The sixth instalment in the Fast & Furious franchise is out in UAE cinemas. James Mottram talks to cast members old and new about the success of the movies and what they are bringing to the latest.
Vin Diesel, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez and Gina Carano on Fast & Furious 6
Fast cars, guns, girls in bikinis and men with six-packs; The Fast and the Furious franchise has never been the most sophisticated series out there. But it sure knows its audience. Which is why, from 2001's inaugural The Fast and the Furious onwards, its five films to date have grossed US$1.5 billion (Dh5.5bn). The last film, Fast Five (2011), which saw the welcome addition of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to the cast, took $626m worldwide, some $260m more than its nearest rival, 2009's fourth instalment Fast & Furious. In other words, they must be doing something right.
Refusing to remain in neutral, as so many filmmakers behind sequels do, the director Justin Lin and the producer/star Vin Diesel, who plays the gang leader Dom Torretto, have turned what started out as a cult tale of illegal street racers into a sprawling, continent-crossing crime saga. Now comes the first of the series to be set in Europe. Primarily roaring through the streets of London, Fast & Furious 6 includes the addition of the former MMA fighter Gina Carano and the return of the original star Michelle Rodriguez in a tale that sees Johnson's DSS Agent Hobbs offer Dom and company full pardons for their crimes if they help bring down the professional hijacker Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Start your engines.
Vin Diesel (Dominic 'Dom' Torreto)
How would you characterise Fast & Furious 6?
I give you just one word - the word for 6 is trust.
You've worked with the director Justin Lin on four F&F films now. Do you have similar approaches to the franchise?
I probably approach them more like a man watching a baby. Justin is probably a kid with big toys, which is why we work so well together.
Since the fourth instalment, you've been on board as a producer - and the films have been ultra-successful. What have you learnt from the experience?
I guess I realised in this franchise, you don't always have the luxury of having the award-winning script in the beginning, which only means you have to do more work along the way. But so be it, because the audience feels a sense of entitlement. They own Dom more than I do, in a weird way. I guess I've learnt to be not as precious.
What has made the films so successful?
I think the fact that the studio has regarded this franchise in this saga-like way has proved to be really successful. They changed their outlook. With the first three films, they were approaching The Fast and the Furious like a brand; they were just revisiting it.
Michelle Rodriguez (Letty Oritz)
How does it feel to be back in the series?
I feel lovely. I love it, man. They're my family, dude. We got introduced to Hollywood together. Me, Paul [Walker], Vin - it's like working with the boys again, it's amazing.
How do you cope with all the testosterone on set?
Oh, man, I swim in that stuff. Gimme a break, honey. I've been doing this for way too long. That doesn't faze me anymore.
Are you similar to Letty?
She's more LA-Mexican, I'm more New York-Jersey. I'm more Sopranos, baby!
What is it that you like about the Fast & Furious films?
There will always be people who are on the sidelines and aren't abiding by the laws, rules and restrictions. I resonate with that, very much. It reminds me of the rebel, the maverick, the Robin Hood of it all … I've always been attracted to those kinds of stories. I'll always have a place in my heart for Fast & Furious.
You filmed in London. Did you get to drive fast down Regent Street?
I wish. That's what I was excited about. I was like: "Yeah, we're gonna crash some double-decker buses!" But that wasn't the case.
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson (Agent Luke Hobbs)
What appealed to you about joining such a successful franchise?
That we have been able to create something from scratch - the challenge was to create a character that was exciting, entertaining, intense, charming, handsome. We managed it - but it's very challenging!
What's impressed you about the series to date?
Its longevity in the business - and how difficult that is. There are only a handful of franchises that have gone on this long. And the bad guys are rooted for, which is always intriguing - and very difficult to do.
How do you explain a character like Hobbs?
His constitution and his wiring and his make-up is the law.
How is the film different to its predecessors?
There is a lot more action, in terms of the fighting, in terms of the combat. There are only so many car races that you can shoot, I think, that are going to be interesting. But there's always a smart way to add into some sort of car and car races and fuse it with great action, which Justin does.
Gina Carano (Agent Riley)
Had you seen the F&F movies before you were cast?
No, I needed a bit of catching up - definitely. I'm more of a Pride and Prejudice type of girl.
You're a former MMA fighter. How different to that is fighting on camera?
It was really new for me to learn the fight scenes that I'm in. Fighting in real life and fighting on film … well, fighting on film is more like a dance, where you're really trying to protect and take care [of the other].
What made you switch to acting?
There's only so long you can fight. For me as an individual, it's really important to never rely on everybody else. That's what my grandmother taught me - "Never rely on a man, Gina". OK, I'll be a fighter. But it will be important for me to keep translating this into a career, so I don't ever have to rely on anybody.
Are you a feminist icon?
Not on purpose. It just comes from me naturally. It's not because I'm forcing it; it's just a part of me naturally, since I was a little girl, to be wrestling and playing and being a genuine tomboy that I was. But I look forward to keep growing as a woman.
Fast & Furious 6 is out Thursday May 23 in the UAE.
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