Universal’s Fast and Furious film franchise has evolved throughout the years, starting out as a film centering on the culture of underground street racing to heists to revenge actioner. It has also become a part of Universal Studio’s iconic Studio Tour. But in an effort to get Fast and Furious 8 into production, Universal Pictures has experienced a snag. With the early passing of its franchise star Paul Walker and no director confirmed, the film is looking less and less likely to meet the April 2017 release that Vin Diesel announced earlier this year. But finding a director isn’t the only problem, sources close to the production say that behind-the-scenes from Furious 7 seems to be another contributing factor.
More on this story below.
THR says that even though Chris Morgan is currently working on the script, bringing Fast and Furious 8 to the big screen is becoming a bigger problem than previous thought. For one thing co-president of production Jeffrey Kirschenbaum, who helped put the franchise together and oversaw Furious 7 in the wake of the death of Paul Walker, is no longer working on the films. Now this leaves a key position, and one who was familiar with the franchise since its inception, empty. It’s not clear who may fill his position, but it sure doesn’t look like Justin Lin or James Wan will be returning anytime soon.
Lin who had been a part of the franchise from Tokyo Drift to Fast and Furious 6 is currently working on Star Trek Beyond for Paramount. The original plan was for Universal to sign Lin onto a multi-pic deal that would see him finish out the franchise if Wan didn’t return for Fast and Furious 8. When Lin chose Star Trek Beyond over another Fast and Furious, this forced the studio to make a “life-altering money” kind of offer to Wan to return for at least one more installment. That didn’t pan out as Wan went back to direct The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist, which just starting shooting earlier this week.
These two directors have successfully kept the Fast and Furious film franchise on its box office record-breaking track, however it was Wan who had to carry the torch after Lin announced he was pursuing other projects. It was a challenge for the director, especially one who was more familiar with horror than action. And it seemed to show. Sources say that Diesel was exceptionally difficult on-set in the wake of Walker’s death. There were times where he “questioned even small details on elaborate action sequences,” which would result in a halt during on complex production. But with the death of Walker in the middle of production, Wan had to rewrite the script and use elaborate special effects by using Walker’s brothers to keep the character “alive.” It was such a task for Wan that it even had an effect on his health.
But when a director is announced, you can be sure that Diesel had a part to play. According to the same report, Diesel must be consulted on director choices but does not have veto power over studio picks. With so much power, there are some at Universal who fear that Diesel might want to direct a Fast and Furious film himself. However, the report adds that the actor doesn’t want to put himself in the middle of studio politics.
There have been rumors of on-set issues between Diesel and Wan, both of them denied any such thing with a rep for Diesel saying it was nonsense, while Wan flat-out denied there was any friction between the two.
Furious producer Neal Moritz adds, “Obviously, if there was any issue, we wouldn’t be making the eighth [film] with [Diesel] right now.”
A spokesman for Universal added:
“…the studio and filmmakers loved working with James on Furious 7, but he was never in the mix for an eighth film due to a scheduling conflict with The Conjuring 2. We are actively casting and searching for the right director for the next chapter of the franchise.”
Let’s not forget the new contracts that have to be written up. Most of the cast’s contracts expired after Furious 7, and with the record-breaking box office numbers that the latest installment was able to produce, I’m sure someone within the cast is looking for a nice raise.