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Just because Universal pushed its next Fast and the Furious chapter back a year doesn’t mean the studio is sitting idle.
In fact, it’s just switching gears to focus on the much-buzzed-about Fast & Furious spinoff that is intended to be a starring vehicle for Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham.
With Fast 9 moved back to 2020, Universal is now officially putting the project on the calendar, dating it for a July 26, 2019, opening.
Chris Morgan, who has shepherded the script chores since 2006’s Toyko Drift, is now writing the spinoff that will focus on Luke Hobbs, the Diplomatic Security Service agent played by Johnson, and Deckard Shaw, an assassin character who was one of the primary bad guys in the franchise before being redeemed and joining the motley crew of antiheroes that make up the roll call.
Meanwhile, sources say that one reason for Fast 9‘s push was to accommodate potential director scheduling. Sources also say Justin Lin may be lining up to return to the franchise and is the top man to helm the core entry of Fast 9.
Johnson first appeared in 2011’s Fast Five and has become a major factor in the franchise’s rejuvenation and growth. He has starred in four of the eight films. Statham cameoed in Fast & Furious 6 and co-starred in the last two films. It was during the making of the last installment, The Fate of the Furious, that Universal began mulling a spinoff with the two actors after seeing their chemistry spark in the dailies.
No deals have been made with the actors.
“Fast & Furious is one of Universal’s most beloved properties, and we handle every decision we make surrounding this franchise with great care,” Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley told The Hollywood Reporter. “The global brand of Fast & Furious is strong and full of iconic characters, and we look forward to continuing to build on the film that started it all, as well as expanding into different narratives beginning with our first spinoff.”
The Fast & Furious saga began as a 2001 mid-budget thriller that was trying to catch the fumes of the street racing culture in the San Fernando Valley around the turn of the century. But, along the way, the movie series reinvented itself into a heist and action franchise that has seen the last two chapters — 2015’s Furious 8 and 2016’s Fate of the Furious — gross $1.5 billion and $1.$1.2 billion, respectively.
Universal has also turned the films into a brand that encompasses consumer products, a theme park ride and, starting next year, a live arena show.
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