The pressure is on to give fast. But is faster really better?
The Fast & Furious saga has seen a series of directors place their stamps on individual installments, but only one director has helmed more than one: Justin Lin. The director of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast & Furious 5, and Fast & Furious 6, Lin has returned to the series to direct F9. He’s also signed on to direct the 10th and 11th films, which will reportedly close out the core saga.
In the lead-up to today’s debut of the final trailer for F9, IGN spoke with Justin Lin about what he’s been doing throughout the film’s lengthy delay, the wild success of the franchise, and his desire to repair the Han-sized hole that the continued presence of Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw created in the series.
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IGN: From your side, as a creator, when you watch folks discuss and speculate about an upcoming film like Fast 9, is there any frustration on your end about the things that they’re getting wrong, and maybe even the things that they’re getting right, potentially spoiling things for themselves? Or is it just great to have people that are so enthusiastic about a project of yours that they just can’t stop talking about? Or is it a mix?
Justin Lin: That’s a great question, I mean, I actually think that the way this franchise has evolved, it’s been very interactive, in a way. There’s always speculation, I think, with the timeline, with character relationships. So it’s always been a lot of fun creating – and creating new chapters – and, at the same time, just seeing what people around the world are speculating. You know, for me, there’s no frustration; it’s always just fun because it’s when people are invested. I think, for me, the first time was when the decision to put Han in Fast 4 [was made], and there were a lot of worries that, ‘Hey, well, he died in Tokyo Drift.’ There was a real concerted effort to see if we could do something so that we could really share this idea of timeline and mythology. And it was amazing how people picked it up, and it never tripped. I think it was interactive in the sense that, creatively, once we were able to try different things that people engage with, that’s always been fun.
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IGN: Touching on Han, a few years ago we spoke with Fast & Furious writer Chris Morgan ahead of Hobbs & Shaw regarding despite how much we enjoyed watching Jason Statham as an actor, it was always difficult to reconcile with the fact we were being corralled into getting behind the character that killed Han. So, thanks for making it far easier to retroactively enjoy The Fate of the Furious and Hobbs & Shaw more. Once Han appeared in that Fast 9 trailer last year, what did you see from the reaction?
JL: You know, when I left, I really did leave. I was not part of anything and, actually, I hadn’t watched [Furious 7] or [The Fate of the Furious]. It was actually during a screening of my first independent film that somebody brought it up in a Q&A, and it baffled me too, you know? So it was gratifying; I think part of coming back, being able to, for me, correct certain things that didn’t make sense. But when we were in Miami and we had the trailer launch and to be able to see the immediate reaction, just the visceral reaction from the fans and then see it spread around the world within minutes; it meant a lot. It meant that, you know, people care about our characters and that, you know, it is a weird glitch. To this day, I don’t know what happened, but I’m glad that I’m able to come back and participate and, in a way for me, to be able to correct something that just felt really off.
[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=I%20don’t%20know%20what%20happened%2C%20but%20I’m%20glad%20that%20I’m%20able%20to%20come%20back%20and%20participate%20and%2C%20in%20a%20way%20for%20me%2C%20to%20be%20able%20to%20correct%20something%20that%20just%20felt%20really%20off”]IGN: Looking back, obviously you steered this series from Tokyo Drift through to Fast & Furious 6 and were part of the franchise as it became a true phenomenon – but if you were to speak to yourself coming off Tokyo Drift, how could you have explained not only that Fast & Furious was going to become the biggest thing Universal has, but that ultimately you would personally direct seven of them?
JL: Am I directing seven of them? Yeah, I guess so! You’re going into the future; I get it. Wow, that’s a lot! I mean, look, I’ll be honest, I think when I first joined up Fast and Furious obviously wasn’t where it is now, you know? And I think talking to people who were big car fans, they weren’t fans of the franchise. And that was one of my first conversations with people who love cars and whose passions were in cars and I felt like I had to really learn to respect their passion. So that was really the journey of Tokyo Drift. I’ll be honest, we didn’t have Vin, we didn’t have Paul, but it was great in the sense that it was all about earning the respect and hopefully building, or rebuilding, this community.
And so every time we got an opportunity, I felt like it was my job to not only keep evolving our characters, but to keep pushing the envelope, you know? I don’t know if I expected it, but I did have a conversation with Vin, and I remember that in Tokyo Drift and I said, ‘Look, if you come back, it really does kind of connect everything, even though it’s only one scene. And if we’re lucky enough and we have another chapter, then let’s keep building, let’s keep evolving.’ And so it’s always been our mantra that we don’t take anything for granted, but we’re going to go all out, and if we get to earn the next chapter, then we’re going to go all out again. And, and luckily, I could tell you, going to the premieres – we used to travel around the world for all the premieres – you could see the fan base and the community grow. That inspired us to keep evolving and not ever be complacent.
IGN: Like a host of films Fast 9 has had to endure a very long delay, and it’s an understandable one, obviously, but what has this meant on your side? Has there been a desire to keep going back and finessing parts of the film, or has it been complete for some time and you’d say ‘We like it; let’s not touch it!’ How do you approach that lengthy delay?
JL: It’s interesting because I think usually, you know, a film of this size, they literally rip the film from me. I mean, there’s been instances in the other Fasts where I’m going from final sound mix, you know, and I see the sunrise and I jump on a plane to fly to Europe for the UK premiere. That’s always been how these films get made. And I’m the type where I don’t ever just sit back; like, if I have a year, I’m going to keep pushing. I mean, I literally will go through every frame.
[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=If%20I%20have%20a%20year%2C%20I’m%20going%20to%20keep%20pushing.%20I%20mean%2C%20I%20literally%20will%20go%20through%20every%20frame”]I’m very fortunate and the studio has been great because up until even last week, I’m always going back, and sometimes I don’t end up doing anything. But I like to tweak; I’m a tweaker. I don’t like to stop. And I feel like that’s the energy when we make these films. I think as we sit here, for the first time I actually have a completed film as we’re talking, because usually they’re still colour timing stuff and I’m still trying to go through it. But it’s been kind of a luxury, process-wise.
F9 hits cinemas in Australia on June 17, 2021, and on June 25 in North America.
Luke is Games Editor at IGN’s Sydney office and spectacularly breaking out of an arm cast to “go to work” is still on his bucket list. You can find him on Twitter every few days @MrLukeReilly.
Universal’s “Fast & Furious 9” has passed Chinese censorship to receive official approval for release, the company announced on Wednesday. A specific China release date has not been set yet. “See you on the big screen!” Universal Pictures said on its official Weibo social media account, alongside a Chinese version of the poster. “F9” debuts […]
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