John Singleton on 2 Fast 2 Furious


John Singleton makes an unusual departure from his social commentary films to make the sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious. Reunited with his Baby Boy star Tyrese, this time it’s all for fun with fast cars and hot babes. Part of the equation required Tyrese and star Paul Walker to be cool heroes.

“They’re like matinee idols, which is cool,” Singleton said. “But the coolest thing is they’re good looking guys but they’re not like prissy sensitive guys. I’d call Paul like Steve McQueen. We would always sit up and talk about what made Steve McQueen such an icon. It was that he said just enough that he needed to say, and all the stuff was with his eyes. Paul has very expressive eyes. Those are the thing we would discuss. And Tyrese, he just has this larger than life, magnetic personality. He just comes in a room and takes over.”

Tyrese essentially plays the Vin Diesel role. He’s an old friend that Walker’s character teams up with to re-enter the racing circuit and take down a druglord. Before he secured Tyrese, Singleton considered others.

“We auditioned 50 Cent. Ja Rule was supposed to play the role and we had a deal with Ja Rule but Ja Rule at the time he thought he was bigger than he was- in many ways- and he turned us down. Thank God he did. [Luda]Cris was supposed to play the role that MikeEaly plays racing against Paul Walker. And so, I told Cris, ‘You should audition for this other part’ and he really rocked the audition. It was all about Ludacris after that. Cris is such a huge personality, he’s one of the most foremost entertainers in hip-hop. He’s popular because of his personality. Every video he does is really funny and very innovative and every record he makes kind of rocks the crowd. It’s funny how this thing came about. When Baby Boy came out, the first weekend it came out, only two people in town asked me for a copy of the film to screen in their screening room. They were David Geffen and Stacry Snider, who is head of Universal Pictures. And Stacey just went crazy over Tyrese. And then the president of production over there called me up – I was up for another movie there – and he said, ‘Vin doesn’t want to do the movie but we’re thinking about doing it with Tyrese. What do you think?’ I said, ‘That’s hot. He’s young, he’s new, he’s probably going to be a huge star, you’d be lucky to get him.’ And he said, ‘If he does it, do you want to do the movie?’ I said, ‘Yeah, okay.’ When I saw the first Fast and the Furious, I was like, ‘Damn, why didn’t I think of that?’ Because when I was growing up in L.A. and I referenced street racing culture throughout some of my films. If you remember Boyz N the Hood, you know there was a line in the script “where are the finest girls?” and it’s the street races on Florence. I knew about this world and I’d been around it, but when the opportunity to came at me to make a movie, I took it.”

The film features a scene destined to be a classic in the “bad guy torture” genre. Evil Carter Verone places a rat on a traitors stomach and puts a bucket over the rat. Then he heats the bucket.

“The rat scene was all in the script. Actually, the rat scene came close to getting cut because I didn’t get it at first. The writers wrote this because they talked to some Green Beret guy and they said, ‘What’s the worst type of torture you ever heard?’ And in Southeast Asia, they talked about a rat being put in a bucket and they heat up the bucket until the rat gets so crazy that the rat starts eating into a person’s stomach. So I said okay. I thought about it and I said okay. It’s one of my favorite scenes too because this is my first PG-13 movie. So, the whole line is to try to maintain a certain amount of edge without crossing over into an R. It was really good. It skirted it. You see people getting queasy and uneasy in the theater but it’s still very clean which is good.”

Singleton did not have time to drive any of the cars himself. “All I did was drive the car with Paul and Tyrese and let them make different maneuvers and figure out where I wanted to put the camera. I didn’t have time to do any of that. I didn’t have time to go to driving school and just play around. I was too busy trying to formulate how I wanted to shoot the movie and the style in which I wanted to shoot the movie. “

Finding the cars was a major part of the process too. “That was the first thing we did. We went to an auto show and I had looked at the first movie and saw that they put decals on the cars. They had put stickers on the cars to make them get a look. I said no damn decals. We’re going to paint the cars. Through this auto show, we found out what cars the kids were interested in in the import scene. The Skyline was the biggest one that was cool that they wanted to see. It’s like over 500 horsepower. With boost it gets up to 600 horsepower. So we just said, ‘Okay, Paul’s going to drive a Skyline in the opening scene of the movie.’ Then we talked to the cats about other cars and everything, you know, the Spider and the S2000 and stuff. I don’t know if anybody’s into the racing scene, but no Honda Civics. The Honda Civic is the cheapest car that you can get to trick out. A lot of kids do it but there’s none of them in the movie. I just said no, we can’t have that. No Ford Focuses either. Ford was going to give us a whole lot of money to put it in, I said hell no. If you take it to a whole other level and make cars that people want to emulate and copy on the street, then we’re on the next level. It’s like people can look at the movie and say, ‘Okay, I want to do that with mine.’ Instead of doing okie dokey, just enough, we just really took it to a whole nother level because there are all these companies that wanted to be associated with Fast and Furious. We got the car, we paint the cars and then we just got all this free stuff around the cars. So each one of those cars that are made has like over 100 grand worth of free stuff on it.”

For the style of the racing scenes, Singleton called on many influences. “I looked at the driving stuff like the way you would look at a spaceship in a dogfight or in Top Gun when they’re fighting. Basically, you have to have people talking sh*t as well as driving. People want to see the cool cars and they want to see the character, how the person reacts with the machine. That’s what makes it cool. I did a whole lot of research with trying to figure out what people would be feeling as they watch it.”

Singleton is not concerned with encouraging kids into the racing scene. “This is a whole different thing. Street racing’s been going on for years and people do what they’re going to do. I don’t condone it because it’s like hey, it’s dangerous. People can be killed. They should be on a track but it’s just a movie.”

2 Fast 2 Furious opens Friday.