F. Gary Gray's about to get paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaid.
And why not? “Straight Outta Compton” has been a monster hit for Universal, a surprise to many box-office prognosticators, and in a strange way, that film brought Gray full circle. After all, his first film was “Friday,” starring Ice Cube, and his latest film is a blockbuster biopic of, among other people, Ice Cube.
There is no franchise more important for Universal to finish out in style than the “Fast and Furious” series. Right now, the announced plan is for there to be three more movies, one final trilogy, that will round the entire series out to ten full movies. That is, frankly, amazing when you consider what a low-key hit the first film was. No one would believe you if you went back in time to the summer the first film came out and you told people that eventually, each entry in that series would be bigger than the one before it, with a cast of dozens, packed with gigantic physics-busting set pieces that push the state of the art of blending effects and stunts. It just seems impossible that the first film eventually would lead to the mayhem in the streets of Los Angeles that closed out the last movie.
James Wan was the director of the massive seventh film in the series, and at the end of that film, Paul Walker's character was written out in as graceful a manner as possible considering his unexpected death during production. I've gotten to know Wan a bit over the last five years or so, and seeing him at the end of the press tour for “Furious 7,” it was clear that he was totally burnt flat by the process. I'm frankly amazed he's already back at work on “The Conjuring 2,” because he looked like he was going to need a long quiet time to decompress. When you sign on to make one of these movies in this particular series, you are signing onto a process that is already in motion, that is constantly in motion. These films are too big for the machinery to grind to a halt between each one. They've got a big team in place, and the directors who come in on each film are there to basically steer this particular effort. But it's already in motion by the time a director comes on.
According to Deadline, the deal was decided last night in a meeting between Vin Diesel and Gray, and it wraps up several weeks of intense activity as the studio's been hoping to pin down a choice. There was some reportage suggesting that Vin might be interested in directing himself, most of it starting because of Vin's Facebook activity, and Rob Cohen was also supposedly high on Vin's list of directors for the series. But after all of the recent activity, it's Gray who emerged as Universal's favorite, and again… after the summer he's had… it makes sense.
That leaves two more films after this one, and that last one is the job to have. There's no sign of the popularity of this series flagging at all, and being the one to put a bow on the entire series would be a hell of a temptation for anyone.
“Furious 8” is set for release on April 14, 2017.