'Fast 8' Nowhere Near Starting Line

Fast 8 Limbo ouline - H 2015
Courtesy of Universal

Fast 8 Limbo ouline - H 2015

Yes, it’s inevitable, but Universal will need more horsepower as it contends with no script, a cast in contract limbo and its two smash directors not quite at the ready.

This story first appeared in the April 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Can Universal keep the family together? Furious 7's $392.3 million worldwide bow has made an eighth film in the racing saga a near certainty. But significant speed bumps exist. "Honestly, we're just bathing in the success of this," producer Neal Moritz tells THR. "We'll probably get together in a week or so to talk."

Universal chairman Donna Langley said in 2014 that the studio would like to make 10 films, and according to multiple sources, that remains the plan. But no writer has been hired for the next outing — not that the lack of a script has held back the franchise before. The films tend to be designed backward: After a release date is set, producer-star Vin Diesel, 47, considered the keeper of the flame, works with scribe Chris Morgan, Moritz and a director to hash out a story, coming up with elaborate set pieces then fleshing out a narrative to connect the sequences.

At this point, however, the director's chair seems to be vacant. Furious 7 helmer James Wan, 38, originally had signed a two-picture option when he joined the franchise, but after the grueling shoot that was required after the death of Paul Walker midway through production in 2013, he was released to make The Conjuring 2. Sources say he's set to shoot New Line's horror follow-up in October, so Universal could wait until he has completed work on that film ("I'm open to anything at this point," Wan tells THR), but it's also possible the studio will bring on someone else. Justin Lin, who guided the franchise through installments three to six, is busy with Star Trek 3. The studio is getting calls from agents, but a shortlist of possible directors isn't circling yet.

Still, ideas are brewing. Diesel recently said he wants to set the next project in New York.

"[The story] is going to have to be something enticing for all of us," says Moritz. "It has to be as good as or better [than Furious 7]." Insiders say some ensemble veterans have run through their options, so new installments would have to be renegotiated. Ditto for Dwayne Johnson, who joined with Fast Five and whose deals are on a film-by-film basis. (For Furious 7, he shot only 10 days.)

Some of the newer castmembers, including vil­lains, do have options. And Luke Evans, who appears in Furious 7 in a brief nonspeaking scene, is said to have an option with the studio for another movie, though it doesn't have to be a Fast film. Universal's first move will be to plant a flag on a release date, which could come as early as the CinemaCon convention in late April.