After fourteen years, the Fast & Furious franchise has gone through quite a few changes. The first three films struggled with changing casts and somewhat unconnected storylines. However, after Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift, director Justin Lin took the series in a very different direction. He brought back the original cast, then morphed the series from some street racing flicks to a bona fide action franchise complete with international villains and bigger-than-life action sequences.
This second trilogy (!) in the series culminates with Fast & Furious 6, which was one of the highest grossing movies of 2013. Lin lends his voice to the commentary track on the film, which was recorded before the tragic death of Paul Walker. Similarly, the DVD and Blu-ray of the film were produced before this event, making a lot of the matter-of-fact comments in the film, the bonus features and the commentary naturally bittersweet.
Still, there’s a lot to be learned from Lin’s commentary, which serves as a look back not only at the film, but the franchise as a whole with a great emphasis on the dynamic of those involved behind the scenes.
Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
Commentator: Justin Lin (director)
1. The original title of the film was Furious 6, resulting from naming the previous two films Fast & Furious and Fast 5. However, Universal’s marketing department stepped in and demanded it be given a title that included both words. However, Lin refers to the film as “Furious 6” throughout the commentary.
2. Originally, the film was conceived as two separate films to be shot simultaneously. They would have been named The Fast, which would end with the tank sequence, and The Furious, which would have ended with the airplane sequence.
3. The actor playing Shaw’s man that Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) beats up in the interrogation room is a magician by trade.
4. Lin was originally told they did not have the budget or time to shoot all the character intros in the beginning of the film. However, he made it work in the schedule, resorting to shooting the Hong Kong intro with Giselle (Gal Gadot) and Han (Sung Kang) on a two-hour break in a separate sound stage at the end of production.
5. Tyrese Gibson had “It’s Roman Bitches!” printed on his chairs during the previous films, and Lin continually teased him for leaving out an essential comma. This led to Lin putting the quote on the tail of Roman’s private plane in the beginning of the film.
6. During prep, the production spent two weeks shooting photos of the characters in different situation to be used in surveillance photos throughout the film.
7. Because he felt the Nightshade device was such an obvious MacGuffin, Lin made it a personal challenge to only mention it by name once.
8. Each film in this trilogy featured a custom-built vehicle. Fast 5 had the truck in the train sequence; Fast & Furious had Han’s orange truck; and Shaw’s flip-car was built from the ground-up for this film. Originally, it was larger, with Lin comparing to a Mercedes SUV. In the end, they designed small and minimal, and it would actually flip vehicles better than special effects ramps.
9. The flip-car chase takes place in London, but it was impossible to shut down the streets there to shoot the scene. Glasgow was used to double for London on the street portion of the chase, and the tunnel sequence was shot in Liverpool to take advantage of the arcs and turns underground.
10. The snobby man at the auction who says that Tej (Ludacris) is “clearly not a baller” was meant to originally say “clearly not a rapper.” Everyone thought it was hilarious, except for Ludacris, which is why the line was changed.
11. The biggest changes to the extended cut versus the theatrical cut were elements that made the movie flirt with an R rating. In particular, Han and Roman’s discussion of penis size and the sounds made when O’Connor (Paul Walker) was beating up Braga (John Ortiz) and his man in prison were toned down for a PG-13 rating.
12. When Giselle shoots one of Shaw’s men on his motorcycle while Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Riley (Gina Carano) run into the London Underground was meant to be a far more elaborate motorcycle chase. However, Lin had to scrap the scene and re-design it in five minutes to keep production on time.
13. The hand-to-hand fight between Letty and Riley took three days to shoot. The one with Roman and Han fighting Jah (Joe Taslim) took only one day to shoot, which is why it consists of less complex, wider shots.
14. What Lin refers to as “the cars and hot chicks sequence” was shot down the road from 10 Downey Street, the British equivalent of the White House.
15. The inclusion of Rita Ora at the start of the street racing sequence was done as an afterthought because Vin Diesel met her and thought she embodied London. Her shots were completed after production of the scene had wrapped.
16. The young child looking out of the window of the double-decker bus as Letty and Dom speed by is Lin’s son.
17. The production could only close down Piccadilly Circus for seven minutes at a time to shoot those scenes.
18. Ain’t It Cool News had published a leak about the ending tag with Jason Statham, but the story mentioned him tossing dog tags near Han’s car. Lin says this came from the script because the item was changed to the cross during production. Lin also claims he knows who the script leaker was.
19. The tank sequence was originally designed to take place in London, with the production building Piccadilly Circus on a sound stage. However, they found a highway that wasn’t opened yet that they could have total access to. They chose the open highway because it allowed them to put more money on the screen rather than spend too much money duplicating the buildings of London in the background with CGI.
20. Like their introduction in the film, Han and Giselle’s motorcycle attack during the tank sequence was shot off the schedule to save money.
21. The use of a tank in the action set-piece came out of a joke where Lin asked what could top the vault sequence in Fast 5. Eventually, they got access to a tank and tested it by running it over cars to see what would happen.
22. Lin credits an executive at Universal named Jay (possibly Polidoro) for the idea of making Riley the mole in Hobbs’ team. The obvious nature of this plot twist is clear evidence of why Jay is an executive rather than a writer.
23. After Fast & Furious, Lin started designing the plane sequence. He originally wanted to use it in Fast 5, but he didn’t think the technology was ready for it.
24. Lin estimates that more than 250 cars were destroyed in the making of the film.
25. Lin says the reason he originally decided to come back from Tokyo Drift to shoot Fast & Furious was because he was with Sung Kang in central California, and some kids recognized him as Han. This made Lin go back to the studio and say he would take the job if he could bring Han back.
Best in Commentary
- “I consider myself a veteran in this genre, and I’ll tell you, it never gets old when you have live explosives. It doesn’t matter. It can be four in the morning, and your adrenaline will be pumping when those things go off.”
- “I try not to get Tyrese’s close-ups in the morning because it doesn’t matter what time zone he’s in, he’s never awake in the A.M.”
- “We’re coming up to my final car and hot chicks sequence. Thank god! I wanted to go out on top, and this is all I got. I hate shooting these scenes. They’re miserable. I have hundreds of extras. They barely have any clothes on, it’s at night, it’s freezing, and I’m trying to coordinate and make everything work. They were troopers. It’s freezing outside, and when you call cut, everyone is putting on blankets. Oh, I’m so glad I never have to do this again.”
Even though Paul Walker’s character has been downplayed a bit in this movie, since he is now a father and seeking to settle down with Mia (Jordana Brewster), he is still essential to the movie. In this sense, many of the moments of reflection that Lin has strikes a nerve while watching the film. However, along with the other behind-the-scenes videos on the Blu-ray, Lin’s commentary emphasizes how important family was to the series. This wasn’t just for the characters, but for the actors and production crew as well. When Lin talks about the film, there’s real love for the people involved, and that’s a warm thing to hear.
Lin provides a solid commentary on the film, though he does check out a couple times, which I assume is him getting sucked into watching the acting in his own film. However, this never feels gratuitous or egocentric. Hearing him compare this production to the other films – specifically Tokyo Drift – underlines how far this series has come to be one of the most popular and exciting action franchises of its time.