Ever since the Fast and Furious franchise launched in 2001, Neal H. Moritz has been working on it as a producer, but that nearly two decade-long tenure has come to an abrupt end. Rather than Moritz deciding to leave the car and explosion-filled series of movies on his own terms, he’s been fired due to a legal dispute with Universal Pictures.
Last October, it was reported that Neal Moritz filed a lawsuit against Universal, alleging that the studio was in breach of oral contract and committed promissory fraud when it removed him as the lead producer on the upcoming Fast and Furious spinoff, Hobbs and Shaw. He demanded he be reinstated as lead producer or be paid “tens of millions of dollars in damages in lost compensation.”
Seven months later, the news has come out that not only has Neal Moritz been dropped from Hobbs and Shaw, but he’s also been removed from all future Fast and Furious movies, starting with Fast and Furious 9, which begins shooting in a few weeks. Because Moritz has a pay-or-play deal, Universal will still need to compensate on the Fast and Furious movies, but evidently that’s a better course of action than keeping him around, both financially and mentally.
Universal’s stance is that Neal Moritz is not entitled to be a producer on Hobbs and Shaw, while Moritz says he had an oral agreement with the studio’s president, Jimmy Horowitz, to produce the spinoff and was working on it up until he was dropped from it right before principal photography kicked off. Moritz also claims that he came up with the idea for Hobbs and Shaw with screenwriter Chris Morgan and spent months developing it.
So where did everything go wrong? According to a “studio insider” who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter, Universal tried to work out a deal with Neal Moritz, but due to a “a long, torturous history” with fighting him on every previous Fast and Furious movie, the studio got sick of his combative behavior.
Because Universal is trying to expand the Fast and Furious franchise into more of a cinematic universe, as well as Hobbs and Shaw’s budget growing before production, the studio asked the franchise’s top talent to contribute to a “pool” that would allow Universal to break even before others were cut in on the profit. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was among those willing to play ball, but Moritz reportedly instead “wound up for his usual game of hardball.”
As for why Universal decided to kick Neal Moritz off all future Fast and Furious movies, that came about when he named Jimmy Horowitz in his lawsuit. While it’s unclear what the thought process that the studio’s bigwigs had after that, evidently there was incentive enough for them to toss Moritz out.
With Hobbs and Shaw hitting theaters this summer, two more main Fast and Furious movies on the way and a female-centric spinoff in the works, obviously this blockbuster franchise is sticking around for the foreseeable future. Still, considering how involved Neal Moritz was from the start, this definitely marks the end of an era.
We’ll see how the Fast and Furious franchise’s first foray into spinoff territory goes when Hobbs and Shaw comes out in theaters on August 2, and Fast and Furious 9 will follow on May 22, 2020.