There has been a lot of talk over the last week or so about the director situation on Fast & Furious 8, the upcoming installment in what has become a multi-billion dollar franchise. There have been a number of names floating around that could possibly take the helm, but now it looks like they’re circling a rather unexpected candidate for the job: Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray.
According to the Wrap, a source close to Universal Pictures’ search for a director to take over the next chapter in the high-octane franchise told them that Gray has jumped to he head of the pack as far as candidates go. Their intel tells them that the studio executives are going to meet with producer/star Vin Diesel and producer Neal Moritz, and that they will likely decide between Gray and another director. The report theorizes the other contender is The Transporter’s Louis Leterrier, another name that has been in the mix, though it appears that Gray has the edge.
While it initially may seem like an out-of-left-field choice, Gray helming Fast & Furious 8 actually makes a great deal of sense. He just made the studio a nice chunk of change with Straight Outta Compton, the biopic of the hugely influential hip-hop group N.W. A., which has earned almost $200 million worldwide. That might not compare to the $1.5 billion worldwide haul of Furious 7 earlier this year, but with a modest $28 million budget, that’s a healthy profit margin, especially for a project that no studio wanted (it was passed over numerous times).
Gray is also hugely versatile as a director. His resume crosses a lot of genre boundaries, all of which come into play in the Fast & Furious movies. There’s always some comedy, which he’s shown he has a strong handle on in Friday; The Negotiator is a solid thriller; and he has a number of big action movies on his resume, including The Italian Job and Law Abiding Citizen. He’s even already worked with a couple of the key cast members, as he directed Vin Diesel in A Man Apart in 2003, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in Be Cool in 2005.
When you look at it, this hire actually seems far less off the wall than when they hired James Wan to hire Furious 7. Though he’s now going to helm Aquaman, his background before that was almost exclusively low-budget horror. Death Sentence was sort of in the same realm, but not nearly the scope and scale of one of these films.
We don’t know a ton about the plot of Fast & Furious 8 just yet, though it’s a safe bet it will involve Vin Diesel and company driving very fast cars at very high speeds. The action will reportedly go down at least partially in New York, somewhere the globetrotting franchise has yet to visit, though there aren’t many specifics to be had at this juncture. Vin Diesel has also said recently that this will be part of a trilogy that will ultimately close out the franchise.
Fast & Furious 8 is slated for release April 14, 2017.