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Fast & Furious - Justin Lin interview

Justin Lin directs Fast & Furious

Interview by Rob Carnevale

DIRECTOR Justin Lin first came on board the Fast & Furious franchise for third movie, Tokyo Drift.

He’s now reunited with the original cast members for a fourth film and now lifts the lid on who’s the best driver out of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, how one two-second stunt cost six vehicles, and why bikini-clad women seem to gravitate towards the camera whenever a new movie is shooting.

Q. You came on board this franchise for The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift. So how was it getting to work with the original cast members on this fourth film?
Justin Lin: Well, it was good. At first, the big challenge was getting them all back. They’re four very different amazing people who work very differently, so as director it was great because it kept me on my feet.

Q. I believe you knew Vin already from his cameo in Tokyo Drift?
Justin Lin: Yeah, and I think that was the reason why we decided to make the fourth one. When we were showing the film, when he came on the audience just exploded and that’s when we all realised there was still a very intense kind of deep relationship people have with that character. They want to see what happened to him after all these years, and what’s going to happen to him.

Q. Did the cast require much convincing to come back?
Justin Lin: It was hard. But I didn’t want it to be easy because if you look at all their careers and their lives… that first film really changed their paths. I think these characters are very precious to them. So, for me to come in later, I wanted to prove to them that we were doing it for the right reasons.

Q. I hear there’s a slight competitiveness between Paul and Vin behind the wheel. So would you like to reveal who the best driver is in your opinion?
Justin Lin: [Laughs] Vin’s good. He’s not afraid to just put his foot to the pedal. But I’d have to say that because one of Paul’s true passions is cars, when I see him behind the wheel I just know he’s put in the time. So, with his practise and his passion, I have to give the edge to Paul.

Q. How are you behind the wheel?
Justin Lin: I’m not a big car guy but one of the fun things about doing these movies is that they’ll just shut down a race-track and bring in all these cars and you just get in and start driving them. I do OK. It usually takes me a couple of tries. When we were trying to drift in the last film, I didn’t really understand it. But by the second time I attempted it, I was able to do a little bit and I was able to progress pretty efficiently.

Q. What was the most difficult stunt to direct in this film?
Justin Lin: Well, I think every sequence has its own challenge. The overall statement was, from the very beginning, to go old school. That’s what I told the crew. Let’s use the technology to help the car crashes, but let’s not make it the car crash. So, the big challenge any time you crash two cars, or any kind of vehicle at high speed, is that they never end up the way you want it to. So, you have to plan, plan, plan and then in the moment become spontaneous. It’s a fun challenge but I think that’s the one thing I learned from these movies.

Q. How many cars did you write off?
Justin Lin: Over 100 for sure. There’s a shot in this movie where the Subaru comes out of the tunnel and the [Gran] Torino hits it in mid-air. That pull shot is less than two seconds but we lost six cars doing that. It took us three days because we were swaying the Subaru on a wire and the Torino came out at high speed. The first time we did it, it snapped the wire and almost killed part of the crew before going down a cliff. And then we had to do it over and over. Finally, we got it. But imagine, it cost us six cars for a sequence that lasts less than two seconds!

Q. I’d imagine that stuntmen love it whenever you announce a new film because it keeps them in plenty of work?
Justin Lin: Yeah, and on top of that I think they like the challenge that comes with us saying: “OK, let’s try to do this.” They’ll often reply: “We’ve never done that before.” But at the same time you can see in their eyes that it’s the same thing as saying: “Let’s go and do it!”

Q. What do you think makes this franchise so enduring?
Justin Lin: I think there’s a lot of car movies around. But I think the reason why people want to come back and see movies in this franchise is that aside from the cars and the beautiful women, it’s the theme. These characters are outsiders who are trying to find themselves and who have formed the concept of a family. I think that attracts everybody and that’s why they keep coming back.

Q. You mention the beautiful women. Is there a quota you have to meet for how many shots of bikini-clad bottoms on-screen?
Justin Lin: [Laughs] No, but I’ve learned…. I’ll tell you. When we’re shooting scenes with 1,000 extras, it’s not like the real world. The ratio is like nine beautiful women to every guy. It makes no sense. But the crew tend to work harder for some reason, and when you have the camera going the beautiful women seem to be attracted to the camera. It’s like gravity – beautiful women to camera ratio. There isn’t any real stipulation but we always want to make sure that we do have very strong female characters as well because without them, there’d be no movie. And our main guys have actually matured and are not a part of that scene anymore.

Q. Paul Walker has mentioned that a fifth film is almost inevitable…
Justin Lin: That’s easy for him to say! [Laughs aloud]

Q. Would you be interested in coming back to direct again?
Justin Lin: Yeah. This franchise has been a big part of my life. It kind of took me out of the low budget world and it’s given me a lot. As I move forward, it’s opened up a lot of doors and a lot of new opportunities. So, if it’s done for the right reasons… I know that money is a big part of these big budget movies. But for me I still have to get up every day at 3am and it’s still a year and a half of my life. So, if we’re not just repeating the same thing and we have something that we want to go for, then yes. I’ve learned to really love the cast and the crew, so if it’s for the right reasons it would definitely be worth it.

Q. Europe has been mentioned as a possible location. Which country would you ideally like to shoot in?
Justin Lin: I would love to shoot around Europe. I think that would be excellent. As we’ve travelled doing the press junkets, I think Europe is very dynamic for car chases in the way that cities have been constructed.

Read our review of Fast & Furious

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