For twenty years at the head of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, the 9th part of which will be released on July 14 in theaters, the actor assumes his image of big arms in action films that attract a large audience.
- Henry Arnaud, Los Angeles
Far from running out of steam, your saga seems to have a new start with “Fast & Furious 9”. How to explain it?
Our ninth film is the first to finally tell the origin of the story of Dom, my character. We discover how his father died and what created animosity between Dom and his brother. Whether we have seen the 8 previous films or not, “Fast & Furious 9” has something to delight all generations.
Is there a “Fast & Furious” recipe?
With “Fast & Furious”, we have built a world of action and intrigue that appeals to all audiences. No matter what country you live in, you can see “Fast & Furious 9” and feel directly involved in some aspect of the story. This is the first franchise where viewers walk out of the cinema asking when the next episode of “Fast & Furious” will be released. And this even when the shooting of the next one has not started. (Laughs.) It gives you an idea of the connection that exists between the fans and us.
The first film was released just twenty years ago. What is your fondest memory of these two decades?
My best memories are always the ones that happen off the cameras. Twenty years ago, I was in Mexico with Paul Walker and we were sitting on the floor in the Mexico City airport before our flight boarded. Paul told me to appreciate this moment of anonymity because our life would never be the same after the film was released. And God he was right! I have countless memories with Paul. We were like two brothers who bicker, have their differences but a deep love and respect for each other.
What was the most difficult moment of the saga?
The death of Paul, in 2013, in the middle of the production of the 7th feature film. I felt like a part of me was being torn away. It was also the hardest part of the franchise because we had to find some subterfuge to finish this shoot without Walker.
You have played Dominic Toretto for two decades. Isn’t it difficult to grow old with these films?
Quite the contrary. Dom has evolved over the years. I play a father who worries about his son. The wheel turns and Dom becomes the patriarch of the gang. I like it.
We compare you to Tom Cruise because, like him, you are the real boss of your films and you do all your stunts …
I would never have continued the franchise if Universal Studios had not given me the title of producer because I want to have a look at the choice of the screenplay as the director. For stunts, I always have a liner when it gets too risky. Stuntmen often get me to shoot a lot more stocks than I would like, but my risk taking is calculated.
How do you approach these shoots?
I am extremely serious on the set because I know how important it is to be prepared for each sequence. The stunts have become more and more complex and we carefully craft them to address a revival with each episode. I also try to keep an open mind because everyone can contribute their idea to improve a shot or dialogues. With the role of the boss comes enormous responsibilities, the first being never to disappoint the fans.
Besides the action, the strength of this franchise is the band of actors who are often there from day one.
This family magic is strong. In “Fast & Furious 9”, John Cena plays Dom’s brother, Jakob. The opposition of the two brothers gives moments of tension which are perfect for the film. John and I would meet up with our families every weekend to chill out. We played soccer with my son or we listened to my daughter play Mozart on the piano. I need a friendly complicity in private to play enemy brothers in the cinema.
You announced the final end of the saga after two more films. You can always change your mind in a few years, right?
No, I think all great sagas have to stop someday. It is important to give a conclusion to Dom’s adventures. But that doesn’t mean that the “Fast” universe can’t continue with other adventures like spin-offs.