The Rundown: Finally, At Long Last, The ‘Fast & Furious’ Franchise Will Let Helen Mirren Drive

The Rundown is a weekly column that highlights some of the biggest, weirdest, and most notable events of the week in entertainment. The number of items could vary, as could the subject matter. It will not always make a ton of sense. Some items might not even be about entertainment, to be honest, or from this week. The important thing is that it’s Friday, and we are here to have some fun.

ITEM NUMBER ONE — Great news for Helen Mirren and me

It’s good to have dreams. They give you something to strive for, a reason to keep moving, whether they are big ambitious ones or smaller ones you can attain more easily. You can keep them to yourself for internal motivation or you can blast them out into the world in an attempt to will them into reality. The important thing is that you have them and that you do your best to see them through because, one day, if you don’t give up, they might come true. Just look at Helen Mirren and her dream of driving a car in the Fast & Furious movies.

I should back up. There’s a lot going on here, and there is a lot of history. Let’s start in 2015, when Dame Helen Mirren, legendary star of the British stage and screen, said this in an interview with Yahoo.

My great ambition is to be in a Fast and Furious movie. I so want to be a mad driver in a Fast and Furious movie. My claim to fame is I always do my own driving — I was on Top Gear, and I did [my lap] in a very good time. I keep putting it out there, and they never ask me. I’ll be in Fast and Furious 8. I have to say Vin Diesel is brilliant. I love Vin Diesel. He’s a great guy, smart — I love him. It’s partly because of him I’d like to be in one, but also the driving.

I need you to go back and read that in Helen Mirren’s voice for the full effect. Have you ever read anything cooler? Helen Mirren has starred in tons of awards-caliber movies, often as the Queen, and according to her, her great ambition was to be in the Fast & Furious franchise as “a mad driver.” She even buttered up Vin Diesel a little bit at the end, just for good measure. This was so bold and funny and awesome at the time, and the best part is that it worked, because Helen Mirren did end up in The Fate of the Furious as Jason Statham’s mother.

Actually, I lied. The best part is everything I just said plus the fact that she was so excited about it that she broke the news of her own casting in an interview with Elle Magazine, of all the places in the world to break Fast & Furious casting news.

I’ve always rather loved driving. I said, ‘I’ll be in it, but only if I’m allowed to drive if I do drive in it.’ But we’ll see. We’ll see how it transpires.

But there was bad news. For some unknowable reason that made me livid at the time (and still does today, a little bit), after casting Mirren in the movie as per her wishes, they didn’t let her drive. Not even a little. How can you cast Helen Mirren in a damn Fast & Furious movie and not let her drive? Uggghhhh. This is a movie that ended with The Rock punching a torpedo that was launched onto an ice sheet from a nuclear submarine that was stolen by a cyber-anarchist played by Charlize Theron with braids. They could have found room for Helen Mirren to drive.

I wasn’t the only one who was annoyed by this. Helen Mirren was ticked off, too.

But sadly for Mirren, Fast 8 won’t feature her behind the steering wheel. “I wanted to be driving, but unfortunately, I’m not,” she says, shrugging. “Maybe that will come in the future, in Fast and Furious 12.” She pauses. “I’m probably one of the few people on the set who know how to drive a gear shift car. I doubt the Rock knows,” she jokes. “But I do. I know how to double declutch.”

What a perfect quote. All of it, starting with her repeated public requests to be allowed to drive, moving on to her sarcastic jabs at it “maybe” happening by the 12th movie, and finishing with the objectively hilarious assertion that The Rock can’t drive stick. If you can find anything anywhere better than Helen Mirren repeatedly begging to be allowed to drive a neon Honda in a Fast & Furious movie and taking good-natured public shots at The Rock in the process, buddy, send it my way at once. I need it like I need oxygen.


There was a development early last year that gave both Helen Mirren and me hope. In the trailer for the next movie, F9, which was released in January and, among other things, introduced John Cena as Vin Diesel’s secret brother and featured Charlize Theron with a bowl cut flying a magnetic plane, there was this very brief shot.


That is Helen Mirren behind a steering wheel. Which implies that she drove or is about to drive. Which is a good thing. But, because the car isn’t moving at all in the shot, it raised the possibility that she never actually gets to drive it on-screen. Can you think of anything more cruel? Six years of lobbying to drive a car in the Fast & Furious movies only to be placed behind the wheel of a parked car? I would torch the studio. Just turn it all into ash.

Luckily, for Helen and me and everyone else, that is not the case, as Vin Diesel confirmed in an interview this week.

To me, maybe the biggest question for F9, and we get a little tease in the trailer, is whether Helen Mirren finally gets to drive. She’s the one who campaigned to be cast because she so badly wants to be behind the wheel. We see her in the car, with Dom riding shotgun, but I can’t help notice they are parked. Or is this a spoiler too?

[Laughs] Derek, you ask the right questions. Again, without giving away any spoilers…You know what, I’m going to give you a spoiler: Yes, she gets to drive.

On behalf of Dame Helen, thank you!

It’s so awesome. She gets to drive and she gets to drive sleek.

Never give up on your dreams, people. That’s the lesson in all of this. They might not come true right away, but if you stick with them and say them out loud to every journalist who puts a microphone in front of your face for half a decade, you might make them a reality one day.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — This changes everything


Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone’s television critic and my former podcast partner, has a new podcast. It’s called Too Long; Didn’t Watch and it has a cool premise: Alan and a celebrity guest watch the first and last episode of a show the guest has not seen and then the guest tries to figure out what happened in between. The first episode featured Jon Hamm learning about Gossip Girl, which is a fun chunk of words to write, although that’s not the big takeaway from it. The big takeaway came during a discussion about Gossip Girl’s creator Josh Schwartz’s previous show, The O.C. Let’s take the next part straight from the mouth of Hamm: “I did audition for one of the dads on The O.C. I was probably 31 or 32. I think it was me and Harry Hamlin. I remember walking in and going, ‘Is that Peter Gallagher? Why am I here?‘ I love Peter Gallagher, but I was just like, ‘Dang!’”

Is… is Jon Hamm telling us that he auditioned for the role of television super dad Sandy Cohen, the Jewish surf-obsessed public defender with a heart of gold? Because even if he’s not, now I kind of want to rewatch the whole show so I can picture a young Jon Hamm in the part. I do not think it would have worked at all, and I do not particularly want to live in a world without Peter Gallagher and his eyebrows delivering perfect advice at every turn, but please do picture Jon Hamm — feel free to give him the full Don Draper here, for the full effect — discussing the finer points of schmearing a bagel with cream cheese.

This is now one of my favorite “person was considered for a role they didn’t get” stories of all time, right up there with Burt Reynolds being offered the part of John McClane in Die Hard. I know you’re still picturing Hamm as Sandy Cohen, per my request, but take some time later this weekend to think about this one, too. Really get in there. Let your brain run free on a playground with it all. You deserve it.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — Look, I don’t want to be the guy who questions the storytelling accuracy of the show about packs of unsupervised karate teens terrorizing Southern California, but this is not how spinal cord injuries work


Cobra Kai is a lot of fun. The Karate Kid continuation series is way more enjoyable than it has any right to be, especially when you look at its concept — Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence start rival karate dojos in their 40s — on paper. And yet, there it is, right there on Netflix, with three charming seasons full of personal victories and gangs of karate teens beating the hell out of each other all over California. There are seriously so many violent karate fights. There’s one at a carnival and one during a house party and one at their school that features one girl trying to Freddie Kruger another with a spiky bracelet and one boy spin-kicking another off a balcony and onto the railing below.

This brings me to the point I’m making. The kid who fell, Miguel, a sweet boy who gets some bad mentoring early on, ends up in the hospital in a coma and bolted into a halo brace because of a spinal cord injury. By the end of the season, he is doing wicked karate moves again in the house party chaos. As far as I can tell, his injury is healed by people yelling at him to, like, just make his legs work.

This is… let’s go with “not great,” which I say as someone who also has a spinal cord injury and was at one point bolted into a halo brace and now uses a power wheelchair to get around. It kind of implies that overcoming the injury is a matter of wanting it enough, which also implies that not overcoming it means someone didn’t want it enough. It’s not the best message to put out there, both for a) the general public who is constantly fed sappy inspirational stories about people overcoming their disabilities to achieve greatness without much focus on the harder/uglier/realistic parts of the situation, and for b) younger people with disabilities who could see it and internalize shame/anger because they couldn’t magically heal themselves through the power of positive vibes.

I know it’s a little silly to run through a fun karate show and point out very specific medical inaccuracies, but it’s one of the things that stinks about the portrayal of disabilities on television and in movies and I don’t often get a better chance to rant about it than “a major character on a popular show overcomes the same injury as me through nothing but willpower and his sensei lighting his sneakers on fire,” so that’s what is happening here. I still enjoyed the show! It’s fine if you did, too! This is just me getting an objection on the record in the hope we can do better moving forward. Thank you.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — The Bosch Cinematic Universe is expanding… kind of


Three things are important to know here:

  • The man who writes the Bosch novels, Michael Connelly, also writes the Lincoln Lawyer novels, the latter of which was adapted for a McConaughey movie a few years back
  • Bosch and the Lincoln Lawyer and half brothers
  • There is a Lincoln Lawyer series coming to Netflix, from producer David E. Kelley

Sayeth Deadline:

Written and executive produced by Kelley and showrunner Ted Humphrey (The Good Wife), The Lincoln Lawyer revolves around Mickey Haller (Garcia-Rulfo), an iconoclastic idealist, who runs his law practice out of the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car, as he takes on cases big and small across the expansive city of Los Angeles.

“The Lincoln Lawyer series will be adapted to serve up the complex and mysterious arcs fans know and love with a mix of light-hearted humor and a dose of family dynamics,” Connelly said.

There is good news and bad news here. The bad news is that the series going to Netflix, which all but eliminates the possibility of a Bosch/Lincoln Lawyer crossover on Amazon. But that also means there’s good news: The Lincoln Lawyer series going to Netflix means there is a possibility — slim, but still — that the show brings in its own Bosch for a special episode or two.

Do you see what could be happening here?

We could have two Bosches on two separate streaming networks.


We live in truly incredible times.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Urkel was surprisingly good at basketball

This is a fun little breakdown of a very strange episode of Family Matters in which Urkel and Larry Johnson — in character as Grandmama — dominate a Chicago two-on-two basketball tournament. It’s fun for a bunch of reasons but I like that Urkel was secretly sick as dribbling and could dunk. It raises so many questions that I would ask if all of them couldn’t be answered with “I dunno, it was the 1990s.” Very strange decade.

My theory on this is the same as when Urkel invented a machine that transformed him into a super-cool guy: I think Jaleel White eventually got enough juice at the show to make demands like “I have to look cool as hell at least once a season or I leave” and the producers scrambled for ways to make it happen. It’s the only way to explain Steve Urkel dunking. The man could barely walk down a flight of stairs. Whatever the reason, I love it. I hope Young Sheldon dunks one day, too.


If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at (put “RUNDOWN” in the subject line). I am the first writer to ever answer reader mail in a column. Do not look up this last part.

From Matthew:

I just read this week’s Rundown, where you mention wanting to convince people a show exists called Sunbathers starring David Schwimmer. This reminded me of a story I thought you’d appreciate.

I live in Chicago, but am from the Philly area originally (go Birds). A few years ago me and two friends got invited to a Halloween party last minute, with no costumes ready to wear. So we decided to all wear suits with bowties and come up with a fake television show whose characters we were dressing up as, and then acting shocked when people didn’t know who we were.

Our television show? Tres Hoagitios, a show that only airs on the Wawa sandwich kiosks while you’re waiting for your sandwiches and is about a group of detectives who solve crimes, some of which are hoagie related. The fake star of said fake television show? Also one David Schwimmer.

I think everyone actually believed our story because the three of us were all from the east coast, and everyone else at the party was from the midwest so they had no reason to doubt us. Plus one of the guests was a food scientist so she had heard of Wawa, which I think helped our story.

A few things are true here:

  • This is a tremendous email, really just one of the best I’ve ever received
  • I encourage everyone to do stuff like this, just for yourself, just for fun, like maybe try to convince someone you don’t know who Beyonce is
  • I… I really want to see this show now, exactly as it’s described, in this exact format

I’m so happy right now.


To Key West!

A Missouri man was jailed after police said he was found in a stolen floating tiki hut in Key West.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me be very clear about this so there’s no confusion: What we have here is a tiki hut boat heist.

There are more details, which I will briefly summarize, although you should really click on that link to see the pictures. Anyway: Apparently there are the floating tiki huts you can rent out for little booze cruises around the Florida Keys, and apparently some guy got very drunk and stole one and headed out to sea on it. I love it. Guy just got a wild idea and ended up in the ocean on a floating tiki hut, where police later found him slumped over the steering wheel.

It could happen to any of us.

“I’m not going to jail!” Morlang told FWC officers.

Morlang said he had heart problems and was taken to Lower Keys Medical Center. While in a hospital bed, the Fish and Wilflife agency said Morlang tried to fight officers and one officer used his Taser stun gun on him. FWC said Morlang later pulled away from officers who were placing him in a patrol car.

This is a Jimmy Buffett song.

FWC said the boat was damaged with burn marks on the bar. A VHF radio was also partially melted and residue was left from a fire inside a coconut and in a sink behind the bar. Officers found a 10-ounce can of lighter fluid on the deck of the vessel.

“He decided to build fires, to stay warm I guess,” said Johnna Sleith, one of the owners of Cruisin’ Tikis. “He started mini fires in cup holders and water jugs. It melted a lot of stuff.”

This looks like an open and shut case, seeing as they found the guy in the half-torched floating tiki hut and he appears to have gone full Florida Man in the hours after his arrest, but I need you to consider one thing before you put this matter to rest: They need to find 12 people — TWELVE — in Key West who are willing to convict someone of drunken tiki piracy. That’s practically a religion for large chunks of the island. This is a town that once had a fire chief named Bum Farto who sold cocaine out of his fire stations and was arrested and disappeared and hasn’t been seen since 1976. People still sell “Where is Bum Farto?” t-shirts in town. I swear this is true. Google it right now.

My point here is this: I bet you a pitcher of umbrella drinks this guy walks. Hell, they might elect him mayor.