Exclusive: Director F. Gary Gray Talks ‘Fate Of The Furious’

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Exclusive: Director F. Gary Gray Talks ‘The Fate Of The Furious’
Posted by Mike Sargent

April 10, 2017

Coming out this week (April 14) from Universal Pictures is THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS, the eighth chapter in The Fast & Furious Saga.

Vin Diesel is joined by a returning all-star cast that includes Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky and Kurt Russell. In addition to Theron, the series welcomes newcomers Scott Eastwood and Oscar® winner Helen Mirren.

Directed by F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) and produced by returning producers Neal H. Moritz, Michael Fottrell and Diesel.

Now that Dom and Letty are on their honeymoon and Brian and Mia have retired from the game—and the rest of the crew has been exonerated—the globetrotting team has found a semblance of a normal life. But when a mysterious woman (Oscar winner Charlize Theron) seduces Dom into the world of crime he can’t seem to escape and a betrayal of those closest to him, they will face trials that will test them as never before.

For F. Gary Gary, not only is this film is his biggest production to date, having done his biggest film to date with the blockbuster Straight Outta Compton, but the film is also a reunion with him and some of the cast. In 2003 he worked with Charlize Theron and Jason Statham on The Italian Job remake and within the same year, he worked with Vin Diesel on A Man Apart. Two years later he would direct Dwayne Job in the Get Shorty sequel, Be Cool.

With the last one grossing a billion worldwide, F. Gary Gray spoke to Blackfilm.com about the challenges on keeping the franchise fresh and reuniting with some of the cast members.

After directing Straight Outta Compton, which was a huge success, was it a big decision to choose between this film and Black Panther?

F. Gary Gray: It’s interesting because it’s the second time that I got this question today and first of all, I’m glad that Ryan Cooler is doing that movie because he’s so dope and I can’t wait to see it. I think it was more of a rumor that got started and I don’t to perpetuate those things. I know the film is going to be dope. I met with Ryan and talked with him and he’s got his head on straight. Creed was dope, but that was more of a rumor regarding that film.

Coming into a franchise, which is huge, I saw that you had seven 2nd units on this, and most of the cast and crew are like family, with a majority of them having worked together for years. At the same time, you had worked with Vin Diesel on A Man Apart and with Charlize Theron and Jason Statham on The Italian Job and with Dwayne Johnson on Be Cool, so in a way you were already part of the family, right?

F. Gary Gray: Yes, it was like a family reunion. We had worked with each other and I know what they are capable of and we have grown over the years. In a way, you get to see the benefits of our growth and reconnection with The Fate of the Furious. I think everyone stepped up their A game with this one, their performances, the storytelling, the narrative, and it was great to reconnect. I think you will see it on the screen.

With such a huge production, this is the biggest circus that you had to be the conductor on. How was this for you?

F. Gary Gray: It was one of the biggest circus ever imagined and executed. To be able to shoot in Cuba, which had no infrastructure to support a movie like this; and to shoot in Iceland with the science and the math and physics for everything we had to do to prepare was tremendous. In shooting high speed chases at a time of the year where cars are sinking into the ice, while the audience thinks it’s cool when they see the finished sequence on the screen, if you could only imagine drilling holes every day to make sure that the ice was thick enough to support not only what we were shooting with our crew, because if it had collapsed, it would have been dangerous for our actors. stunt people and our crews. With Cuba, you couldn’t send emails because they had no internet. To bring 200 people to a country that barely has a relationship with us and having state departments negotiating with each other, we barely got the clearance to go there. They never had an airship fly over Havana to get the clearance for that was pretty insane. When we shot in New York City, to get a car to go pass 30 miles per hour in Times Square and Manhattan was close to impossible. With camera cars and cranes and multiple cars to be able to be up to speed and safety and blocking stores and pedestrians in post-911 New York, it was so logistically insane, I couldn’t begin to tell you what to took to do even some of the things I mentioned, let alone managed the scheduling of the biggest actors in the world. Most of my stars are superstars in their own right. They star in their own movies. To get them all to play in one scene, can you imagine the amount of coordinating it takes to get Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron, The Rock, Vin Diesel, Tyrese, Jason Statham, and Ludacris to be in the same room at the same time. There are a lot of things that went on behind the scenes and I thank my crew for being able to manage something like this. To get off a single shot, let alone enough shots to deliver the type of movie that we delivered, was massive.

Did you feel the pressure to follow up the success from the last film in the franchise as well as it being your biggest film to date?

F. Gary Gray: A combination of both. It wasn’t casual. I love a challenge and there is something that you are hyper aware of when you walk into a franchise that’s been around for over 15 years and it’s a multi-billion dollar franchise that has a global fan base. They expect certain things but you want to put in your twist on something that’s already been successful, but it’s always been simple for me this way. Although, people expect certain things from the franchise, it was imperative and a goal of mine and a goal of ours to make sure we gave them something fresh. If you’re going to see the 8th installment, it has to be fresh and something different. I felt that the storyline alone with Dom going rogue against the family as opposed to the family going on a mission together against the world was different enough. To put my spin on that is what I thought would be enough to make it entertaining for not only fans but for newcomers as well.

Are you aware that you may break your own record as far as most successful film for a black director or do you not care?

F. Gary Gray: I don’t think in those terms because it can change next week. It’s good to know that people respond. I’m not to pretend that it’s something that you don’t think about at all. You want it to be successful but at the same time, with a movie like Get Out, I’m happy something like that did what it did. That inspires so many people to tell that type of story for that type of budget. I don’t want to compete with that. I don’t even want feel that we are oppose in any way. I’m all about supporting that. That narrative shouldn’t be that “Gary Gray broke his record.” It should be, “Dam, This is a great year for us as filmmakers.” We have different types of stories, different levels of production, and look at the success across the board. I think it’s all inclusive as oppose to separate.

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