On the eve of the release of the fourth film in Fast & Furious series, Justin Lin talks about the successful franchise, his goals for the film and the characters.
Of course, I was in film school at the time, and it′s interesting to see how the four lead actors have grown.
You have directed the third and now the fourth film of the franchise. How challenging is it to continue a successful series?
It was very challenging, but that′s also what makes it fun. There is a certain expectation you have to live up to and you don′t want to recycle, rather try to make it better.
Fast & Furious 4
How did Fast & Furious 4 come together?
After the third one, and once Vin had done a cameo in it, we started to talk about the relationships between the original characters and trying to continue their story.
So, Vin Diesel′s participation was key then?
Yes, I think so. The third movie, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, was special because it introduced new characters and a new lifestyle. But to go back we needed the original cast, as I believe the public really wanted to see them again. For some reason they complement each other so well and there is a synergy that comes together when they are on screen
What was your main goal for this film?
I wanted to recover that sense of family that was always there. And my goal was not only to recycle what had worked, but to show maturity in the development of the characters and the style, acknowledge that time had passed and find out where they are today.
How would you describe the style of the franchise?
I think this franchise is unique precisely in that it has gone stylistically in many different directions.
Moving on to the story, what has happened to Dominic Toretto -Vin Diesel′s character- since we last saw him?
Dom became the hardest role for me to develop because he was the patriarch of this family. So, we follow him from where he took off, and I really wanted to explore the idea of family and sacrifice -which ultimately led to a very interesting journey for him.
And where is Brian O′Conner now?
Paul Walker′s character is still in search of a family, especially after we discovered in the first movie that he was an undercover cop. So, Brian is not in a happy place at the beginning of Fast & Furious and certainly not comfortable with the people around him. And, even if he did give Dom the keys to a car at the end of The Fast and the Furious, he still wrecked that whole family. So the question now is: What does he have to do to earn that relationship again? That was something fun to explore for me.
But Letty, played by Michelle Rodriguez, is still with Dominic.
Yes, and she also is the catalyst for this film. It would have been very hard to make this movie without her.
Jordana Brewster is back as Dominic′s sister. What is Mia′s significance in the plot?
Mia is very important because she is the one character that can call out both Dom and Brian.
And we also get to know more about another important character, this time from The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Yes, because in the beginning of the film we see Han -played by Sung Kang- as part of Dominic and Letty′s crew, until he leaves for Tokyo.
So, from a temporal point of view, the action starts in this film even before it did in the third one.
That′s true, some of it does take place temporarily before the third movie, and then it has this kind of parallel thing going on. If you want to play with the mythology and the relationships you can actually map it out.
A still from Fast & Furious 4 (View more)
Where does the story take place?
We start off in the Dominican Republic, which is where Dom and Letty′s adventures have led them to, and also go to Mexico. But the plot mainly takes place in Los Angeles, because we have that “return to home” idea and explore what it really means.
And where was Fast & Furious shot?
Part of it was shot in Los Angeles; and we were also looking for a tourist-free border town in Mexico until we found Magdalena, which was perfect for us.
The opening sequence is truly spectacular. Was it important for you to start the movie with a big bang?
We wanted to set the tone for the film in that first sequence and not take anything for granted. We had the resources to do it and, if the audience was going to give us an opportunity 7 or 8 years after the first movie, we needed to go all out!
And you have shot as much live action as possible.
That was totally the goal, to shoot as much live action as possible and only use CGI when necessary. If while watching a car chase I feel it isn′t real it isn′t fun for me anymore, as I don′t get a sense of danger.
There are other films with car chases. What makes this one in particular, and the franchise in general, so special?
Other movies have great car chases and races, but we take what′s between those scenes also very seriously.
How do you stay so real and grounded with your success?
I am still living my dream and enjoying the challenge of shooting all kinds of films with different budgets. And I insist that I never want to take anything for granted.