'That is one of the concerns: Will the audience embrace a character, judging what's happened in the last films?'
WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS COPIOUS SPOILERS FROM THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS, THE BEST FILM EVER MADE ABOUT CARS FIGHTING A SUBMARINE.
Fast & Furious has a lot to say about family, but the Universal franchise practices what it preaches. Ever since 2011’s Fast Five retroactively fused the divergent casts of the series’ first few sequels into a cinematic universe of Automotive Avengers, every film has brought new characters into Dominic Toretto’s crew. Fast Five itself saw Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs evolve from antagonist into ally, and Furious Seven added Nathalie Emmanuel’s hacker Ramsey and Kurt Russell’s mysterious Mr. Nobody to the team.
The Fate of the Furious continues that expansion. There’s newcomer Scott Eastwood, playing a by-the-book rookie alongside Mr. Nobody. But there’s also Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw – who you may remember as the bad guy from Furious Seven. (Well, one of the bad guys.) Statham actually joined the franchise at the end of Fast & Furious 6, when it was revealed that he killed longtime Toretto crew member Han (Sung Kang) as the first step of his vengeance mission.
The Fate of the Furious quickly reestablishes Shaw’s antagonistic relationship with Hobbs, and the stage is set for a prison-break showdown between the two characters. Then Shaw is forced into an uneasy alliance with the Toretto crew. Except actually, it’s not that uneasy: Hobbs warms up to Shaw, and by the end of the film, he’s warmly accepted at the Toretto family barbecue. He’s also the main participant in the wildest hand-to-hand fight scene, battling his way through an airplane while carrying an adorable baby. Shaw’s rescue of Dominic Toretto’s child is, arguably, a redemptive moment for the character. And the film generally builds up the notion of Shaw as a family man, with a cameo from his brother Owen (Luke Evans, a.k.a. “Bad Guy From Furious 6“) and the introduction of his mother, played by Helen Mirren. Still, given that Deckard was introduced killing off a beloved character like Han, it’s a twist that has raised some eyebrows.
We talked to screenwriter Chris Morgan about Shaw’s role in Fate – and how it leads into the final Fast trilogy. Come back Sunday for a chat with Statham himself on his role in Fate of the Furious – and where Deckard Shaw goes from here.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You joined the franchise writing the screenplay for Tokyo Drift, the movie that introduced Han. When we first met Deckard, he was killing Han. How did you guys decide to turn his character in this film?
CHRIS MORGAN: There are a couple of things I would say. We don’t know his full story yet, so there are things we’re going to learn that I think will be cool when it comes to light.
Beyond that, I would say, Deckard’s character is not that dissimilar from Dom, in certain ways. The reason Dom went to jail in the original film is he did some violence against someone who hurt his family. Deckard’s story is not too far away from that. The reason he comes after our guys in the last film is because he has a similar code, and he looks after family. So at least there are some markers in there for these two guys. That felt like you might be able to turn him, in a way that you could start understanding what his motivations were.
I’ve got to tell you, I love him in this movie. I love him and Dwayne. I love the way he relates to the team.
The sequence with him on the plane carrying the baby is one of my favorite scenes. What was the conversation like when it came to filming that scene? Was there concern about it?
It was a conversation. We had several versions we were talking about. Originally it was orchestrated a different way: Jason fights his way to get to the baby, and the sequence ends there. When we were getting ready to do it, I’m like, “God, you know what’d be so much more interesting is if he got the baby and had to fight his way out with the kid.” There was definitely some concern on a lot of people’s parts: “Does that break tone?” I think it makes his character fun, special. And Jason agreed. Ultimately, we got it there and tried it.
There was a funny version earlier. Originally, Jason gets on the airplane, he’s got this big black duffel bag and we don’t know what’s in it. He gets the baby, has this fight, at the end of it, he opens up that duffel bag and there’s a car seat in it, a baby seat. He puts the kid in it, fights his way to where Dom’s car is in the back of the airplane, and then he ends up going out the back of the airplane with the kid — like they did in the last movie.
So there was no concern about, like, “Do they forgive him for killing Han?”
That is one of the concerns: Will the audience embrace a character, judging what’s happened in the last films? We’re able to position it in a way that a healing happens. And then beyond it, we’re gonna learn some more interesting stuff about him.
When you guys initially brought him on in the last couple of movies, was there always some notion of flipping him from an antagonist to joining up with the team?
Bringing Jason into the franchise, we always had an understanding. His character is a man with a code, and he believes in it, and he has a lot of similarities to Dom.
There are things, as developers, that we know about the character that you guys, the audience, do not know. We have the luxury of getting to that. I think people will be surprised and interested in it. This movie gets to a little bit more about who he is, and we learn a lot of new things about him.
I think the response will be that, because of what happened to Han, there is going to be a residual drama and tension. We’re going to lean into that. We haven’t forgotten about it. We’re going to investigate all of that. But also, you can see, in this film, a little more in [Deckard’s] core, as well. I know it’s a little unsettling, I know it’s a little different. Maybe the audience isn’t expecting it. I think it’s all, in the end, going to be a really exciting, fun, valuable experience. They’ll come to understand.
It sounds like you’re speaking directly to the fans of Han.
For sure, for sure! Sung Kang is one of my favorite people on the planet. His character, God, I love Han. I love Han! And look, there is still conversations for Deckard and the team to be having about it. There’s still things we get to discover. I think that, over the journey over the next few films, I think anyone who may be having issues about that will get a satisfying resolution.
I am so intensely excited about whatever you are talking around right now.
[laughs] Can you tell?