man Apart, and of course Charlize and Jason on The Italian Job, and Dwayne on Be Cool. You develop a little bit of a shorthand; you know what they’re capable of. Of course. I’m the new guy on the block to the franchise, but we’ve all experienced creating together, so you can just jump right in. There’s not this kind of “getting to know you” honeymoon period, there’s just: All right, we’ve done it before, how can we take it to the next level? And that’s what this movie represents for us.
Is Fate of the Furious the epitome of your action movies? Basically, everything you learned before and the kitchen sink went into this one?
I think you could be right. I think that all of that stuff was the boot camp for Fate of the Furious. It was my training grounds. And, you know, The Italian Job was fun – had a lot of cute little MINI Coopers running around! But now I’m taking it to the next level. What’s going on with submarines and tanks and things like that? It was a lot of fun and we wanted to take the audience on a ride. We wanted to take them out of the country and into a few different countries with a phenomenal cast. So yeah, I think you’re right, it does feel like all roads led to The Fate of the Furious. The only thing that’s missing is Dr. Dre.
These movies have really hit their stride later in the franchise and that usually doesn’t happen.
And I’ll take that as a compliment. Justin [Lin] did a great job. James [Wan] did a great job. And I’m hoping people feel like now I’m seeing something fresh – it doesn’t feel like old news to me.