Universal Studios is enjoying a record-setting year at the box office. One film that has helped the studio cash in is James Wan’s Furious 7, which has tallied $1.5 billion in global ticket sales. The studio – and the Furious producers – obviously would love to continue this hot streak with Fast 8, but a new report suggests that delays to the announced production can be traced back to the franchise’s biggest star: Vin Diesel.
The Hollywood Reporter spells out an interesting behind-the-scenes struggle that is, as the trade notes, keeping Fast 8 stuck in the starting gate. The sequel is racing to meet an already announced release date of April 14, 2017. At the moment, however, we don’t yet know who is directing it. The most recent Fast & Furious directors, Justin Lin and James Wan, passed on Fast 8 in order to helm Star Trek Beyond and The Conjuring 2, respectively. THR, in its report, quotes sources who say that Diesel was "extraordinarily difficult" during the making of Furious 7, and this could be contributing to the lack of a hire for Fast 8.
Producer Neal Moritz, who has been with the franchise since its earliest days, actually told us back in July that they were consciously waiting to hire the next director until they had a better-developed screenplay, and a fuller idea for the direction of Fast 8. THR exclaims that one "fear" Universal may be experiencing is that Vin Diesel might want to direct an upcoming Fast & Furious sequel himself, noting that the actor has to be consulted on director choices, but going the next step further to point out that Diesel lacks veto power if Universal believes that it has found the right person for the job.
THR reports that James Wan was offered what one source describes as "life-altering money" to return and helm Fast 8. The director passed, choosing instead to return to the horror genre and continue his work on The Conjuring 2. Few could blame Wan, who experienced the worst possible nightmares on Furious 7 when one of his leading men, Paul Walker, died in the middle of filming. By now, it’s no secret that Wan used digital tricks and body doubles to finish Walker’s performance in Furious 7, and the morbid curiosity of the casual moviegoer no doubt helped to boost the movie’s ticket sales. But Universal can continue this success if they are able to make smart choices behind the scenes and appease the actors who are still under contract.
In the same THR story, the trade cites Vin Diesel’s spokesmen as saying reports of friction are "complete nonsense," and Moretz said:
Obviously, if there was any issue, we wouldn't be making the eighth [film] with [Diesel] right now.
And yet, it’s in their best interest to do everything that they can to keep Vin Diesel, who’s the face of the franchise, front and center for as many sequels as possible. Diesel has negotiating power, and Universal has time to find the right director before Fast 8 is in serious trouble. What do you think of this report? Does it raise any red flags for you for the health of Fast 8, and the franchise, in general?