Ask any alum of The Fast and the Furious, any real alum, and they’ll admit they didn’t see the last two decades coming. How could they?
One day you’re filming a movie initially called Redline — a modestly budgeted project about an undercover cop (Paul Walker) infiltrating the crew of an infamous street racer (Vin Diesel) — the next you’re part of an unprecedented juggernaut that includes eight sequels (and counting), one spin-off, a nuclear submarine, and Helen Mirren.
As the original Fast turns 20 — and F9 opens June 25 — the family reflects on the film that started it all.
n May 1998, Vibe published “Racer X,” an inside look at New York City’s underground racing scene. The story soon made its way to producer Neal H. Moritz, who was wrapping production on The Skulls with director Rob Cohen and rising star Paul Walker.
KENNETH LI (AUTHOR, “RACER X”): I was a reporter at the New York Daily News and had written about illegal drag racing on local tracks, but it was a family paper so they didn’t want me to write about the criminal aspect of it. It was intoxicating that there was this world of kids tuning their cars, making money, and killing themselves. You get exposed to a lot of things in New York when you’re a city kid, but this was one that I’d never seen before.
NEAL H. MORITZ (PRODUCER): I was making The Skulls with Paul and Rob, and we were looking for another movie to do together, and Universal approached me about this article in Vibe. I’ve always loved movies about subcultures and I knew Paul really loved car racing.
PAUL WALKER (BRIAN O’CONNER): I was working with those guys, and they said: What do you wanna do next? I wanted to do something either about racing cars or [where] I was an undercover cop. Three months later, they came with an article.
LI: I didn’t know anybody in Hollywood at the time and a random call came in from Universal that I thought was a prank.
MORITZ: It was Point Break, it was Donnie Brasco, with the thematic values of The Godfather, which was family, family, family.
WALKER: I’m signing on without a screenplay. My reps are freaking out. I’m like, “It’s a million bucks, I get to hang with friends, drive cars, and be cool.” Honestly, that’s all it was to me at that stage of my life. I was 25, 26 years old? F—, let’s go do it!