In ”The Fast and the Furious,” the illegal sport of street racing gets a glossy big screen paint job. Featuring hyper-accelerated special effects and a hipper-than-thou cast, including ”Pitch Black”’s Vin Diesel and ”Girlfight”’s Michelle Rodriguez, ”Fast” gives teen audiences a need for speed. But it didn’t do the trick for some of the stars: Several got nervous when it came time to get behind the wheel. ”I don’t like risking my life that much,” says Jordana Brewster (”The Faculty”), who reluctantly attended racing school just one day after getting her driver’s license. ”My fastest street speed is 65 miles per hour.” Even tough guy Diesel, who performed several of his own stunts, admitted, ”I’m a New Yorker, and I don’t think you can live in New York and be a car guy.”
Even the cast’s most enthusiastic speed demons, Rodriguez and Paul Walker (”The Skulls”), had to leave the majority of their stunts to professionals. ”Without the stunt people, we wouldn’t have a movie,” Rodriguez grumbles. ”I was kind of disappointed. I only had one day of racing school. It was sickening in this beautiful way. It pissed me off I wasn’t allowed to go more than 80 miles per hour. I can do that on the freeway, you know?”
More disappointing were the actors’ so-called high-speed chases, which clocked in well under the speed limit. ”The tone I set was, ‘We’re not hot-dogging here,”’ says director Rob Cohen (”Dragonheart,” ”The Rat Pack”), who took the added precaution of gathering the cast and crew in a silent prayer before filming began. ”I told them, ‘Sometimes you’re going to be in front of green screen and going no miles an hour. And then you still might feel stupid going 50 miles per hour, but when the film comes out, it’ll look like light speed.”’
Ultimately Walker, who owned two race cars prior to joining the cast and imported another (a rare Japanese manufactured Nissan Skyline R33, which is also featured in the film) after production wrapped, was allowed to risk his neck. ”I did 80 miles per hour standing on the door of a Supra going down the highway. That was intense,” he says. But Cohen says there was only one injury during shooting, when a stuntman broke his leg.