How mix of family, inclusion fueled ‘Furious’ to historic No. 1 opening


“The Fate of the Furious,” the eighth installment in Universal’s “Fast & Furious” series, sped to more than $100 million domestically and $532.5 million internationally — notching the biggest global opening of all time — thanks to its muscular star power, fast cars, furious action and the kind of over-the-top spectacle usually reserved for summer blockbuster season.

But the record-breaking franchise, built on physics-defying stunts and fervent fan loyalty across the globe, is also fueled by the one not-so-secret idea more potent than a well-timed blast of nitrous oxide: family.

The recurring motif gets a workout in “Fate of the Furious,” the first sequel without the late Paul Walker, whose character was last seen driving off into the sunset — some might say toward heaven — in 2015’s emotional “Furious 7.”

“As the films have grown and the world’s gotten smaller and we’ve gotten more global in scope, the (characters’) definition of family has widened a lot,” said series screenwriter and producer Chris Morgan, who scripted the last six “Fast & Furious” films.

In the first film, 2001’s “The Fast and the Furious,” the word “family” was sparsely spoken in a story focused on the brooding bromance between gearhead criminal Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and undercover cop Brian O’Conner (Walker).

As the sequels charged on, new members joined the cast (Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges in “2 Fast 2 Furious,” Sung Kang in “Tokyo Drift,” Gal Gadot in “Fast & Furious,” Dwayne Johnson and Elsa Pataky in “Fast Five,” Nathalie Emmanuel in “Furious 7”) and original members came back (Michelle Rodriguez in “Fast & Furious 6”).

“Fate of the Furious,” directed by “Straight Outta Compton’s” F. Gary Gray, leans further into the “family” theme by making it a plot point and adding Helen Mirren as Magdalene Shaw, mother of the brothers (played by Jason Statham and Luke Evans) who’ve been battling Dom’s crew since the final moments of “Fast 6.”

It was Diesel who made Dom’s love for his familia an iconic signature by dropping memorable one-liners, like the insta-classic, “I don’t have friends … I got family.”

“I used to fight like crazy for my own ego,” the producer, star and father of three told The Times. “For my own sense of greatness. I was trying to fight for myself. And now I have kids, so I fight for a legacy that they will be proud of.”

Off-screen, Diesel says he and Walker grew so close that Walker was the only person who knew about the birth of his first child during the filming of 2009’s “Fast & Furious.”

Walker’s absence was felt throughout the “Fate of the Furious” shoot, said “Game of Thrones” star Nathalie Emmanuel, who joined the franchise in “Furious 7” as genius hacker Ramsey with the knowledge that she might be invited back for a multi-film arc. “It was really hard without him. He was thought about constantly.”

“It was difficult,” echoed Bridges. “We say the last one was for Paul, and this one is from Paul. We did this in his honor, to continue the legacy of what he started.”

Rodriguez sees another reason the loyal “Fast & Furious” fandom has grown exponentially as the franchise’s episodic story arc has taken its heroes global, from racing the streets of Los Angeles a quarter mile at a time to saving the world from nuclear annihilation on the icy plains of Russia: diversity.

“There’s a void in the market,” said Rodriguez, pointing to Hollywood’s market-dominating presence worldwide. “When you have that kind of penetration but everybody who’s leading your movie on the big screen is white, a lot of people don’t feel included. Don’t you think they’re going to buy more tickets to those movies where they do feel included?”

The series is not only known for its multiethnic cast, but for the diversity of its directors, starting with John Singleton taking charge in “2 Fast 2 Furious.” Justin Lin steered four chapters in the series through “Fast & Furious 6,” James Wan took on “Furious 7” and with “Fate” Gray has broken the record for the highest grossing opening ever by an African American director.

“Fate of the Furious” exploded into North American theaters and 63 international markets over Easter weekend. That global reach and representation of multiculturalism, she said, also helps keep focus through tough shoots and personality clashes, like the reported feud between Diesel and Johnson on “Fate of the Furious.”

“We’re allowing the 99 percent to be part of Hollywood, and I think that puts a fire under us to make it good,” said Rodriguez, “and ultimately I think that will reign over any little rift that the family might have.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Movies & TV

Austin artist looks for the curious, fascinating, beautiful and weird
Austin artist looks for the curious, fascinating, beautiful and weird

It appears simple enough. A welded metal bracket pokes out from a concrete column. On the horizontal extension hang two strands. One is an upper-body halter constructed of metal and fabric. The other is a collar attached to a thin chain leash. On the polished concrete floor below these looping cords, one spies what seems to be a recently discarded...
Find out where you can stream scary movies for Halloween
Find out where you can stream scary movies for Halloween

Here’s a look at an interesting new release available to rent and a few suggestions for Halloween viewing. Video on Demand “Amityville: The Awakening”: Originally shot in 2014 and last scheduled to be released in the spring of 2016, this Blumhouse-produced sequel has been bounced around by the Weinstein Company over and over again...
Charcoal cocktails offer their own kind of dark magic for Halloween
Charcoal cocktails offer their own kind of dark magic for Halloween

There are many tricks you can apply to your boozy treats to get them Halloween-ready. Prepare a spiked punch in a hollowed-out pumpkin or a skull-shaped glass, or give your creepy concoction some dry ice for extra mystery. Another, increasingly more popular way to get in the spirit uses an unexpected ingredient that bartenders have begun to feature...
More events for Tuesday, Oct. 24, and beyond

Video games out this week “Super Mario Odyssey.” (Out Friday.) It’s-a-him! Mario! Back for perhaps the most-anticipated game of the year, at least if you own a Nintendo Switch. It’s a successor to the classic “Super Mario 64,” a 3-D adventure that spans the globe and introduces new abilities such as the ability to...
A week before Halloween, enjoy Nordic dinner, pumpkin carving and more
A week before Halloween, enjoy Nordic dinner, pumpkin carving and more

1. Easy Tiger’s Nordic Smørrebrød Dinner with Vikre Distillery 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 24. $55. 709 E. Sixth St. eventbrite.com/e/nordic-dinner-with-vikre-distillery-tickets-38786752220. To celebrate the arrival of Vikre Distillery’s spirits — aquavits and cedar gin — to the Austin market, Easy Tiger’s head...
More Stories