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The Untold Truth Of Fast X

Every road has an end: Driving down them with the ones you love wouldn't be anywhere near as satisfying if they went on forever. The finite nature of roads makes the experiences we have on them all the more meaningful. Much like roads, the "Fast & Furious" saga, which has stretched on and on for decades, cannot run forever. The 10th installment of this series, "Fast X," functions as the beginning of the end for this franchise. This particular chapter sees Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and friends dealing with the repercussions of their past actions in the form of the malicious Dante (Jason Momoa), who has a craving for vengeance by any means necessary.

The journey to get "Fast X" revved up in time for its May 2023 theatrical debut is one full of more potholes and swerves than you might expect from a saga that's been running for so long. The untold truth of "Fast X" stretches back to 2014 and includes everything from why the film's original director left to how a legend like Rita Moreno got involved in all this vehicular mayhem. The end of a long-running narrative like the "Fast & Furious" saga is inevitable. The untold truth of "Fast X" can make the journey to that unavoidable end all the richer.

The earliest mention of Fast X was almost a decade ago

In looking at the highest-grossing movies in the history of Universal Pictures, it quickly becomes apparent that the "Fast & Furious" franchise is one of their most lucrative properties. Keeping it running for as long and smoothly as possible is a top priority for anyone in charge of this iconic outfit. It shouldn't be a surprise, then, that Donna Langley, head of Universal Pictures, was talking up the extensive future of the "Fast & Furious" franchise in a Hollywood Reporter interview all the way back in November 2014. Here, Langley said that there would be, at minimum, a trio of sequels following the then-upcoming "Furious 7." This technically qualifies as the very first mention of "Fast X," nearly a decade before it ever hit theaters.

It didn't take long for further news about the 10th "Fast & Furious" adventure to emerge. In February 2016. the first tentative release date for "Fast X" was unveiled, with the project angling for an April 2, 2021 opening at that time. This would've put the 10th "Fast & Furious" film firmly in the April slot that so many preceding "Fast & Furious" movies had excelled in financially. The announcement of this release date also came with the note that the then-untitled "Fast & Furious 10" was poised to be the final installment of the franchise.

Why Justin Lin left the Fast & Furious universe with Fast X

Beginning with "Tokyo Drift," director Justin Lin became an indispensable part of the "Fast & Furious" franchise. Helming the next three installments of the saga, Lin went from handling a spin-off of the main franchise to shepherding its biggest stories. Lin's work in the "Fast & Furious" saga was marked by an affinity for ludicrous action sequences and a gift for handling ensemble casts. Though he briefly departed this franchise to explore other creative endeavors after "Fast & Furious 6," Lin returned to the franchise with "F9" and was initially planning on sticking around for "Fast X."

While Lin was behind the camera on the first week of shooting "Fast X," he didn't stay there long. Lin left "Fast X" shortly thereafter, with The Hollywood Reporter later reporting that alleged disagreements between the filmmaker and leading man Vin Diesel inspired him to exit the project. Tensions also allegedly rose when Universal Pictures sent people down to the set to tweak dialogue for the feature. With that, a mainstay of the "Fast & Furious" universe, somebody who initially seemed as permanently interwoven into its mythology as Vin Diesel himself, was now gone. That event would've been devastating under any circumstances, but it was especially crushing given that "Fast X" was in the middle of shooting. There was no time to lose. This blockbuster needed a new director.

Director Louis Leterrier overhauled the Fast X script

In the middle of a crisis on the set of "Fast X," filmmaker Louis Leterrier stepped in to take over directing duties on this massive blockbuster. It's always a mammoth proposition for a director to step in and grab the reins of a movie that previously belonged to another filmmaker. It's an especially gargantuan prospect when that project has already begun shooting and belongs to a massive franchise like "Fast & Furious." However, Leterrier not only stepped up to the challenge, he even added extra hurdles for himself by making sure the "Fast X" screenplay reflected some of his creative sensibilities.

Leterrier explained to Variety that when he was first approached to helm this sequel, Universal informed him the third act of "Fast X" needed to be overhauled and inquired if he could take on the task of rewriting it. Once he started doing that, a domino effect began to fall that saw Leterrier revamping the other two acts as well. The result of all this was that Leterrier quickly became sleep-deprived, focusing just on overhauling the script. However, now he could direct "Fast X" while working on a screenplay that bore some of his own creative flourishes.

Michelle Rodriguez and Charlize Theron took their big fight scene into their own hands

When Justin Lin departed "Fast X," the other creative folks remaining with the blockbuster had to get creative with how to approach the production. This included the actors, who only had a limited amount of time in their respective schedules to film some truly labor-intensive action sequences. This included Michelle Rodriguez and Charlize Theron, who had a major hand-to-hand fight scene to shoot together. Apparently, this pair of performers opted to just take the matter into their own hands in the middle of all the "Fast X" production chaos.

Michelle Rodriguez explained to Vanity Fair that she and Theron decided to shoot the fight scene without any principal director on hand to guide the scene (a second-unit director was involved to supervise parts of the shoot). Rodriguez credited the existence of such an outlandish plan to the work ethic of Theron and her willingness to do anything when it came to memorable action scenes. Getting this sequence down within the seven-day timeframe when "Fast X" was shifting directors kept the project moving and got one of the film's most elaborate set pieces out of the way. Leave it to a "Fast & Furious" veteran like Michelle Rodriguez to pump up the adrenaline in the making of "Fast X."

Jason Momoa was encouraged to bring quirks to the Fast X set

Jason Momoa's major film roles have largely leaned on this massive hunk of a man being intimidating, the very definition of machismo. Whether it's in "Aquaman," "Dune," or earlier roles in films like "Bullet to the Head," Momoa's always been a guy with a reliably burly persona. For the villainous role of Dante in "Fast X," though, Momoa was eager to take on something different than his typical performances. Dante is an extremely eccentric soul, and Momoa was all too happy to embrace that side of the character with his on-set performance.

Momoa recalled to Men's Health that he was always bringing unexpectedly strange flourishes to his performance as Dante. To his delight, director Louis Leterrier encouraged Momoa to go even farther with his peculiar accentuations. Leterrier espoused nothing but praise about Momoa's performance to the same publication, with the filmmaker being especially impressed with how much Momoa threw himself into improvisation and Dante's brightly-colored wardrobe. Momoa's "Fast X" character doesn't quite match the roles that have defined so much of this actor's filmography up to this point. However, exploring such new territory clearly energized Momoa in his inaugural "Fast & Furious" appearance.

The importance of Fast X tying so directly into Fast Five

The plot for "Fast X" is rooted in the franchise's past. Specifically, the feature's main baddie, Dante, is motivated to turn to violence because of how Dominic Toretto killed his father, "Fast Five" antagonist Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). Previously, the "Fast & Furious" saga featured no indicators that Reyes had a kid lurking in the wings readying an elaborate revenge plot. However, this franchise is always drumming up new surprises regarding its continuity: Just look at how "Tokyo Drift" ended up taking place years after the movie was actually released.

Louis Leterrier explained to Entertainment Weekly that a key reason for "Fast X' being so intertwined with the events of "Fast Five" was simply that he felt it was the creative high point of the whole franchise. Being especially partial to the climax, where a gigantic safe is driven all over the place, Leterrier loved the idea of returning to the finale of the earlier film and unearthing new layers of mythology from that sequence. Leterrier also liked flipping people's perception of whether or not Toretto and his friends were "good" by exploring a different, more complicated perspective on a big set piece that was previously depicted as being entirely heroic. By uncovering so many new layers within the past of the "Fast & Furious" saga, "Fast X" could create new compelling storylines for moviegoers of today.

Why the budget for Fast X ballooned out of control

Nothing better illustrates just how far the "Fast & Furious" saga has come in terms of scope than exploring how the budgets for these movies have evolved. The very first installment of this saga cost just $38 million to make, though that price tag quickly doubled to $76 million for "2 Fast 2 Furious." "Fast Five" in 2011 marked the first time the franchise cracked a $100 million budget, while "The Fate of the Furious" in 2017 cost a staggering $250 million to make. As the demand for spectacle in the "Fast & Furious" franchise increases, so too does the budget for each installment. 

Even by the pricey standards of later "Fast & Furious" movies, "Fast X" turned into an especially costly enterprise. In November 2022, The Wrap reported that "Fast X" had grown to a $340 million budget, a price informed by the high costs of keeping the star-studded "Fast & Furious" ensemble cast together and COVID-19 protocols, among many other factors. This has put "Fast X" well above the costs of any of its predecessors, at nearly 10 times what "The Fast and the Furious" cost back in 2001. Only time will tell if the trend of skyrocketing budgets in this franchise continues and if future "Fast & Furious" movies somehow surpass the extravagant costs of "Fast X."

Louis Leterrier was hoping to make Fast X more realistic

Poke around on the internet for just a few minutes and you're bound to uncover jokes about how the "Fast & Furious" saga has absurdly grown from low-stakes misadventures concerned with stealing DVD players to the events of "F9," which took key characters to outer space. The "Fast & Furious" franchise gets more and more absurd with each new installment, with the series never showing any indication that it was starting to slow down. However, when filmmaker Louis Leterrier took over directorial duties on "Fast X," he set out to create some sort of discernible reality within all these ludicrous adventures.

Leterrier explained to Empire that a key element he brought to his directorial role on "Fast X" was a greater emphasis on practically-realized stunt work rather than leaning so heavily on CGI. Now, this doesn't mean that "Fast X" was suddenly about to emulate the grounded reality seen in classic Italian neo-realism films like "Bicycle Thieves." Leterrier was still planning on using all that elaborate stuntwork to create set pieces that defied various laws of gravity. However, his directorial inclinations leaned more heavily on the kind of realism that was once present in the earliest "Fast & Furious" adventures.

Rita Moreno's grandson is responsible for getting her into Fast X

The incredible career of Rita Moreno has spanned multiple decades and always defied expectations. Even though she was never one to be pigeonholed into any particular type of role, it's still a remarkable development that "Fast X" managed to secure Moreno to play Dominic Toretto's Abuela. This casting coup can be laid at the feet of somebody who wasn't a part of either the "Fast X" cast or crew.

Moreno detailed to Total Film (via Syfy) that her presence in "Fast X" was largely because of her grandson Justin. He had apparently maintained a positive relationship with Vin Diesel over many years, helping Diesel score an invite to the premiere of the 2021 "West Side Story" feature, which had Moreno in a supporting role. After the premiere, Justin told Diesel that Moreno would make for a great new addition to the "Fast & Furious" cast. Diesel couldn't get this idea out of his head and eventually, a new character was created for Moreno to play, one that would deepen the mythology of the Toretto family. It also allowed Moreno to toss in another unexpected role into a filmography that's overflowing with unforgettable parts.

How the cast felt working under a new director for Fast X

With "Fast X," many of the "Fast & Furious" cast members were working with other actors they'd been rubbing shoulders with for years or even decades. Long-standing members of this saga, like Tyrese Gibson or Jordana Brewster, could rely on familiar faces to navigate this newest chapter of the saga. However, the sudden departure of director Justin Lin at the start of shooting left the cast of "Fast X" having to deal with a brand-new filmmaker, Louis Leterrier. It seems inevitable that there would be some tension between Leterrier and the experienced pros of the "Fast & Furious" universe. Instead, the rapport between all parties appears to have been quite warm.

This extends to leading man Vin Diesel. Leterrier recalled to Variety that one of his first interactions with the actor involved Diesel immediately dubbing the director a member of the family. Meanwhile, Tyrese Gibson heaped praises on Leterrier as someone who saved the movie in its darkest moments, while Michelle Rodriguez was delighted by Leterrier's sincere position as a long-standing "Fast & Furious" fan. With Leterrier's burning devotion to the franchise, Rodriguez was constantly getting reminded of the underlying importance of these movies. Though he entered "Fast X" under less-than-ideal circumstances, Louis Leterrier clearly got along quite well with the mainstays of the "Fast & Furious" movies.

The decision to end Fast X on a cliffhanger

Before "Fast X" even premiered, actors like Vin Diesel were openly talking about how the feature would be followed up by "Fast & Furious 11," which would function as the finale to this expansive franchise. The end was firmly in sight, with "Fast X" serving as a key bridge to this climax. In fact, "Fast X" was seen as so crucial that director Louis Leterrier revealed to Empire (via Digital Spy) before its release that it would end on a massive cliffhanger, leading directly into all of the spectacle and emotions that its follow-up would deliver. 

Going this route for "Fast X" is unusual for the franchise. It hasn't been adverse to cliffhanger endings, such as the sudden appearance of Dominic Toretto at the end of "Tokyo Drift" or the tease of a prison bus escape in the final seconds of "Fast & Furious." Still, most installments in the saga, especially bigger ones like "Fast Five" and "Furious 7," do feature concrete endings, saving any potential sequel teases for post-credit sequences. Delivering an ending that exists only to set up a later finale is a massively risky move, but time will tell how Leterrier and company handle such a bold concept.