Justin Lin’s ‘Fast X’ release: Universal in expensive race to replace him

On April 22, Wine Diesel post a 19-second video on Instagram recapping the first week of production on “x fastthe latest entry in Universal’s 21-year franchise. In the clip, Diesel sneaks up to Justin Lin to ask the film’s director and co-writer how he feels at the end of the first week of production.

As Diesel smiles into his selfie camera, Lin, seated and seemingly uncomfortable, nods as he tries to find the right words.

“It feels like the start of, uh, an epic ending,” Lin said flatly.

On the surface, Lin was referring to the planned back-to-back filming of the action franchise’s 10th and 11th installments, meant to conclude the Dominic Toretto saga of Diesel and his “Fast” family.

Instead, Lin, who helmed five of the franchise’s ten installments, was perhaps accidentally predicting the end of his time behind the wheel of “Fast X.” Just four days later, the 50-year-old filmmaker announced that he would no longer be directing the film.

“With Universal’s support, I have made the difficult decision to step back as director of ‘Fast X’, while remaining with the project as producer,” Lin said in a statement. post to the film’s official social media handle.

The news came as a huge shock to fans, who have come to see Lin as one of the main architects of the show’s approach to heart, humor and automotive carnage since he got on board. in the project with “The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift. Since then, he’s directed some of the most critically acclaimed episodes, including 2011’s “Fast Five,” and took the movies’ stunts to new heights – and literally out of this world – with his 2021 return “F9 : The Fast Saga”.

Lin’s exit was reportedly “amicable” and attributed to “creative differences.” But leaving several million franchise days in production has put Universal in the rare and unenviable position of finding a replacement in time to make their scheduled May 19, 2023 theatrical release date.

Representatives for Universal did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The biggest challenge facing production is time. Sources say Variety that the second unit will continue production in the UK, while the main unit is on hiatus until a replacement manager is hired. Until then, the production is burning cash to keep key crew and cast members in limbo. Sources at different studios with experience replacing directors along the way have estimated that it could cost Universal upwards of $600,000 to $1 million a day. Much of the cost hinges on whether major set production was already underway – the longer the action beats, the more costly the delay – suggesting that Lin made his decision to step down from the director’s chair if early in filming to avoid even larger cost overruns later in the production schedule.

There’s also the matter of new franchise stars Jason Momoa and Brie Larson, as well as Charlize Theron returning for a third appearance as the villainous Cipher. All three are dedicated to ongoing franchises that require their time and attention, so delays might require hasty and costly changes to accommodate their busy schedules.

Observers noted that Lin’s announcement was made on “Fast and Furious” social media, rather than by Lin’s representatives or his personal social media – and that it was formatted in the official font of the franchise. Given the formality involved, it’s likely that Universal had notice of their decision, and therefore more time to start looking for a replacement.

The most logical answer to replace him would be to place someone who already knows the mechanics of the franchise. The problem is, other than Lin, only five directors have made a “Fast and Furious” movie: Rob Cohen (2001 “The Fast and the Furious”), the late John Singleton (2003 “2 Fast 2 Furious”), James Wan (2015 “Furious 7”), F. Gary Gray (2017 “The Fate of the Furious”) and David Leitch (2019 “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw”).

Wan, Gray and Leitch would all be viable options – if they weren’t busy. About an hour after the announcement of Lin’s resignation as director, Wan was on stage at CinemaCon Las Vegas sharing a sneak peek at Warner Bros. “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” which is still in post-production and slated for release in March 2023. This film has elaborate special effects, making it almost impossible for Wan to turn his attention elsewhere. Gray is currently filming Netflix’s “Lyft,” starring Kevin Hart, and Leitch is set to begin production on Universal’s “Fall Guy” starring Ryan Gosling shortly.

Meanwhile, Cohen hasn’t directed a movie since 2018, shortly before he became embroiled in a personal controversy with multiple sexual assault allegations. (Representatives for Cohen have denied these claims).

A rival studio exec has speculated that Universal may be looking for a qualified second-unit director, particularly one who specializes in big-budget action movies, to join him in overseeing the sequel. A top filmmaker might not want to join the show without demanding script changes or extra time to work their way through the story.

Beyond that, it’s well known that Diesel, the “Fast and Furious” OG, is the real driving force behind the franchise. He is also the film’s producer and has not been shy about publicly expressing his dissatisfaction with the creative decisions made by others. On April 20, Diesel released that the first draft script for “Fast X,” presumably written by Lin and co-writer Dan Mazeau, did not include Jordana Brewster’s character Mia, who as fans know , is also Dom’s sister. “I was so disappointed I couldn’t see how I could go on,” Diesel wrote. The actor was successful, and Brewster ended up joining the film.

There were other speed bumps along the way to producing ‘Fast X’, including Diesel’s feud with Dwayne Johnson, who joined the team with ‘Fast Five’ and then refused to share the set with him for “Fate”. When Diesel made a public overture to Johnson about the new film’s return, Johnson — just as publicly — shut it down.

“I said [Diesel] directly that I would not return to the franchise,” Johnson said in an interview with CNN. “I was firm but cordial with my words and said I would always support the cast and always support the success of the franchise, but there was no way I would return.”

Diesel also tried to recruit Rita Moreno to the casting of the film as Dom’s abuela, but scheduling prevented the EGOT winner from making an appearance. “I said, ‘I’ll take a rain check,’ and we became friends,” Moreno said. Variety in March.

Despite his influence, however, the odds that Diesel will end up getting the director job don’t seem high. Although he directed the 2009 short “Los Bandoleros” – a prequel to Dom’s return to the franchise in 2009’s “Fast and Furious” after spending the second and third installments – Diesel only directed one. feature film, 1997’s “Strays.” Universal will almost certainly need a more experienced hand to take over such a giant production that’s already underway.

Certainly, the actor’s ambitions for “Fast X” are clear. In his video with Lin, he asks the filmmaker, “Is it fair to say this will be the best?”

Lin shrugs. “In my heart, yes.

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