Vin Diesel talks Fast & Furious 9, Han's return, and space
"It's going to be a special day when that audience is back in the movie theater."
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"You haven't seen anything yet."
What makes the declaration so bold is how much we've already seen of the upcoming installment in the globe-trotting, billon-dollar franchise. In the four-minute(!) trailer released all the way back in January 2020, new family addition John Cena was revealed to literally be family, starring as Dom's (Diesel) long-lost brother Jakob. And the shocks only continued, between Charlize Theron's Cipher haircut to cars jumping from one island to another (skyscrapers are so 2015). Oh, and did I mention that Han (Sung Kang) is back from the dead?!
Get all that? Well, we did, and, as we hopefully finally reach the release of F9 on May 28, we had to grill Diesel, a quarter mile at a time.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It's been almost a year since you were in Miami for Super Bowl weekend, where you held a concert event to drop the epic first trailer. What's it been like sitting on this movie for so long and eagerly waiting to put it out into the world?
VIN DIESEL: Definitely eager to share it. When you make a good movie, your first goal is to make something that you can be proud of, and in the film business you learn from the very beginning that when the film gets released, even without the pandemic, is rarely in your control. But when you really think about the quality of the movie, there's more time you have to work in post-production, more time to get the shots right; it does give you a little bit of a cushion. I want to get the movie out for all of the great fans who have been waiting for this chapter — and yet look at the world that we live in. I can only say that when you see the movie you will be excited and, hopefully, you will be really, really happy.
Well, back when the trailer came out and we could still be in offices, I can't tell you how happy I was watching, all while my coworkers were confused about why I was screaming so loudly. And the first reveal that got me was that John Cena is playing Dom's brother, Jakob, which the shock of is only amplified by the fact that no one cares about family more than Dom. Why was this an idea that felt right to you?
Family is at the core of the Fast & Furious, and how you explore that and play with that is what makes for an interesting franchise. One of the compelling aspects of Fast is this backstory that we were introduced to literally 20 years ago, and that always has had its cloak of obscurity. We always wanted to know a bit more about the origins. And I think that a franchise has to earn the right to go back in-depth into a backstory, and I hope Fast & Furious has done just that. I feel like the instinct or desire to go into the backstory, almost the origin story, was something compelling for everybody.
I talked to director Justin Lin for the trailer release, and he said he was really excited about the Jakob idea and then "the next emotional beat for me was that I was kind of scared s---less of like, 'Well, who is going to be a Toretto?!'" You can't miss on casting a role like this, so what was it about John that made him the guy?
I felt like Justin did; the casting of that character could go a million different ways. And at the same time a very, very, very difficult character to cast. Because of that, you got to go with your gut, you got to go with your heart, and when I met John, he checked all the boxes. He had an energy that provoked a kind of curiosity about all of the Torettos. He just felt right. And he did a terrific job.
While Jakob was an introduction, the other shocking moment in the trailer was Han's return. "Justice for Han" has been something that fans have long been calling for, and still I don't think any of us expected to actually see him again. Now, as someone who can't wait to see this movie, I absolutely do not want to know how he is back, but why is he back? Why was this something that was important to you and Justin and everyone else involved?
Han is an integral character in this franchise. If you remember, he's kind of responsible for the away years of Dom Toretto. He's the one doing jobs with him in Mexico, he's the only one who knows where Dom is, and in many ways is the bridge for Dom when Dom comes back in Tokyo Drift. So there's something very special and magical about the Han character. When you see the movie you'll feel it, but I believe at the core it's another testament to, not only don't turn your back on family, but don't give up on family. Without giving away the plot, that's the theme: don't give up on family.
Speaking of family, Jordana Brewster also returns, and even looks like she gets to kick some ass here. After the loss of her onscreen husband Paul Walker, she sat out Fate of the Furious, since it can be hard to explain why Mia is around and Brian isn't. But considering how big a part of Fast that Jordana has been, one of the few originals left, did it feel necessary to you that she still have a presence? Especially if you're introducing her other brother.
That's right. It was so, so, so, so important. It was one of the things that was the most…there were so many elements that were most exciting but bringing back the Mia character in a real solid way just added that many more dimensions to the complexities of the family. And she's so good in it, as she always is. The true fans of Fast & Furious recognize how critical she is in understanding the whole Toretto family. It was a blessing, I was so excited about it, it opened up so much more story. Again, without giving the plot away, it's genius and I couldn't have been happier.
To me, maybe the biggest question for F9, and we get a little tease in the trailer, is whether Helen Mirren finally gets to drive. She's the one who campaigned to be cast because she so badly wants to be behind the wheel. We see her in the car, with Dom riding shotgun, but I can't help notice they are parked. Or is this a spoiler too?
[Laughs] Derek, you ask the right questions. Again, without giving away any spoilers…You know what, I'm going to give you a spoiler: Yes, she gets to drive.
On behalf of Dame Helen, thank you!
It's so awesome. She gets to drive and she gets to drive sleek.
Since I'm asking the important questions, I have to bring up what seems to be the big rumor about Fast 9: Space. Everyone is talking about it, I've written about it. Again, I'm so anti-spoiler that I don't even know what I want from your answer, but what would you say about the possibility of Fast going to space?
No spoilers over here. I will say that Justin is one of those think-outside-of-the-box directors. I'd put nothing past him and he will thoroughly play with whatever is plausible to incorporate into the story.
The announcement was made a few months ago that you guys will do two more films after Fast 9 to wrap up the main series, as you still continue to build the world out via other spin-offs and vehicles. What went into that decision?
Well, kind of because that's always what was discussed. Even as far back as 2012, 2013, it was something that Pablo [Walker] and I would discuss, finishing on the 10th one. That just always felt right. And being a part of the Marvel franchise, seeing that possibility that when you have that much story you can end with two films. It was something that we'd talked about that became real. It's just been such a wonderful, wonderful run, and we'd always envisioned that 10 would be the farewell, the finale, and that is what our story is working towards.
Thankfully, we've got plenty of time before saying goodbye. And as we hopefully approach the release of F9, what would you tell fans to expect when they finally get to sit in a theater and see Dom and the crew back on the big screen? When I talked to Justin, he told me that even though it seems like you gave so much away in the trailer, there's still a lot that's not being shared, which is really saying something.
First off, I would say that Justin is 100 percent right. You see a lot in the trailer, but you haven't seen anything yet — and that's exciting. It is going to be a special day when that audience is back in the movie theater, celebrating the ninth chapter of this saga that they've been so loyal to. There's so much more, and I'm most excited about people like you, Derek, who want to be surprised and want not to know, want not to have all the secrets revealed of this chapter, but want to just go in and enjoy where we've all come to.
Fast films have truly turned into events, and this one will probably surpass all those others in that department, just because, like you said, we will be so thrilled to be back where we love to be.
It is. And it feels like it's coming at the right time. Who knew that pushing the movie back to 2021 would actually be something good for the theater business in the sense that it's going to be a reason to celebrate the theater experience — and we need that.