Fast and Furious 6: Saga Continues

The unexpected take of Fast and Furious 5 on Dom, Brian and their extended family pulling off a daring multimillion dollar heist with a hardnosed federal agent hot on their trail offered the ultimate thrill for audiences in April 2011.

The film debuted domestically to $86 million during its opening weekend and set a record best for Universal Pictures. Not only was it the highest-grossing film for that weekend in motion picture history, it bumped the previous entry, Fast & Furious—with its $70.9 million opening in 2009—to the No. 2 spot for April record breakers.

Fast & Furious reinvigorated the series with beloved characters and an engaging storyline that hearkened back to its roots, and the action-thriller built upon that winning formula by injecting new heroes and elements into the storyline. Introducing Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs upped the stakes for our crew of antiheroes and expanding the scope of the film’s action proved to be an irresistible combination that electrified audiences, new and old alike. More importantly, the film stoked the flames of anticipation for die-hard fans who have been invested in the saga for more than a decade.

The filmmaking team of director Justin Lin and producers Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel and Clayton Townsend build on the worldwide box-office success of Fast Five and take the action, stunts, narrative and emotion to even greater heights with this installment. The proven blueprint of family, loyalty, fast cars and hard-driving action—whether it’s behind the wheel of a souped-up muscle car racing for pink slips or avenging the loss of a loved one—has cemented the franchise as one of the most successful in box-office history.

Lin was heartened by the thunderous reaction to Fast Five. “It was very rewarding to see the way that Fast Five has been embraced,” he reflects. “The great thing about being part of the Fast franchise is that ever since I joined on Tokyo Drift, Vin, Neal and I always discussed backstory, character and mythology. In many ways, Fast & Furious 6 was already planned… we just had to earn it. We worked hard to get here; this is something that we built together, and it is not by accident or a fluke.”
It’s been more than a decade since The Fast and the Furious introduced audiences to Los Angeles’ gritty underground street-racing scene, and with each subsequent chapter, the stakes have grown higher with compelling storylines and the introduction of new characters. The film, and ultimately the franchise, has tapped into the global appeal of modern-day heroes who drive fast cars and deliver big action while eluding the authorities and taking care of their loved ones.

In Hollywood, producing a sixth installment in a blockbuster franchise is an enviable (and rare) position. Moritz, a veteran producer who, in addition to the Fast & Furious series, has a diverse roster of box-office hits, lauds Lin for his ability to consistently harness story, action and a large ensemble cast with seeming ease. He commends: “It would have been very difficult to make this movie without Justin. He’s got an incredible work ethic and a tremendous amount of patience, which you need with so many moving parts. As the commander in chief, he was able to hold it together, do a tremendous job and deliver the most exciting film to date.”
Neither the filmmakers nor Universal executives could quite expect the fans’ explosive reaction to the revelation of Letty Ortiz’s survival at the end of Fast Five. The surprise one-minute coda between Johnson’s Hobbs and Eva Mendes’ 2 Fast 2 Furious customs agent Monica Fuentes was enough to get audiences buzzing, but the shocking reveal itself had filmgoers applauding and ready for more.

Letty’s apparent death in Fast & Furious was a jolt to audiences. In particular, fans of the fiercely independent Latina were thrilled to have Michelle Rodriguez back in the fourth installment. Truly, the return of Letty for this chapter was the result of a groundswell that came from audiences themselves. Appealing to the studio and filmmakers to bring their beloved heroine back to the series, loyal fans sent a flurry of correspondence to Universal executives and the producers. The orchestrated campaign by the moviegoers reinforced the filmmakers’ belief that there should be authentic, organic interaction with those who have supported the movies over the years.

Although fans were beyond eager for Letty to return, it was quite an unexpected turn of events for Rodriguez, who originated the role in The Fast and the Furious and returned for Fast & Furious. “I found out about the tease at the end of Fast Five when I went to see the film,” Rodriguez recalls. “I was vacationing in Paris and went to see it in a French movie theater, and there it was at the end. I was excited by it all because Fast Five was so amazing, and there was a very real possibility of bringing me back to do Fast & Furious 6. I keep joking with Vin that he should have given me at least a little bit of a heads-up!”

Only then did a months-earlier, cryptic conversation with Diesel make sense to the actress. However, Diesel was contemplative about revisiting the Dom-Letty storyline, which was years in the making. He provides: “I knew when I came back as a producer that there was equity in the Dom-Letty relationship. This relationship had spoken to people and was not like one we had seen before, so we had to explore it.”

The Fast Five postscript rivaled the response to Diesel’s cameo in Tokyo Drift, which jumpstarted the next chapter and, ultimately, the series. Lin’s initial meeting with Diesel to pitch that scene morphed into a marathon discussion about the characters, their backstories and potential storylines. Both Lin and Diesel share a passion for character-driven stories, so it was a logical progression for the pair to delve deeper into the franchise’s mythology.

Lin shares: “That idea of mythology got Vin excited. We started discussing how to create mythology and how Han and Dom were linked up and that set everything off. One of the most exciting things was going there and being able to articulate what I wanted to achieve. Vin and I talk a lot, and it’s something that I appreciate. It’s a process that we thrive on because we both take a lot of pride in how we build our films. Fast & Furious 6 truly is a completion of everything that we had talked about. It has come full circle.”

Diesel, who has long served as one of the series’ guardians, concurs: “The most exciting part of it was that we were going to be able to treat this not only as an action film, but with as much story as we do. It’s gratifying to be able to look back and to see how everything links up. When you see Fast & Furious
6, you’ll want to go back and re-watch the previous films. When you can answer questions and shed light on scenes in previous movies, when you can promise something in the future…that’s cool filmmaking. The best example is when a saga and its audience can play off of one another, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

Screenwriter Chris Morgan, who has made his mark with action-driven fare, enthusiastically participated in extended dialogue with Diesel and Lin over the past seven years. Beginning with Fast & Furious, they wanted to expand relationships and potential plots to propel the subsequent chapters. Diesel was adamant from the start about maintaining a multi-film arc, so Morgan kept that in mind and has taken a design approach thematically to frame it that way.

Morgan remarks that it is gratifying to see it all bridge together: “I love constructing intricate narratives and being able to find the places where the pieces fit.

The fact that Tokyo Drift doesn’t happen chronologically in the film order, but to be able to determine where it goes—and for it all to make sense—is a fun puzzle to put together. The last three films had a very purposeful thematic arc regarding the loss of love and the loss of home…and how far our team would go to get them back. In the fourth film, Dom lost the love of his life and the entire crew was forced to go on the run, abandoning everything they once knew. In the fifth film, our team hit a low point and really felt the absence of both, living as fugitives on the run…until the end when they learn that Letty might still be alive. Now, in the sixth film, we get to see the extent to which our heroes will go to get back everything they lost—specifically Letty—and the ability to return home as free men and women.”
Alongside Clayton Townsend, who rejoins the series after serving as an executive producer on Tokyo Drift, the behind-the-scenes crew was ready to roll. Reflects the producer: “It’s a privilege to rejoin the team at this time, as this episode dovetails so beautifully into the rest of the films. We’ve long explained that the movies were not released in sequential order, but all those pieces will be revealed. It will be quite an experience to sit in theaters on opening day and watch die-hard Fast fans get the surprise of their lives.”