Fast & Furious 6: Family Reunion

From the start, the theme of family has been the backbone to the success of the franchise. Over the course of reassembling this group, the actors have become an extended family of their own.

The eries founder Neal Moritz has watched as his core team has grown over the years. “The Fast family has been together on and off for almost 14 years, so there is history here,” he offers. “We’ve been making these movies through the birth of children, marriages, and the ups and downs of professional and personal life. Everybody is back because not only did they have a great experience making Fast Five, they loved the movie as much as the audience did. We did something special, and they wanted to see how to grow it with Six. The range of personalities is all over the place, but it works for this collective chemistry on screen. The camaraderie off screen is equally as amazing.”

Fast & Furious 6 picks up mere months after the Rio heist, with our crew scattered across the world. Dom and Elena are living in the Canary Islands with new parents Brian and Mia, while new couple Han and Gisele are enjoying Hong Kong. Tej has settled into chilling on the beach in Costa Rica, while fun-loving Roman lives the glamorous jet-setting life. Millions in the bank makes the world much easier for our heroes, but as fugitives they are constantly looking over their shoulders, living in fear of being discovered.

Of the characters’ evolution, Lin offers: “I was excited to explore the idea of ‘What is true satisfaction?’ I wanted to look at the fact that Dom, Brian and all the characters have friends, family and anything that money can buy, but that there are still restrictions that continue to haunt them all…in addition to the fact that they have a single chance to earn total freedom for peace of mind.”

It is Luke Hobbs, the tough-as-hell federal agent who relentlessly hunted down our protagonists in Fast Five, who returns and confronts Dom’s team with life-changing news. When Hobbs was introduced in the series, he proved a formidable opponent and the perfect foil to ex-con Dom. However, as the story played out and each man took stock of the other, begrudging respect began to be felt by Hobbs—even as he continued his single-minded pursuit of Dom. Ultimately, saving Hobbs from a bullet earned Dom and Brian a swift getaway, with the not-so-subtle warning that he would always be watching.

The filmmakers and Johnson knew that placing Dom and Hobbs on the same side this time warranted a careful approach. They all wanted a plausible reason that would up the ante enough so Hobbs would make the offer and Dom would accept. Indeed, it was essential that the film not rely upon a cookie-cutter setup. Any type of partnership between the two men would not be an easy one; their history all but guaranteed it.

Discussing the setup, Johnson reflects: “The key to having Dom and Hobbs work together is that the tension still has to be palpable. They both will get what they want from this bargain they’ve struck, but there has to be tension that the audience can feel. Then it’s authentic and genuine.”

So what would be the common denominator that would make unlikely partners of Hobbs and Dom? When Hobbs enlists Dom’s team’s help to bring down Owen Shaw, a paramilitary-trained criminal mastermind, Dom learns that Shaw has an unexpected second-in-command: Letty. Hobbs knows that Letty is Dom’s weak link, and his move is a calculated one. Still, Hobbs is smart enough to know that to catch an elusive villain like Shaw, he needs to operate outside of the law.

This gets us to the heart of the chapter: the reunion of Dom and Letty, and to an equal extent, Diesel and Rodriguez. The pair became great friends over the course of filming the first chapter of the series, and that relationship has grown throughout the years. Says Diesel: “There’s something special about Dom and Letty that goes beyond my playing the role, or Michelle playing the role. Theirs is a cherished love, and there’s strength in that. The fact that it exists on the wrong side of the tracks is what makes it even that much more intriguing.”

Another aspect of the love story resonates with Rodriguez, who admits working with Diesel makes the relationship that much more believable: “The beauty of this story is a love lost and the desperation of not being able to get that back. I’m a sucker for this type of love story. If I’m ever going to re-create that, Vin’s the guy to do it with. I wouldn’t be able to pull that off chemistry-wise with anybody else. Vin and I definitely do not fall under that category of the typical pretty boy and pretty girl. We’re as gritty as it gets. I get along with him so well. It’s on-screen chemistry and also a 13-year friendship, and that’s something audiences can see.”

Ever since he watched The Fast and the Furious, writer/executive producer Chris Morgan has owned his role as one of the franchise’s biggest fans. Therefore, as he began fleshing out the plot points for the series’ arc, jump-starting the love story was of great importance. Morgan notes: “There’s a scene in this movie where Dom and Letty race against each other. That is one of the most sublime moments in the film, watching Letty fall in love with Dom again as they race. It may sound cheesy, but there’s something amazing when he pulls this maneuver and she looks over at him and thinks, ‘This guy is crazy, but it all makes sense.’”

Although an intricate story arc was in place for Fast & Furious 6, the idea of bringing Letty back had been bandied among Lin, Morgan and Diesel years before the fan uprising. Morgan explains that Letty had to disappear in Fast & Furious to move the narrative forward…and to up the stakes for Dom and the crew: “This was the right decision knowing that, down the road, we were going to bring Letty back. If you bring her back immediately afterward it would have felt calculated and contrived. We never wanted to make it easy. Honestly, it is one of the most important things we talked about. That and ‘What does that mean to Dom?’ It’s interesting to put Dom in a situation where he’s one of us. We’ve all had that girl who we loved and lost and we wanted to get back.”

Rodriguez admits that early on during filming of the first movie, she worked hard to ensure that the feisty street racer had integrity and wasn’t the stereotypical promiscuous girl. It was important to her that Letty hold fast and remain true to her street credibility. When she learned that Letty would return to the fold, it was cathartic for Rodriguez. The actress shares: “Letty has all these talents and skills but has no memory of ever using them and the history that comes with it, so there’s a beauty about that. That sets the tone for her throughout the film. She’s searching for her place in the world through doing what she knows—pulling heists, driving fast and not getting caught.”

For Dom, the one person who knows Letty the best and loves her the most, the photo that Hobbs shows him at the beginning of this film rocks his world as he’s trying to rebuild his life with Elena. Leaving Letty in the Dominican Republic set everything in motion, and he’s carried the burden of guilt for what he believes led to her death.

Determined to find the truth, Dom strikes a deal with Hobbs that gives Dom the chance to redeem himself and bring clarity to the past. Says Diesel: “When Hobbs delivers the information about Letty, it makes Dom second-guess everything. A large part of this movie was playing a character that had to reevaluate what’s the truth and what’s not. It would be surreal for anybody to go years living your life, doing whatever you had to do to move on, only to be told that your past is not necessarily your past.”

Brian and Mia also feel the impact of Letty’s reappearance. Mia, lifelong friends with Letty, is hopeful but realistic about the turn of events, while Brian remains skeptical. He is unwilling to let this new development go unresolved, yet is equally reluctant to leave Mia and his newborn son, Jack, behind. He is still racked with guilt over his part in recruiting Letty to infiltrate Braga’s organization, which put her in danger’s way. Fatherhood has changed Brian, who was raised by a single mother, and the desire to return home with Mia and Jack is strong. As much as he is compelled to find answers, leveraging a deal out of Hobbs for a full pardon is the only viable option for his family.

Over the course of four Fast films, Paul Walker has seen former cocky undercover cop Brian O’Conner reexamine his moral compass. As he first investigates Dom and falls in love with Mia, then faces disgrace with both the LAPD and FBI and lives as a fugitive, Brian has had one of the biggest character evolutions in the series, going from one side of the law to the other.

Although Walker didn’t believe they could top the action from the last film, he was more than impressed with how his director took it to another level. He also appreciated that everyone has his or her moment to shine in Fast & Furious 6. The actor reflects: “I feel like everybody gets an opportunity to just kick some ass. Everyone’s got a little more pop, a little more strut to their step. It’s cool seeing that.”

After playing this role for more than a decade, Walker feels a responsibility to keep Brian and the series as realistic as possible. “The one thing I’ve learned over the years is that our films mean a lot to many people, and sometimes it is hard to be objective when you have so much time and effort invested in it,” he says. “The most important thing is that we keep our characters and their stories based in reality. Obviously, there are times where you have to concede the point because the goal is to make films that are dynamic. Our films work because there is that delicate balance between the two.”

No one understands that balance better than Mia Toretto, portrayed once again by Jordana Brewster. “You’re stronger together,” Mia states to Dom and Brian as they try to comprehend the revelation that Letty is alive and discuss their plan of action. Neither man can deny it: They’ve had each other’s back since they first met as the undercover cop looking to nab the ex-con and his crew.

The unyielding resolve that Mia exhibited in Fast Five has now been reinforced by motherhood, and she is committed to keeping her family stronger and safer than ever. She is a Toretto through and through and understands that loyalty binds her family. Brewster, who first tackled the role 12 years ago, explains: “Mia’s a mom now. She needs to protect her baby, but she also knows Dom and Brian well enough to not hold them back—especially when it’s as important as bringing a loved one back. She’s smart enough to see they will take care of each other. They’ve become brothers.”

Brewster, eager to return for her fourth turn as Mia, simultaneously shot Fast & Furious 6 in London while filming her television series Dallas in Texas. It was a scheduling challenge, but one that Brewster made work so she could revisit the character she admired, while also enjoying her extended Fast family on location.

One aspect of filming that Brewster was keen to repeat was to participate more in the film’s action sequences. Fortunately, this chapter gives her the chance to be behind the wheel again…as an integral part of the final action sequence. Fast Five was her first real introduction to immersing herself in mind-blowing stunt sequences, and she was ready for more. “I love getting a little taste of the action again,” she laughs. “I have a scene with KIM KOLD, who is massive. He dwarfs Dwayne and Vin; it’s crazy how big he is. But he did complain that I dented his boot and bruised his shin. I was proud.”

Chris “Ludacris” Bridges was looking forward to returning to his role as the tech-savvy Tej Parker. As much as Bridges loved the thrill ride that Fast Five offered, he was ready to outdo it. He was also happy to see that his character, the auto mechanic with a penchant for illegal street racing, was still doing what he loved, despite the millions he now has in the bank. “Money doesn’t change Tej,” states the actor/hip-hop artist. “Whereas most people get money and want to quit their jobs, he’s just one of those guys who still wants to do a job that he loves. Of course, whenever you get $10 million your life is going to change. For Tej, he’s still buying exotic cars and tinkering around with computers, but he’s also having fun on the beach.”

Tyrese Gibson’s Roman Pearce continues to be the comedic voice in this world, as well as prove that the series can work both as a global action tentpole and give a lot of opportunity for comedy. From the moment he appeared in 2 Fast 2 Furious as Brian’s fast-talking, petty-thieving childhood friend, the die has been cast with both the actor and the audience. Pearce has no qualms in bucking authority and speaking his mind, and Gibson is more than happy to see that his character hasn’t mellowed. He says: “That’s Roman’s personality. He’s the guy who doesn’t take life too seriously and has a problem with authority—even with $10 million in the bank. I’m just glad that he remains the same in that respect, because I feel like Roman is the voice of the people. That’s what I love about the character: he always has something to say.”

Sung Kang joined the series midstream, debuting in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift as Han, the cool cat (with equally smooth driving skills) who ran
Tokyo’s illegal street-racing scene. With subsequent appearances in Fast & Furious, Fast Five and now Fast & Furious 6, Han would become the thread that ties the franchise timeline together. The challenge for Kang, not to mention Morgan and Lin, was how to craft a credible backward arc for Han, who was ostensibly introduced in a later chapter of the series. Reflects Kang: “In Tokyo Drift, a lot of the life lessons that Han gave the other characters, I had to manufacture them and ask myself, ‘Why does Han live by this certain code?’ So over these last four films, it’s been nice to mentally move forward within the script and see the life lessons that Han has learned from Dom and the family…and to put the pieces together of why Han is the way he is in the third film.”

This chapter finds that the mutual admiration between Han and Gisele, established in Fast Five, has grown into a full-blown romance. Gal Gadot was first introduced to audiences in Fast & Furious as a top lieutenant in Braga’s (played once again in this film by John Ortiz) organization who aligns with Dom when Braga forsakes her to save himself. Dom saved her life, and that act gained him her loyalty when Gisele joined up with the crew in Fast Five to pull off the heist.

The then-unknown Israeli actress has been enjoying the ride, especially in this film, which has enabled her to tap into her tough side. “I’m so happy about all of the action in Fast & Furious 6 since in the previous two, I didn’t get to do as much,” offers Gadot. “I’ve long told Justin, ‘I want Gisele to be more of a badass. Whatever you throw at me I will do. I want to do it all.’ I remember my first conversation with Justin for this film, and he asked, ‘Are you up for it? You’re going to have a lot of action in this one.’ I was so glad. Finally!”

Gadot did not disappoint with her commitment to doing many of her own stunts, not to mention riding a DUCATI MONSTER motorcycle like a pro. Despite just having had a baby, the performer spent several days suspended in a harness doing the bulk of the wire work for the Russian ANTONOV 124 plane scene in which our heroes are trying to bring down a cargo aircraft that’s been commandeered by Shaw’s crew. In the film’s final sequence, Gadot fires off weapons and weaves through detonating squibs during a firefight with Shaw’s team.

In Fast Five, Spanish actress Elsa Pataky joined the franchise as Elena Neves, the Rio cop who fell for Dom. The pair connected over a shared loss of their loved ones, and their similar circumstances and respect for each other sparked a romance. The information that Letty is still alive threatens to tear apart Dom’s relationship with Elena, who has given up everything— her law enforcement career, home and country—to go on the lam with him. They have created a life together and a trusted family unit with Brian and Mia.

When it came to Letty’s re-emergence, Pataky admits to initially having a difficult time on how to tackle this plot reveal. Now, she better understands the impact of Letty’s return on Dom and Elena’s relationship. “Elena is strong but it’s difficult for her to let Dom go, even though her first inclination is to fight for him,” says Pataky. “She knows it’s the right thing to do and if she was in the same situation, she would have handled it the same way. Elena would rather Dom stay with her, but as long as there is any possibility Letty is alive, Elena knows that she has to be brave and let Dom figure it out.”