Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift with Justin Lin

In contemplating a return to the world of fast cars and faster attitude, the filmmakers behind “The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift” knew they must retain what was unique about the franchise, misunderstood teens on the outskirts of society, who are drawn into a world of fantastic cars, kind of a metaphor for losing control in an insane world.

For Neal H. Moritz, who is producing the third movie in the immensely popular series that has grossed close to half a billion dollars worldwide, the new film had to have a fresh take on the car culture of street racers that has continued to intrigue audiences.

The filmmakers didn't want to do a third in the series unless they had “somewhere else to go with the storyline.” The idea of Tokyo came up, when the team was discussing the birthplace of a new side of racing called “drifting.” When they saw underground footage of it, it sparked their interest.

According to Moritz: “Drifting puts you in this trance. You throw caution to the wind. It's controlled chaos where you're sliding into turns, go around corners, taking fenders so close to any object as you glide around it gracefully.” However, director Justin Linn was not intimately familiar with drifting when he was approached to helm the project.

Seeing film for first time

I was in film school when “The Fast and the Furious” came out, and I saw it along with a sold-out crowd who just ate it up.

Up the ante

What really excited me about directing this film was the chance to harness that energycreate a whole new chapter and up the ante by bringing something new to the table for the audience who loves action and speed.

Origins of drifting

I knew that if I was going to tackle the project, I had to stay true to the sport of drifting, and the spirit behind it. Drifting came about from a working-class group of kids living in the mountains of Japan on really windy roads. They were attempting to find the faster way to get down these trails. Visually, that's stunning to observe.

Screenwriter Chris Morgan

Chris was obsessed with the series, he's an avid car enthusiast whose unabashed delight at the prospect of owning, let alone driving a wicked short block Toyota Supra that puts out 900 horsepower at the rear wheels. For Morgan, drifting isn't about pushing buttons and stomping pedals and holding on. It's about knowing your car better than the guy who made it. These guys are magicians who take their rides to the very brink of physics, then hold them there, surfing it out on the razor-edge of control. It's loud and dirty and beautiful. Dangerous as hell, and I fell in love with it the instant I saw it.

Capturing authenticity

The key to my approach to the project was to capture an authenticity when it came to the complexities of modern teen life, and to create a believable world of young outsiders who live on the edge.

Lead man Lucas Black

The Fast and the Furious franchise has catapulted the careers of its leading men, including Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, and Vin Diesel. We chose as our lead Lucas Black, an actor who had starred in the high-school football thriller “Friday Night Lights,” and co-starred in the military drama “Jarhead.” I think he is set on that same trajectory with his tremendous onscreen charisma and natural acting style.

Lucas and Brian Tee

Lucas really knows how to drift now. He and Brian Tee, who plays Lucas's archrival D.K., Tokyo's reigning king of drifting, had a field day out there. They were able to go out onto the Speedway and not worry about having to swap out tires every 20 minutes. I think that really shows in their performance.

Aussie beauty Nathalie Kelley

We needed a fresh-faced actress who could hold her own against all these tough guys. I found that in Nathalie Kelley, who's only 21 and makes her feature film debut. When she's onscreen, you can't take your eyes off her.

Sonny Chiba

One of the highlights for me is getting to work with the legendary Sonny Chiba, the 1970s martial arts powerhouse and star of the cult classic “The Street Fighter.” In our movie, he plays D.K.'s menacing uncle/Yakuza boss Kamata. When we began prepping this film, it was very important for us to cast the role of Kamata with someone who has the iconic value, but also the presence and strength as an actor.

Rest of the team

With only two cast members fluent in Japanese (Kitagawa and Chiba), and fewer aware of the burgeoning phenomenon of drifting, I knew that I had to be meticulous in my research and education. I subsequently developed the curriculum for my young cast of actors to prepare for their roles.

Prepping and training

I made sure that the whole team was immersed in all aspects of the underground culture. I recruited the film's U.S. technical consultant, Toshi Hayama, to inform the production, and even based the character of drift purist Virgil on numerous conversations with Hayama, promising not to dilute the art form Hayma loved. I also gave my students Japanese language lessons replete with Tokyo slang and intense drift training sessions.

Cinematic sport

Drifting is a very cinematic sport. It's exciting to do something that's never been done before on film. It's amazing to me how we've found new angles and new camera moves to capture the action. These drivers are so good and so precise that we were able to come up with new ideas on how best to capture it.

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