The films in the Furious franchise revived a particular corner of genre that had been dormant since Vanishing Point – the muscle car movie. They brought big car stunt films back into theaters, and destroyed every box office they opened. Audiences loved their brand of high-octane action, and they have come out in droves to see seven films, and counting. Universal Studios’ theme park even recently redesigned a portion of their historic Tram Tour to include an immersive experience that puts fans in the middle of a race. Here are 21 Fast Facts:
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
1. It all started with an article.
In May of 1998, Vibe magazine featured an article about illegal street racing in Queens, New York, titled “Racer X.” Producers optioned the article for a movie adaptation, but it wasn’t until attending a Los Angeles street race that they saw the potential for a film, and The Fast and the Furious went into development.
2. Roger Corman already made a film called The Fast and the Furious
The film was shot under the working title Redline, which is the maximum speed a car can go, when racing. When the filmmakers decided they wanted to call it The Fast & The Furious, they had to talk to famed B-movie director, Roger Corman, who had produced a racing movie of the same name in 1955, and he owned the title. But instead of just getting paid for the title, Corman traded Universal the right to use the name, in exchange for some stock footage. Roger Corman just loves stock footage.
3. Real Street races drove in the film.
Director Rob Cohen attended actual street races before beginning production on the movie, to get inspiration and understand the dynamics of that world. He then hit up all his new buddies and had them bring 200 souped-up cars to set, and the initial racing scenes were all driven by actual illegal street racing badasses.
4. The “Mic Rig” was born.
The director wanted the characters behind the wheel as much as possible, but putting expensive actors into cars going 100 miles per hour is enough to make any studio exec’s head explode. So a custom rig was built by Mic Rogers, second unit director and stunt coordinator. It was basically a high-octane truck with a long chassis off the back. The bodies of the custom picture cars could be swapped out as needed, towed behind the truck, which was driven by a stunt driver. The actors were behind the wheel of the dummy car being towed in back, making it look like they were really driving at a crazy dangerous speed. That Rig is now a staple in the filming of action movies, and is called “The Mic Rig.”
5. Letty’s role got beefed up.
Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez’s character) wasn’t a significant part of the original script, but once she started filming her scenes, the director came up with a love story between Letty and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), in order to give her more screen time.
6. Michelle Rodriguez almost quit due to a moral objection over how her character was portrayed.
But Michelle Rodriguez almost quit the first film because her character (Letty) was supposed to cheat on Dom’s character with Brian (Paul Walker).
7. The cars were the stars.
Rob Cohen wanted the world to be as drab as possible, so that the colorful cars popped, drawing the audience in and inviting them to ride along. He had the Art Department repaint all the brightly colored houses in the film’s Echo Park location in muted, drab tones.
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
8. Paul Walker HAD to be in the film.
On the DVD commentary, when asked about his decision to return for the sequel, Paul Walker said: “I didn’t have a choice in the matter — they had an option on me.”
9. Tyrese wanted to show off his body.
In the second film, Tyrese Gibson insisted on taking his shirt off. He didn’t care when he did it, just that it happened. Director, John Singleton, fulfilled his wish and let him take his shirt off after the race to win a spot on Carter Varone’s (Cole Hauser) crew. Tyrese reported “worked out like crazy” to his bod in tip-top condition.
10. Paul Walker did a very dangerous stunt for despite insurance objections.
The Studio Suits didn’t want Paul Walker to do the power slide after the movie’s first race. John Singleton agreed that it was a massive insurance liability, but convinced them how much better it would look, if Walker actually did the move. He was right.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
11. The devil is in the details.
The director of Tokyo Drift, Justin Lin, meticulously went through five different versions of a duck mascot that is seen only briefly in the high school parking lot of the movie’s opening sequence.
12. Bow Wow learned Japanese for his role.
Bow Wow (née Lil’ Bow Wow) painstakingly learned a scene of lines in Japanese…. which was cut from movie.
13. Vin Diesel got the right to another movie franchise…just for showing up.
In lieu of a paycheck for his cameo at the end of the film, Vin Diesel traded with Universal – his cameo, for the rights to the Riddick franchise.
Fast & Furious (2009)
14. Gentrification got the best of Dom’s home.
For the fourth film, the crew returned to the original Torretto house in Echo Park — but the neighborhood had suffered severe gentrification since the first film was shot, and a young affluent couple had purchased the house and fancied it up too much. Production paid them a bunch of money so they would let the Art Department kill a lovely rose garden and grit up the house to make it look sketchier.
15. Laz Alonso is a method actor. Who knew?
Laz Alonso opted to get pumped up with a prison-style workout regime, because he thought that was more on point for his character (Fenix).
16. The tunnel chase was the most difficult thing Justin Lin had directed.
When asked about the intricate tunnel chase, Justin Lin said, “It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.” The film’s construction team built an intricate tunnel system in a San Pedro warehouse, and the scenes were shot with real cars racing through the indoor tunnels in a high speed synchronized ballet.
Fast Five (2011)
17. The train vs. truck stunt didn’t go as planned.
Production bought an actual train and designed a truck to crash into it, for the opening train sequence. But the truck had monster truck suspension, and nearly derailed the whole train when it smashed into it. Then when Dom and Brian jump off the cliff in a 1963 Corvette Grand Sport at the end, the stuntmen and the car were actually thrown off of the cliff. Luckily the car was a replica of the highly valuable Chevrolet… the Stuntmen, however, were not replicas.
18. The Rock’s part was written for…Tommy Lee Jones?
The role of Luke Hobbs was written with Tommy Lee Jones or Josh Brolin in mind for the part, but when Dwayne Johnson (née The Rock) approached the studio about joining the franchise, Universal had the filmmakers rework the part for him instead.
19. Justin Lin’s Community experience helped him direct this one.
Justin Lin directed some episodes of Community in 2009 and 2010 (“Modern Warfare”, “Interpretive Dance”, and “Introduction to Statistics”), and he credits the experience for teaching him how to wrangle a large cast. And Fast Five certainly had a large cast. Go Human Beings!
Furious 6 (2013)
20. It was originally two films in one.
Lin’s original plan was for this chapter to be two movies; the first one was to be titled The Fast, and would have ended on the tank sequence, and the second film was to be called The Furious, which would have ended with the plane.
21. The films’ timeline makes no sense.
On the surface, the Furious franchise seems pretty simple: Cars go fast, stuff gets smashed, beginning-middle-end. But the films are actually this weird non-linear series, told out of sequence. When you look at the whole story, it constantly jumps back and forth through time, and major plot points are told through flashbacks. Fast & Furious, Fast Five, and Furious 6 are an internal trilogy of prequels, that actually circle back to the third film, Tokyo Drift.