Furious 7 continued the ascendant trajectory of the Fast & Furious franchise, earning $1.5 billion at the global box office. That number is all the more impressive, given the tremendous hurdles it had to overcome: Star Paul Walker died midway through filming, leading to a nine-month delay in the film’s release. In the end, Furious 7 successfully outgrossed superteam mega-sequel Age of Ultron at the global box office — confirming its status as one of the leading franchises in Hollywood.
So: What next? The studio behind Furious, Universal, has already set the next film’s release date for April 2017. That date is coming up fast, given that the as-yet-untitled eighth Furious film will presumably be at least as big as the $200-million-budgeted seventh installment. And according to a new story in The Hollywood Reporter, Universal has yet to settle on a new director for the film.
When James Wan signed on to Furious 7, the film had a one-year production schedule. Following Walker’s death, that schedule basically stretched for another year — a process that, perhaps understandably, made Wan want to return to his smaller-scale Conjuring franchise. (The director has already lined up Aquaman and possibly Robotech as his next big-budget ventures.) Rumors persist that Universal was hoping to lure back Justin Lin, who helped reinvent the franchise from Tokyo Drift through Furious 6 — but Lin is currently working on Star Trek Beyond.
So who will direct Furious 8? THR mentions that Universal reached out to Jaume Collet-Serra, the Neeson whisperer who helmed last year’s solid Non-Stop and this year’s Run All Night. This implies that Universal is looking for safe-choice journeyman directors with upper-middle-budget experience: Both Non-Stop and Run All Night cost around $50 million. In that spirit, Universal could also be looking at Baltasar Kormakur, who helmed Universal releases Contraband, 2 Guns, and the new Everest. Safe choices aren’t necessarily bad choices — and if Kormakur can convince Mark Wahlberg to play a bad guy, then Furious 8 would reaffirm the Fast & Furious franchise as the nexus of all action movie realities.
But let’s get creative here: Who should direct Furious 8? There are plenty of journeyman action directors. But picking James Wan to make Furious 7 was an inspired choice, since Wan had mainly been known for his low-budget horror work. Speaking of low-budget horror work: Adam Wingard is emerging as a horror-cult favorite, thanks to his work on the darkly hilarious You’re Next and the neon-blasted thriller, The Guest. Hollywood has already pilfered Wingard’s Guest leading lady Maika Monroe — who has a lead role in the new Independence Day movie — but Wingard and his longtime collaborator Simon Barrett feel like potential blockbuster talents awaiting a blockbuster budget.
Since we’re talking about an action movie, it seems insane not to suggest John Wick co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch — but they’re already slated to helm John Wick 2 later this year. But the action duo Neveldine/Taylor have no collaborations on the horizon. Given that their Crank star Jason Statham has joined the Fast pantheon, now could be the right time to give them the keys to a franchise film.
Crazy? Maybe. But one of the best things about the Furious franchise is how its managed to create a franchise Moneyball-style, taking a whole lot of undervalued actors and filmmakers and combining them into a saga to rival Marvel Studios. In that spirit, I put forward the names Kim Jee-Woon and Lexi Alexander, two directors of above-average mid-budget action movies (The Last Stand and Punisher: War Zone) which were seen by few but loved by some. The Last Stand in particular feels like a dry run for a Furious film — the bad guy in Last Stand drives the fastest car in the world! And given Hollywood’s sudden preference for promoting tiny-budget filmmakers into the big leagues, it seems insane that Gareth Evans hasn’t made a blockbuster movie yet. His Raid films create epic gun-ballet action on the small screen, and Raid 2 features one of the best car chases in recent movie history.
The eighth Furious film is already a product of big personalities: Longtime star-producer Vin Diesel, longtime screenwriter-steersman Chris Morgan, a studio with a lot invested in keeping this franchise tremendously successful. So even though it would be awesome for Universal to hire someone like Lee Daniels — an emerging cult-of-personality icon in his own right, with hits on screens small and large — it seems more likely that the studio will opt for a proven professional. So let me make my most serious suggestion: Michelle MacLaren, a brilliant TV director who almost got her big break with Wonder Woman. Watch this scene from her best episode of Breaking Bad. Cars? Guns? A preponderance of bald heads? This woman was made to be Furious.
Who do you think should helm Furious 8? Email me at email@example.com, and I’ll feature your pick in next week’s edition of the Geekly Mailbag.