Returning to the Fast & Furious franchise for his fifth time in the director’s seat with Fast & Furious 9, director Justin Lin is already looking forward to helming Parts 1 and 2 of Fast & Furious 10, the final instalments of the Fast saga.
Making his directorial debut 19 years ago with the critically acclaimed Better Luck Tomorrow, the Taiwanese-born filmmaker went on to direct The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), Fast & Furious (2009), Fast Five (2011) and Fast & Furious 6 (2013).
Taking a break from his Furious adventures, he directed Star Trek: Beyond (2016), the last film in the modern Star Trek trilogy, while branching out into TV, directing episodes of Community, Scorpion, S.W.A.T., and the second season of HBO’s True Detective.
STACK caught up with Lin to discuss all things Fast.
You’ve known the Fast cast for such a long time. How have they changed since you last worked with them?
I think being away for a bit and coming back, I have a new sense of appreciation. I think when we started off, we were all single and just trying to find ourselves, and now being back, a lot of us started families and we have kids now. So, I do think there’s a sense of wisdom and appreciation. And I think in filmmaking, especially in Hollywood, it can be a very lonely place and the fact that we have each other still, I could feel that on set and feel that in how they approached each scene when we worked together, and there’s a trust that we’ve developed in time. I think in being away and now coming back, that’s the one thing that I really felt, is that there’s a 100 per cent trust in whatever crazy ideas we want; we are always going to be there for each other.
Speaking of crazy ideas, going to space in F9 was your idea. Where did the seed for that come from?
It’s interesting because the fans have been talking about it and had fun with it, but I think, internally, we’ve always been talking about, ‘Is there a way for us to truly earn our way to space?’
I think we’re 20 years in, and maybe working on Roman [Tyrese Gibson] and his existential crisis felt like it was a good fit – if we we’re going to do it at any point, this was the one where we were going to try.
As a whole, I would say when you’re looking at that sequence of going to space, it’s actually much more scientifically sound than a lot of the set pieces that we have in our franchise. I got on the phone and I talked to NASA scientists. And it started off like, ‘Well, if you’re gonna actually launch them from Earth, what would it take?’ And it was impossible, purely impossible to do that, and also to do that in a timely matter. So, we did a lot of research, and the Virgin Galactic launch gave me the idea that you need less fuel if you’re higher in the atmosphere.
So, we’re building everything up through research but when it came to spacesuits, I was asking, ‘If you only have a couple of days and you don’t have a spacesuit, what can you get?’ And I realised that if you’re underwater or in space, its actually very similar, so you could actually use a diving suit if you were gonna go up. It’s a very similar property, and I think the only thing is that the air would expand a little bit more because of the pressure.
Onscreen, the sense of family is conveyed through Dom and Letty. Why do you think audiences love this couple so much?
It’s interesting because I think very early on, we had two routes to take, and I remember talking to Vin about this – and this was before he even came in to do the scene for Tokyo Drift – and there was an option where you could have the same characters going through different adventures, but they’re the same character. Then there’s also the option where you actually acknowledge that they’re aging; they’re evolving; they’re maturing and they’re going to have real-life issues, starting families, having kids… and so we chose to take the latter route.
At the time, it was just a choice that we thought was interesting. But in my 15 years with this franchise, when I would run into different fans around the world and they would talk about Dom or Han or Roman or Letty, I always got a sense when they talked about them, that it was almost like they were a part of their family, because they were growing with them.
So, I think that was something I feel is a core of why we are able to keep going, and by acknowledging their age and evolution, it allowed us to be able to present different obstacles in front of them and always try and do something different.
I think in coming back to do this one, I came back to be able to further explore this theme of family. But through blood is something we’ve never done before, so that was very exciting. And I knew by doing that, it would allow us to go back to explore and solidify some of the mythology elements in Fast.
Are you already prepping for F10?
I usually approach these one at a time, but when I came back, Vin pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re finishing this with me’, and we’ve been talking about this final chapter for almost ten years, and I’ve always thought it was just kind of an exercise; that we were never going to realise it. But it’s been pretty great to actually approach F9 knowing that we’re going to go into the final chapter, so it’s a new process for me. It’s actually kinda emotional because it’s something that we’ve been talking about for a long time, but I also feel fortunate to be here and trying to figure all that out now. We know the general sense, but now we have to work out all the rest of the elements.
Australia has a great tax rebate – do you have any plans to work Down Under?
Always! Stephen Windon, our amazing cinematographer, is from Australia, so we’ve been talking about it for years and years and years. I’ve been very fortunate to shoot around the world and I don’t like taking vacations. I don’t like being a tourist. I love working in different parts of the world, because that’s how I really get to know the different people and the different communities, and Australia is definitely on my list, so I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve only been to Australia for premieres so, honestly, I’m hoping to find the right situation where I can settle in and really just kind of live and get to enjoy it and learn about the culture.
• Fast & Furious 9 is in cinemas on June 17