Not so ‘Fast’. Lin out, Leterrier likely for ‘X’…

A few bumps in the road for the vehicular behemoth franchise as director Justin Lin leaves...

As announced last week Justin Lin has left his position as director of the forthcoming Fast X – though he will stay in position as an executive producer. His replacement now appears to be Louis Leterrier (Lupin, The Transporter franchise) who will likely officially sign on this week.

The first official statement read:

“With the support of Universal, I have made the difficult decision to step back as director of FAST X, while remaining with the project as a producer. Over 10 years and five films, we have been able to shoot the best actors, the best stunts, and the best damn car chases. On a personal note, as the child of Asian immigrants, I am proud of helping to build the most diverse franchise in movie history. I will forever be grateful to the amazing cast, crew and studio for their support, and for welcoming me into the FAST family.”

Though that seems a very cordial statement  there’s no doubt that a director leaving a week into a film’s production (with the Second-Unit shoot being prioritised) is never a good thing. (The film is currently underway in London with many of the regular cast returning alongside the incoming Jason Momoa and Brie Larson) .Though the usual ‘creative differences’ covers a lot of unspoken ground, rumours detailed by the Hollywood Reporter, now suggest that Lin’s decision came after significant frustration with both Vin Diesel and Universal about decisions being made to undertake significant changes the script and story even after production started. One final meeting produced too much frustration and Lin relinquished his role as director.

There’s no doubt that Vin Diesel has proven a strong and controversial presence when it comes to dictating what will and will not happen on set – famously having an ongoing dispute with Dwayne Johnson that shows little sign of a thaw. In many such cases with an A-List star, directors are ‘let go‘ or are openly fired from major productions if they have a conflict, but Lin has such a longstanding connection to the franchise that his decision appeared to be his own, albeit not ideal. Lin has directed five of the franchise’s films to date (starting with the third installment, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift) and is generally considered to be the guiding hand that moved the idea from racing-car-led action to the higher concept action-outings of recent years and increased theatrical profits to over $6 billion – despite the poorer returns of the most recent chapter released during the middle of the COVID outbreak. Profits are important because the films, led by spectacle – are hugely expensive to make.

Despite the delays and their inherent cost to the production (some figures suggest close to a $1 million a day in lost time) Fast X, which will be the first film of a two-part ‘finale’ to the franchise, is still scheduled for a 19 May, 2023 release.