Furious 7 was one of the most difficult productions in Hollywood history. Not only was it the sixth sequel to a mega-franchise, with a horror director making his first foray into the action genre, but the film sadly lost one of its stars in the middle of shooting when Paul Walker sadly passed away. Director James Wan and the entire team had to first decide whether to keep going, then restructure the entire film in a way that still provided a satisfying Fast & Furious experience for fans, but also served as a tribute to franchise stalwart Walker. By all accounts, Wan and the team succeeded beautifully, but it didn’t come as a shock when Wan wasn’t eager to reprise directing duties on the series’ eighth installment.
The producers and star/producer Vin Diesel set out to find a new director for Furious 8, and they landed on filmmaker F. Gary Gray, who not only has years of experience in a variety of genres with films like The Italian Job and The Negotiator, but is coming off his biggest success to date with critical darling/box office smash Straight Outta Compton.
So when Steve got the chance to speak with Gray about the upcoming Blu-ray release of Straight Outta Compton, he asked the director a bit about his plans for Furious 8. The directing gig for the film was a highly coveted job, and Gray reminisced about his first meeting with Diesel, whom he previously directed in 2003’s A Man Apart:
“[The meeting] was great. I went to [Vin’s] home and it was a reunion, cause I had already directed a movie with him earlier in my career, 15 years ago or so. We were both really excited to get back together and do it again. We talked about all of the Fast movies up to this point, and where could we go. I think he was really happy with the vision I have for the franchise and I was really happy about where he sees not only his character going but the franchise itself, because he’s a producer as well. So it was all love. Definitely all love.”
Steve asked whether Gray’s main focus for the film will be on expanding the scope of the action set pieces or diving deeper into the characters, and the filmmaker cited Star Wars: The Force Awakens as an influence:
“It’s a combination of both. When you look at someone like J.J. Abrams who gives you the spectacle and great action set pieces but also gives you character and plotting and narrative, I think it’s my job—and my intention—to do both. You amp up everything, you work on the performances, you work on the story, you work on the action; it’s just not one thing. Hopefully I bring more to it, that’s part of the point is to bring something different to the franchise while still satisfying what the fans want.”
Indeed, with the franchise now into its eighth installment there’s risk of getting stale, but Furious 7’s ending offered an opportunity to do a soft reboot of the franchise with the next movie. While Gray was tight-lipped about plot, he does promise Furious 8 is going to give fans a new flavor:
“I’m probably not at liberty to go too far into detail. All I have to say is I’m extremely excited about the direction we’re going in, and we’re really pushing to make sure the audience feels like it’s not more of the same. They feel like it’s fresh, they feel like the characters they’ve come to know and love are there, but this is gonna be different, and that’s probably the most I can give you right now.”
Recent reports have surfaced that the production team has scouted Cuba as a potential shooting location for the film, now that the United States has lifted the embargo on the country, but Gray declined to confirm any specifics when it comes to the locations of the sequel:
“I can say that we’ve flown around the world to scout, and it’s pretty profound some of the things that we’ve uncovered and how it’s gonna serve our story.”
The filmmaker didn’t say when filming begins but did confirm they’re deep into pre-production now, and with a release date of April 14, 2017 already set, I’d be surprised if cameras weren’t rolling before June. And hey, it’s possible that come tomorrow, we’ll have an Oscar nominee at the helm of Furious 8 should Straight Outta Compton land a Best Picture nomination. Not too shabby for a 15-year-old action franchise.