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Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham break down the 'oil and water' alliance of Hobbs and Shaw

April 25, 2019 at 04:00 PM EDT

The Fast & Furious franchise has two new stars behind the wheel. After eight films, the series is turning the ignition on its first spin-off, uniting fan-favorite characters Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham).

Their first meeting back in 2015’s Furious 7 resulted in a fistfight and a hospitalization, but since then Hobbs and Shaw have formed a reluctant alliance whenever the world needs saving. In the new film Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw (out Aug. 2), the globe is unsurprisingly once again in peril, forcing the super-skilled odd couple to work closer than ever. They’re both virtually indestructible heroes who know their way around a bad-guy brawl or a car chase, and they both sport identical hair (or lack thereof). The similarities, however, end there: Hobbs is a straitlaced lawman of Samoan descent who’ll stop at nothing to see his foes brought to justice. Shaw is a slippery Brit with a not-so-sparkling past, and he’s more than willing to bend the rules if it serves his own interests.

“I think people like to see oil and water have to merge,” Statham tells EW with a laugh. “These characters are bigger and larger than life, so to try to cork up their egos to work together is not an easy task.”

So, what baddie could possibly be bad enough to unite these strange bedfellows? Idris Elba plays Brixton, a super-soldier who’s nicked a lethal bioweapon. Cyber enhancements and genetic engineering have turned him near invincible — and he’s looking to cause some mayhem.

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“The overall goal was ‘Let’s create the greatest and baddest bad guy the Fast & Furious franchise has ever seen,'” Johnson explains. “That’s a very high bar, considering who we’ve had in the past. So when Charlize [Theron, who starred in 2017’s The Fate of the Furious] reads this, I’m going to get a text from her like, ‘Dude, what the f—! No one’s better than me!’ And I’m going to say, ‘I love you, but…'”

Along the way, Brixton crosses paths with Hattie (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby), Shaw’s sister and a highly skilled MI6 agent who teams up with Hobbs and Shaw to try to bring Brixton down. (Also making an appearance is Hattie and Deckard’s mother, played by a returning Helen Mirren.) Their pursuit of Brixton takes them from the Shaws’ home turf of London to the Hobbs family chop shop in Samoa, with plenty of explosions and bare-knuckle scraps along the way.

Also joining the franchise is David Leitch, the longtime stunt expert and director who helmed John Wick (with director Chad Stahelski), Atomic Blonde, and Deadpool 2. For Leitch, his challenge was to take the 18-year-old series in a new direction, emphasizing hand-to-hand combat and as many practical stunts as possible, while still remaining true to the series’ history. “There’s a common thread in all [Fast movies] where they have great action, they have great characters, and there’s a sense of family,” Leitch says. “So if we keep those themes alive in our version of a Fast movie, then I think we’re gonna be okay.”

“The early vision was, yes, we’re gonna be badass, yes, we’re gonna be all the things that a Fast & Furious movie is, with huge action set pieces and great fun dialogue,” Johnson adds. “But we also wanted to make sure that we had a s—load of comedy.”

The paint job may look a bit different, but what’s under the hood is still as reliable as ever.

For more of our Summer Movie Preview, read it here, or pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly — on stands Friday, or buy it here now. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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Dwayne Johnson's Hobbs and Jason Statham's Shaw get their own "Fast & Furious" spin-off.
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