Not all Hollywood franchises originate as comic books, Young Adult novels, video games or movie reboots.
Sometimes, box office lightning just strikes on its own – with a little help from great marketing. That’s exactly what happened 20 years ago when Universal and Original Film’s THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS premiered on June 18, 2001. It got off to a fast $40.1M start four days later and did $144.5M domestically. Its surprise success sparked a series whose eight episodes to date have grossed about $6B globally.
Episode nine, F9, has already grossed over $200M in China. It opens domestically June 25 and is tracking impressively as a first choice by -25M & +25M with scores three times the norm.
The series’ first episode, directed by Rob Cohen (THE SKULLS) and produced by Neil Moritz (CRUEL INTENTIONS), starred Vin Diesel, Paul Walker & Michelle Rodriguez and was about illegal street racing. That was the franchise’s focus through THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT (2006). Starting with FAST & FURIOUS (2009), the plots changed to heists and spying, which had broader audience appeal but still allowed for fast cars in action.
Although the first FAST was an original, its title had already been seen on movie screens on a low-budget 1955 crime drama marking the directorial debut of the 28-year-old and now legendary indie filmmaker Roger Corman. When Cohen was developing FAST, which is not a remake of Corman’s film, he decided Corman’s title would be perfect for his movie. So Cohen acquired title rights from Corman but didn’t buy story rights.
Cohen’s FAST wasn’t a pre-sold film when it opened, but it did feature some rising young stars. Vin Diesel had been attracting attention since Steven Spielberg cast him in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998). He’d also starred in David Twohy’s sci-fi horror thriller PITCH BLACK (2000). F9 is his eighth FAST episode.
Paul Walker had played a supporting role in Gary Ross’ fantasy comedy-drama PLEASANTVILLE (1998), opposite Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon & William H. Macy. He had a great future ahead of him — but, unfortunately, that future also included his untimely death in a car crash in November 2013. His last FAST episode, FURIOUS 7, was halfway through production then and was completed with rewriting that explained his character’s death. When it opened on April 3, 2015, FURIOUS 7 was a global blockbuster with $1.5B.