One minute, you’re sitting at home. The next, you have mere days to be on set and in charge of one of the biggest film franchises in the world. It sounds like the plot of a movie but it’s what happened to director Louis Leterrier. The man behind Now You See Me, The Transporter, and The Incredible Hulk was asked by Universal to take over on Fast X mere weeks into shooting, after original director Justin Lin departed the project.
Spoilers of the Week April 18-22
What was that like? How was he able to adapt? And how much of the madness that Jason Momoa is bringing to this movie was he responsible for? All that, and some Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance talk, in our interview with the director of the latest Fast and Furious movie.
Germain Lussier, io9: Usually when you make a movie this size, you have months and months to prep. But obviously, that wasn’t the case here. Tell me, how much time was there between you actually getting the job and you saying action on set?
Louis Leterrier: Five days. Wait. Of me getting the job and saying action? Three days. But me getting the first phone call to directing? Five days and a half, six days.
io9: That’s just crazy. I can’t even imagine the enormity of what coming into this was like. So, did you have to use most of Justin’s stuff? Were you able to put any of your own spin on it? Tell me a little bit about it all.
Leterrier: Yeah, no, completely. That was what was exciting to me was, like, not only did we have an original, great script in a great shape that Justin and Dan Mazeau had written, but then, I could come in and I could see what I could do structurally but also character-wise. And then frankly, I was meeting Vin [Diesel], meeting everyone, all the actors, the producers, the studio. And, being given carte blanche to do what I wanted. Which was truly, truly appealing and daunting because I was like, “Ahhh! If I mess up, I’m the guy who messed up the Fast and Furious franchise.”
io9: One of the things that I found most incredible about the movie is Jason Momoa and his performance as Dante. How much of that was on the page? How much of that was what he brought to it? How much of that was your direction?
Leterrier: On the page? A little bit. He brought so much. I mean, that’s Jason Momoa. I mean, Dante is Jason Momoa. It’s the demon on Jason Momoa’s shoulder. He’s got an angel, that’s Aquaman, but the demon is Dante. And then, he’s an amazing actor. He works so hard. He works, rewrites his dialogue, talks about character interaction, is so generous with the other actors and, you know, really willing to play. So his willingness to play worked really well with my envy to push it a little bit, to tweak the cursors and try stuff.
Because I didn’t have time to prep. So I was like, “Oh, we haven’t rehearsed, so let’s roll the camera and let’s rehearse on film” and that’s this. And then we’re finding stuff and then rewriting the dialogue and finding stuff that became what eventually will [be in the movie]. Like the “Dante Enchante,” I found and then, [another quippy joke], that was his. And we were going back and forth. We’re playing with each other. We’re riffing. And that was great… it was really fun.
io9: Yeah, it’s great. Dante is great. Okay, now obviously, the Fast and Furious movies are about family, but Dante’s plan is to break up the family, right? And so for most of this movie, most of the core characters aren’t together. They’re all split up. Talk about the challenges that posed to you as a filmmaker coming into this franchise and then automatically having one of your legs cut out from under you.
Leterrier: [Laughs] Coming into this franchise, you can’t say it’s just one animal. The franchise has evolved. And we’ve seen how Justin has changed the franchise, every director that’s come onto this franchise has been able to put their stamp onto this franchise. So that was the canvas I had and I was able to do [that]. Just having all these amazing characters [played by] amazing actors allowed me to have many more colors to play with. And ultimately that was this. So, the story and everything I was able to tweak and push and everything was really pushed thanks to the actors. I mean, frankly, like without this amazing cast, I’m sure you’ve seen posters out there. It’s kind of like black and white just: face, face, face, face, face. “Fast.” If you like this [person], go [see the movie.]
io9: If you want four Oscar-winning women in one movie, go see Fast X.
Leterrier: Yeah, exactly. Amazing. Oh, and trust me, they deserve their Oscars. I mean, everyone in this cast deserves [accolades]. You really see the power of acting in an action movie. That’s what’s great about the franchise is there’s no stopping the acting, the characters, even when the action starts. I think that’s what made this franchise last so long—and for me as a fan, set the bar so high. I really understood action better through this movie. I was like, “Oh, yeah, it’s a really a long, overarching character story within giant set pieces and all that stuff.” And the characters never stop evolving even within a fight. You start a fight as an enemy, you finish as, you know, best friends.
io9: Absolutely. Now, I could talk Fast all day and I have many more questions, but because I have you, I have to mention Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. We all love it so, so much. Like it’s a stone-cold masterpiece and I have two questions about it. One is, did you know how good it was when you guys were making that? Because I know how big of an endeavor it was, but it just turned out so brilliantly.
Leterrier: You’re very sweet. And I heard you the other day on the Filmcast podcast with the boys and I heard you say that and you were very kind and I was like, “Oh, Germain is so amazing.” Thank you.
No, you never know. I mean, Dark Crystal was a love letter. I mean, just like this one. I never do something just to do something. I just involve myself fully into it and I do that because I love it. That’s why, at the end of the day, people will look at my resume and be like, “That guy has no career plan. He was just following his instincts.” I was never like “I’m going to win an Oscar by age blah blah.” And I’m like, “I don’t care. I’m just doing the stuff I love, you know?” So one day it’s a piece of rubber, the next day it’s an Oscar winner and I will direct anything just with so much passion. So yeah, Dark Crystal was so hard. Obviously you’ve seen the behind-the-scenes, I was like carrying the cameras, building the sets, we did it all. And it was amazing. And, you know, thanks for being such a supporter of this. It was a work of the heart.
io9: Unfortunately this is my last question and I have to keep with Dark Crystal just because I love it. Obviously, it is so sad that the show isn’t coming back. What, if anything, can you share of what you guys had planned for the rest of the series? Was going to be two more seasons? Three seasons? What was going to happen? What was the dream of what would have happened if it was a big hit?
Leterrier: I won’t tell you because I still have hopes that it can come back. I mean, who would have thought that 37 years later that [we would’ve been able to bring Dark Crystal back]? So, I have high hopes. You know, it might not be me. It might be my grandson or, you know, Jim Henson’s great-grandson, but somebody will direct the rest of this show because we need to tell that story. And beyond. I mean, Thra is a place we want to go to.
And this weekend, you can go to the theaters and see Leterrier’s latest film, Fast X.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.