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'Fast X' director talks reshooting 'Fast Five' scenes, how they came up with the cliffhanger ending, and one character's surprising return

Kirsten Acuna   

'Fast X' director talks reshooting 'Fast Five' scenes, how they came up with the cliffhanger ending, and one character's surprising return
  • Warning: There are spoilers ahead for "Fast X."
  • Louis Leterrier spoke to Insider about taking over directing and bringing a beloved character back.

Louis Leterrier is feeling the pressure of the "Fast" franchise, but can you blame him?

The "Transporter" director joined Universal's $6 billion franchise mid-production after director Justin Lin shockingly exited the film in April 2022. Lin was previously set to direct the main saga's final trilogy.

For the first time in franchise history, "Fast X" doesn't neatly wrap with Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his found family gathered around a table.

Instead, it ends on a risky cliffhanger, demanding audiences to return to theaters for the next sequel to see how it all pans out.

The end also teases the return of two huge actors to the "Fast" family. Gal Gadot's Gisele makes a brief appearance despite being killed off in 2013's "Fast 6." Dwayne Johnson (who claimed he'd never return to the franchise) surprisingly appears in a mid-credits scene, which, at the time, was not screened by Insider in advance of speaking with Leterrier.

Those aren't the only moving parts he had to juggle.

The 10th film follows Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa) as he seeks vengeance on Dom's crew for killing his father at the end of "Fast Five." As a result, Leterrier was tasked with retconning the series' best film to seamlessly insert Dante into a massive flashback, which plays at the sequel's start.

Leterrier also needed to deliver a highly anticipated Han (Sung Kang) and Deckard (Jason Statham) confrontation (teased in "Fast 9") that may not cut it for fans who've demanded "Justice for Han."

There's a lot riding on the movie's success since it's the first of a two-part (or possibly three-part) finale.

But after spending 20 minutes with Leterrier over Zoom, it's obvious why Universal tapped the French director to helm not only "Fast X," but also its sequel. He's a fan who understands and is energized by the saga's constantly-evolving mythology.

Originally in the running to direct 2017's "The Fate of the Furious," Leterrier's eyes lit up as he recalled watching the previous nine installments in theaters before receiving a call to step behind the camera. He's a kid in a candy shop who's allowed to crash cars and let a massive flaming ball loose through the streets of Rome.

When we spoke in early May, Leterrier explained to Insider how Gisele's return has been in the works for some time, the thought process behind the cliffhanger, how they revisited and reshot scenes from "Fast Five," and teased that the saga's end "will truly surprise you in the greatest way."

'Fast X' had 'zero' reshoots. They filmed the sequel's surprise cameos later.

You were kind of thrown into this film the moment you took over as director, rewriting most of the script on a plane. How easy or difficult was it to come onto this project in the middle of it? How amenable were you to suggestions and input from the cast, some of whom have been doing this for 20 years? Vin Diesel is very hands-on and close to the mythology. These guys — Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez — know their characters inside and out. Was it intimidating at all?

It's completely intimidating. To correct one little thing you said. I didn't rewrite the script. I was just making it my own. I was trying to understand the scope.

Also, one thing that happened is we lost the location for the third act. That's one thing that I had to reconceive. I would've never gotten on this plane had the script not been great. What Justin and Dan Mazeau had created was really great and it's basically the shape that it's in now.

The input from the actors is so important. Frankly, I was looking forward to the input from the actors because it's: Where are they now? What do they want? I'm two years behind them, at least, not knowing all the stories and the ideas that they had before. So I was like, "OK, Where's Dom Toretto now? Tell me, Vin. Where is Letty? Tell me, Michelle."

Frankly, as a director, I'm not a painter. I'm not a sculptor. I need a crew and a cast to make my movies. And although I'm very proud and I'll proudly say that this is my movie and every movie I've made is very representative of my vision, it's a collective vision.

There needs to be one director that people follow, but it all stems from trust and trust comes from dialogue. Communication is key in life and on set. So that's what we did. That was my first thing of going to them and sitting down and just having long conversations. I was literally listening to them... I think it's important to do that.

As you said, it's a lifetime for them. It's a lifetime of going deep, deep, deep, deep into the character.

So this third act that you reworked, is that the ending that we see now in the movie? Or did that wind up changing again?

No. It's the ending. The movie is my vision.

Obviously, you write the third act and then you have to tweak the first act and the second act and everything. And then, having had no prep at all, I couldn't expose my vision to the studio. There was no time.

So, what you see in the movie is very much my instinctive vision for what I wanted. There's been no compromise and to prove to you that that's the case, there's like half a scene on the cutting room floor of people coming onto a plane.

We did zero pickups. Zero re-shoots. We did some additional stuff, the additional stuff that you saw at the end of the movie. But we never reshot a scene. So the stuff we were capturing on set was working.

'Fast Five' footage with Paul Walker was reviewed to create the opening flashback

We revisit the epic heist from the end of "Fast Five" with Diesel and Walker at the start of this film. Some of those scenes are obviously new with Momoa. Do you know if any of the "Fast Five" shots are from unused footage?

Yes. So we reshot some stuff on 35-millimeter with the same cameras. We also went into the archives and looked at all the dailies. So there was a lot of stuff that you haven't seen before.

We reinterpreted the chase through a different point of view, through the Reyes' point of view, so Dom and Brian are the bad guys in our story at the beginning of the movie.

That was exciting. That was also very emotional because I was watching dailies with, young Vin and young Paul and then obviously they were Brian and Dom between "action and cut," but I could see their interaction as friends before and after. That was really amazing to see. Really, really emotional.

The Han and Deckard confrontation was originally 'shorter and different'

Fans have waited for that Han and Deckard Shaw scene for years, waiting to see "Justice for Han" after it was teased at the end of "Fast 9." The scene we receive is a little bit shorter than, at least, what I expected. Was that moment between the two ever longer or a bit different?

I don't know if it was longer or different, but, yeah, it's evolved. It was actually shorter and different. Obviously, Jason Statham and I have a long history together because we did "Transporters," so I've known him for a long, long time. Then I fell in love with Sung Kang.

So, I was just wanting to put this scene on a pedestal. But, "Justice for Han," I don't think it's one scene. It's a full story arc. So it's just the beginning.

Gisele's return was considered 'for years'

I asked Sung Kang years ago what he views as "Justice for Han." He said that may include Gisele returning. Is there anything you can say about what went into bringing her back?

I know everything that went into it and obviously, it's not just a phone call of like, "Would you like to come in?" It's proper storytelling planning, something that has been thought of for years and frankly, yeah, that could also be part of that "Justice for Han" story.

There's going to be so many surprises in this one and the next one. Ultimately, we love our audience. We love our franchise. To have a fan directing these movies, it's amazing because I get to bring on-screen everything that I've wanted to see for years.

I heard you because I was in the audience with you, and now I'm together with the crew and everyone in the cast and making these decisions. Hopefully, we're making the right decisions.

The ending will truly surprise you in the greatest way. You'll be satisfied, but be like, I would've never expected this franchise to end here.

They really covered a metal ball in flaming gasoline and set it loose in Rome

There are so many big action sequences in this film. Is there one action sequence you're especially proud of that fans may be shocked to learn is practically shot and not just visual effects?

We really rolled a one-ton metal ball covered in just gasoline, flaming gasoline down the streets of Rome. And we had Dom's car trying to stop it. That was done for real. The cars exploding were done for real. Some of the shots that you're like, "Oh wow. This looks like a CG shot — because it was 10 years ago when we couldn't, when the cameras were a different size and then the equipment was a different size.

Pulling the cameras in and out of the cars while they're moving, chasing them, seeing the actors behind the wheel and then connecting them — having Vin do a 180 in front of an exploding bomb and then finishing on a closeup with him, that's all done for real. It's a bunch of real elements put together.

But yeah, there's no CG there. I mean, obviously, we didn't blow up a giant bomb in Rome. That's CG. But just the cars flipping and Dom, all of that was done for real and it shows. If you can keep 75% of your image real, the audience knows it. We do it for real. Even more practicality in the next one.

The cliffhanger was written into the movie when Leterrier joined 'Fast X.' He knows where the 'Fast Saga' ends.

I wasn't expecting this movie to end with lives hanging in the balance. What can you say about what went into the decision to break at this point and place almost all of the "Fast" fam in harm's way?

Story. It's the story of the nine previous episodes plus "Los Bandoleros," and everything that this franchise means.

When I came on board, the cliffhanger was there and I knew it, but I was like, it's hard for us to do just a cliffhanger if we don't know where the movie ends. Let's really go to the end of the franchise and then make our way backward. So that's what we did.

If and when you see it again, there are many, many, many instances that are prepping you for this very end, or at least what's going to evolve. Listen to everything that's being said. Every line. Every prop. Stuff I cut away to. You'll understand.

When I spoke with Justin Lin for "Fast 9," he told me he and Diesel had an endpoint in mind for the "Fast and Furious" franchise for the past decade. Were you clued in on this? Did you speak with Lin and Diesel about the direction of the end of the saga?

Completely. Absolutely. And we build upon this. They've known where this is ending for a long time. That's why these movies are working well. They don't feel like they're one chapter at a time.

It's really thought out now to the point they're confident enough, writing-wise, that they can end on the cliffhanger. We know where we're going next time and we believe that the fans will follow.

You can't watch the end of this movie and just stop.

You could. [Laughs.] You could, but it'd be very sad.

You're returning to direct "Fast X: Part 2." How much work is already done on that film? Is the script written?

We have scripts and we're going and we're prepping and I'll see you in 2025. [Laughs.]

It's exciting because we're approaching the end. There's no more runway. We need to land it and land it perfectly. So, we're taking really great care and analyzing everything. We're not taking anything for granted.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. You can read our "Fast X" review here.

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