F9 director Justin Lin breaks down new trailer, from Paul Walker's appearance to Han's return
Can you smell what F9 is cooking up?
On Wednesday morning, Universal released the second full-length trailer for the highly-anticipated ninth Fast & Furious film. It was going to be impossible to top the first look, which arrived all the way back in January 2020 and revealed that John Cena is playing Jakob Toretto, the brother of Dom (Vin Diesel) and Mia (Jordana Brewster). And yet, that paled in comparison to the resurrection of Han (Sung Kang), a fan-favorite allegedly killed off in Fast & Furious 6, only for the handling of the aftermath to lead to calls for "justice for Han."
Okay, enough about the first trailer, because the new look at the film (set for release on June 25) has plenty to discuss as well, from Dom watching footage of Brian (the late Paul Walker) to the return of Bow Wow as Twinkie(!!!) to Han's reintroduction scene to an epic fight for Mia and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) to... space?
Just like we did with the original F9 trailer, EW had to talk through it all with director Justin Lin, who returns after previously helming Fast 3 through 6.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I need to start by congratulating you on a three-and-a-half-minute trailer after the first one was four minutes long. Are even you impressed by how much you guys have been able to pack in these?
JUSTIN LIN: When I started as a filmmaker, you're usually like, "Nooo, don't do that! I want to save that!" But I love the team that we work with to develop these spots, and I can tell you, even with these two trailers, there's still more that hasn't been shown — so I'm really excited. I think they really represent the tone that we're going for.
Yeah, I talked to you back for the first trailer and I remember you saying that, so I'm glad to hear that's still the case even after this new one. You debuted that initial trailer all the way back in January 2020 at the Super Bowl, and who would have known then that you'd unexpectedly get this extra year-plus to work on the film due to the pandemic. So what, if anything, did that bonus time mean for you ?
When we shutdown, it was in March, and we were going to release in May, so we were pretty much done. But every Fast that I've done, I literally go from mix to a car to go to the airport for the U.K. premiere. This is the first time where I actually got to sit there. Luckily, we were already in great shape, but I actually appreciated the time where I could really just spend time with all the characters with no pressure. And so the film itself didn't really change that much, but, for me, it meant a lot.
Getting into the specifics of the new trailer, like the first one, it kicks off by reminding us that Dom and Letty have become parents. With this definitely being a big change for the characters and the franchise, do you view and handle these characters differently now? It's probably harder to live your life a quarter mile a time.
It's really brought me back to the fact that this is so rare, like to be in Hollywood, and a lot of times you're making these films and it feels very alone, but we're not alone. For me, it's now been 15 years with this family. And when we started off we were all just single and trying to make it, and then we started our own families, and then our kids started growing up together. And so to see that kind of acknowledgment is very special, because that was a commitment when I first sat down with Vin, to say, "Hey, we're not based on a comic book, we're not based on IP. We can do whatever we want." But one of the things we want to do is really let these characters evolve, so that if we are lucky enough to make another one, it's almost like you're revisiting old friends and saying hey. It was great, but at the same time you're also like, "Wow, they're going to go off on this crazy journey and they leave a little kid to think about now."
Speaking of parents, we get a shot of Dom watching video of Brian with his own son, which looked to me like the ending of Furious 7. First off, I'm curious how Dom got that footage, but, more importantly, what's it been like trying to figure out the right and appropriate ways to either show or mention Brian? Because you surely want to acknowledge that he's still part of this world, but you also have your limitations due to Paul's passing.
Yeah, that is a constant issue and something I always want to be very respectful of. The fact that Brian O'Conner is still alive in this universe needs to be acknowledged. We're treating F9 as the first film of the last chapter, and at some point it is something I think about and how we can really show his presence but in a respectful way. So it's always ongoing. I feel like in 9 we've done it in a way that I feel good about, but, as we go into trying to wrap up the saga, it's something that I will continue to always be thinking through.
I talked to Michelle last week and she was beaming with excitement about F9 and what the film is doing for the female characters, whether that was through bringing in a female writer or letting Letty and Mia get to throw down together. Coming back, was that representation something you specifically sought to improve?
It's interesting, because I think one of the things that I love about being part of this franchise has always been about treating… like it didn't matter if it was [Fast 4's] Stasiak and I'm sitting there with Shea [Whigham], talking to him for hours — I love that. I don't think people get to see this, being able to talk about so much of the stuff that you never see on the screen but the things these characters are living through. And I remember with Jordana on 4, or even Michelle on 6, it is something I take a lot of pride in. I think people are pointing that out but it wasn't a conscious mission on my end. I just think that Letty has been underused. Mia, on this film, she's coming back for the right reasons — that's her brother, too. And so it was never a conscious effort, like "I have to do this more," it's really just I love these characters. It would actually be so stupid to underuse these great talented people who have been living with these characters for all these years. In pre-production I remember sitting down with Michelle and she's like, "Yeah, I really want to see if I can fight," and I'm like, "Yeah, you're gonna fight." [Laughs] It was actually good to have confirmation that we're all on the right track, and I don't think there was ever a negotiation for this or that. I never think that is a good thing. It just seemed like the ambition of what we were trying to do actually matched a lot of the desires. So a lot of this journey on 9 and onward has been feeling very organic, like it's meant to be.
Obviously the return of Sung Kang as Han was the big reveal in a first trailer full of reveals. We know how much that character means to you, going all the way to Better Luck Tomorrow, and in our last conversation you mentioned that after you left "some of the things that happened didn't quite make sense to me." What was it that you felt you needed to course correct, and what specifically does "justice for Han" mean to you? Like is it justice just in bringing him back, or is it that plus atoning for some of the aftermath?
Whew! [Laughs] That's a deep question and I can spend hours talking about it. I don't want to be negative, I honestly don't want to do that. I do think that, as an outsider looking in, I'm still baffled. But what I think is great, for me, is it's happened twice. I loved the original movie, I was there in the theater and I could fell the connection and energy that the audience had with the film and the characters. But at the same time I also knew that the tuner scene was very diverse, there was a lot of Asian-Americans, but when you look at that film, it was like, oh, they're just the bad guys and they hangout by Buddha statues. The fact that a few years later I was able to join and, in a way, evolve and correct that, that means a lot to me. And the fact that we as a franchise can keep evolving and growing, that means a lot. So being away, and the way I found out, I still don't know what happened, but it's okay because I got to come back. And one of the great things is that it feels a little poetic. Honestly, if none of that happened, Han wouldn't come back. And so when I left [after Fast 6], I came in with Han, I'm leaving with Han. So if there was no justice for Han and I came back, I probably wouldn't have brought him back. Aagain, it feels like everything happened for a reason. And I'm not here to judge anything, but I'm glad we're able to put the right touches on it, and, like I said in January, "justice for Han" isn't just this movie. I think how we treat this character as we move forward, that's going to be the "justice for Han."
With Han now back, how many people have said to you, "Okay, can we do Gisele [Gal Gadot] next?" Because if no one has then I'm ready to start that conversation!
[Laughs] Well, first of all, how do you know that Gisele is dead?
We all assumed that it was a pretty tough landing, but, you're right, we never saw visual confirmation!
I'm kidding. No, no, "justice for Han" was very specific, and I love the interactions. As a rule, I don't try to be reactive. I have an amazing group of people that I work with, and even in development we have a very safe space where we try all these crazy things and sometimes it matches up with a lot of fan theories or fan desires and people think it's a reaction to it. A lot of times people say, "Oh, the runway on 6 was really long," and it's like, "Yeah, we knew that when we were making it!" It's not like they said something and we were like, "Oh my god, the runway is 26 miles!" We get it too, and I think that's part of the fun. Again, every time we get to make another one, it's my job to keep pushing it, but not just the crazy stunts, to try and hopefully keep evolving our characters. And when you see the craziness of the action, it's usually a signal that there's something that is worth it on an emotional level. There's going to be levels of Dom in this film that I have never seen. I think it's some of Vin's best work, and I'm so proud of him going there with Dom. Those are the moments that make me feel like it's worth everybody's time.
Definitely worth my time is the return of Bow Wow as Twinkie, which maybe gave me the biggest smile from the new trailer. We knew Sung was back as Han, and the first trailer gave us brief glimpses of Lucas Black as Sean and Jason Tobin as Earl, but this gave us confirmation that the whole Tokyo Drift crew was reunited. Considering that was your entry point into this franchise, how much fun was it for you to get the old gang back together?
I wasn't really thinking about it but when everybody got together, we were in London, it just got very emotional, and I'm sitting there going, "God, that was 2005." And I remember Lucas and Jason and Bow talking to Sung about a conversation they had when we were shooting Tokyo Drift and it was just a continuation of it, and that kind of connection was great. Because a lot of times you might not see the characters for 10, 15 years, but they're living in this universe, so to be able to catch up with them was very meaningful — much more than I even thought when we were writing it.
Earlier you said that you're viewing F9 as the first film in this final chapter, which will conclude with two more installments. So with that finality mindset, have you and Vin and company started mapping out what that endgame will be?
We're definitely in the process. Looking back, I think even talking to Vin today, it feels like it's been 10 years in the making. There's moments where I remember hanging out with Vin and we'd just talk about, "Well, what would the last chapter be? Where is Dom going?" And so it's all starting to come together now, and I have to say, again, it's so fulfilling, because when were doing Fast Five I remember doing the favela chase and back then I was like, "We have to do the favela chase," and the studio was like, "Nope, not enough money." I'm like, "Screw you guys, we're gonna do it!" And I asked the AD, "How much time do we have," and he's like we have a day and a half for essentially a six-day sequence, and we went and did it. Now we're at a point where we're going to need five days to do this chase and it's like, "Okay, great." So I think there's a really different vibe on this one and it feels like we've all been on this journey and we've earned it. So I'm definitely in savor mode right now as we're creating.