CS Interview: F. Gary Gray on directing Fate of the Furious
In a lot of ways, The Fate of the Furious is a culmination of F. Gary Gray‘s entire career. He’d made a smash car chase movie with 2003’s The Italian Job remake, which also features Charlize Theron and Jason Statham, and he’d directed Vin Diesel in A Man Apart and Dwayne Johnson in Be Cool. He also happened to be coming off his biggest hit ever in Straight Outta Compton ($200 million worldwide on a $28 million budget) right before he booked the high-profile Fast franchise gig, which didn’t hurt. Before the Universal Pictures blockbuster opens on April 14, ComingSoon.net spoke 1-on-1 with F. Gary Gray for an exclusive interview where we talk about the most difficult set pieces in the film, as well as the future of the franchise!
ComingSoon.net: So you’d done a big car chase movie before? You’ve worked with Vin and Charlize and Jason and Dwayne before, and you’re coming off your biggest hit. Would you say it was fate for you to do this movie?
F. Gary Gray: (Laughs) I guess you could say that. You know, someone mentioned that all things led to this movie, if you were to look at my past films. Maybe there’s some truth to that. I’ll go with that.
CS: Well, it definitely seemed to capitalize on your whole skillset. And there are at least three or four massive set pieces in this movie, including the jaw dropping one in New York and another one in Russia. What was the most complex logistically to orchestrate?
Gray: They’re all logistically challenging. I mean, if you think about shooting in Cuba, which didn’t have the infrastructure to support even the amount of people we brought to Cuba, let alone racing cars at 100 plus miles an hour through the streets of Havana is very, very tough. Very worth it, though. With New York, that’s the thing. You know, racing through the streets of New York, 100 plus miles an hour, really tough to permit, permission, safety, lockups, Times Square, you know, just really hard to do. And again, Lamborghinis on ice, submarines, tanks, military vehicles. These are all things that are very real. And what I mean by that is, you know, shipping military vehicles and Lamborghinis and stuff to Iceland from the United States, just to rent a ship that big, just to get our vehicles to Iceland, and then engineering them to figure out how to make sure that our crew was safe, our cast and our stuntmen were safe with the weight of vehicles on melting ice, you know, it’s a ticking clock. That ice is melting day by day. And we’re drilling holes to make sure the ice doesn’t collapse from under us. So there were so many challenges to shoot some of the shots. You know, like I said, all well worth it, but goes well beyond what you’d expect or what you would encounter in a normal film.
CS: Absolutely. And even as the cast of these films grows and grows, every character always gets their moments. Was it difficult to make sure everyone had their moment, not just script-wise, but with the actors who have a certain ownership of these characters?
Gray: I think you want that. I think you want every character to have their moment. You don’t want to waste your time, energy, effort, or money having, you know, superstars fade into the background. If you have a Tyrese Gibson or a Helen Mirren, you want them to have their moment because that’s why they’re there. They are extremely gifted and if you don’t use those gifts, then you’re silly as a director. That’s just a waste. We know what the stars are going to bring. They do that consistently, but when you have the other stars that aren’t necessarily, you know, the ones that have all the lines, you want to make sure that they have their moments, too. It’s not only important, it’s crucial, actually. In terms of my approach to filmmaking, it’s crucial.
CS: And I know Helen is actually a driver, and of course, Charlize is Furiosa. But neither of them really gets a chance to get behind the wheel in “Fate of the Furious.” Is there hope for them to get some cars in the next movie?
Gray: You never know. You never know. I think that since you brought it up, it’s a good possibility it might happen. I’ve known Helen and she really wants to drive, so you just never know. You might see that. The Queen gets what she wants, let’s put it that way.
CS: Now something I kind of wrestled with after I saw it — and I know it’s supposed to be just a fun action movie — but about how Jason Statham’s character redeems himself to a certain extent. Do you think it was appropriate for the heroes to kind of accept him, even after he killed Han only one movie ago?
Gray: Well, I think that it’s subjective. I think that if you look at the definition of acceptance, and again, I don’t want to give up the end of the movie because I’d love people to kind of watch it and give their own opinions. If you ask Jason, he didn’t necessarily join the family. He had a very specific mission. And again, without giving out too much, it wasn’t related to the team or the family. And if you watch the movie, he made a deal and he followed through on that deal. And so, it’s a good question, but I’m not sure if I agree that all in all, it’s all worked out. And I don’t think he would agree.
CS: Right. And of course, you have to, at a certain point, just kind of throw up your hands and say, “Look, this is a soap opera. Bad guys are going to be good. Good guys are going to be bad. That’s just part of the franchise.”
Gray: Well, you just have to watch the movie really closely and listen to the dialogue. A lot of times, when you have a lot of hardware, a lot of loud music and a lot of great action, sometimes you miss some things and maybe that’s my fault. But I will say, that if you listen to it very closely, you will understand why he did it. You will understand that not only were they reluctant to join in, but he was reluctant. But the main goal was the same. And so, there are consequences if they hadn’t at least tried to come together to accomplish that mission. And again, you’ve got to just watch the movie closely and maybe that’s the reason why you see it twice.
CS: Any excuse to see it twice. When you work on a film like this, where the budget is so big with all these other units and stunt teams and choreographers, how do you make sure, with all that machinery, that at the end of the day it’s still your vision and not just an assembly line?
Gray: That’s tough. It really is tough. You have to make sure that you are clear in your communication of what you’re trying to achieve. It’s not as important as the Presidency, but just using it as an example, you can govern a nation, but you can’t govern every state. You set the agenda and you put the right people in place, and you make sure everyone’s rolling in a safe direction. And there are times where it’s a little different than what you had envisioned, and there are times where they nailed it. But I’m very happy with where we ended up and what we accomplished, very proud of it. It’s a very astute question. You can’t always control every single frame, but I will say this on the flipside: There are times where my crews will go out and grab things that I hadn’t imagined. So there’s two sides to that coin.
CS: Now could you see doing another one of these, or was this a one-off for you?
Gray: You never know. You never know. I’m really happy about this. I’m honored to be a part of the “Fast” family. So you know, I take it film by film, but we’ll see, right?
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)