Family matters: Director Justin Lin exits ‘Fast X’ sequel days into production


Barely a week into production on Universal’s “Fast X,” Justin Lin announced his sudden exit as director from the upcoming “Fast & Furious” sequel, throwing the blockbuster series’ fate into question.

“With the support of Universal, I have made the difficult decision to step back as director of ‘Fast X,’ while remaining with the project as a producer,” Lin said in a statement shared Tuesday to the franchise’s social media channels.

A source close to the production cited creative differences for the decision, which is said to be amicable. The status of Lin’s involvement with the 11th and final installment, which he was set to direct after “Fast X,” is unclear.

In the wake of Lin’s exit, Universal is keeping its eyes on the road ahead. “Fast X” — already set for a May 19, 2023, release — is not expected to be rescheduled, although production will be briefly paused as the studio seeks to hire a new director in the coming weeks. Second-unit filming, already underway in the United Kingdom, will continue.

“Over 10 years and five films, we have been able to shoot the best actors, the best stunts, and the best damn car chases,” read Lin’s statement, looking back on his history with the series and its growth from humble action roots to the most inclusive franchise in Hollywood.

“On a personal note, as the child of Asian immigrants, I am proud of helping to build the most diverse franchise in movie history,” said Lin, whose career includes acclaimed indie drama “Better Luck Tomorrow,” sci-fi tent pole “Star Trek Beyond” and the HBO Max martial arts drama “Warrior.” “I will forever be grateful to the amazing cast, crew and studio for their support, and for welcoming me into the ‘Fast’ family.”

After directing more than half of the franchise’s nine feature films to date, including last year’s $726-million-grossing “F9” — which helped usher in the return of theatrical exclusive blockbusters after the COVID-19 shutdown — Lin’s departure came as a shock to fans of the $6-billion franchise.

Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Dom (Vin Diesel) in “F9,” directed by Justin Lin.

(Giles Keyte / Universal Pictures)

While the Vin Diesel-anchored series has been directed by four other filmmakers — Rob Cohen (2001’s “The Fast and the Furious”), John Singleton (2003’s “2 Fast 2 Furious”), James Wan (2015’s “Furious 7″) and F. Gary Gray (2017’s “Fate of the Furious”) — Lin is considered a key architect of its success and the big swings that garnered it a devoted global fan following.

Responsible for spinning the 2006 threequel “Tokyo Drift” into a cult hit, Lin rewrote Hollywood franchise rules with expansive and explosive sequels “Fast & Furious” (2009), “Fast Five” (2011) and “Fast & Furious 6″ (2013).

In 2021 he returned to direct “F9″ and brought actor Sung Kang’s fan favorite character Han Seoul-Oh back from the dead — a corrective to a creative choice to redeem Han’s killer Deckard Shaw in “Fate of the Furious” that Lin had taken issue with during his absence from the franchise.

“It didn’t compute to me,” Lin told The Times. “I thought, why would they do that?” Now with Han back in the “family” fold, a lineup of core series heroes sets up “Fast X” and what’s being billed as the final 11th film to close out the series.

A source close to the production describes “Fast X,” which Lin co-wrote with Dan Mazeau, as very much the filmmaker’s vision, and he will remain a producer on the project.

The 10th installment stars series fixture and fellow producer Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel and Charlize Theron. Jason Momoa and Brie Larson are among the new faces joining the returning cast.

In an on-set video posted to Diesel’s Instagram last week, the star asked Lin how he felt after the first week of filming.

“Feels like the beginning of an epic ending,” said Lin.

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