The “Fast and the Furious” franchise has never exactly been known for subtlety. Over the previous seven installments, the series has dropped cars out of planes, catapulted a bus off a cliff, strapped actresses to oil tankers, and driven cars from one Dubai skyscraper to another. But for eighth installment, “The Fate of the Furious,” director F. Gary Gray tackled one of the series’ steepest logistical challenges yet: mounting a full-scale, big-budget action shoot in the middle of Havana.
As one of the first major Hollywood shoots to take place in Cuba since the trade embargo ended, Gray had to contend with a host of unusual trials, most notably the near absence of internet while on the island. “If it’s a challenge to send a simple email, you can imagine how difficult it is to bring in the entire infrastructure to support a movie this big,” Gray says. “We were this close to renting a cruise ship, just because there weren’t enough hotel rooms in the city.”
He nonetheless insists the experience was entirely worth the hassles.
“The people were amazing, the place was amazing, and you could basically just throw your camera up in the air and it’ll land on a perfect shot. And you get to see the resilient nature of the Cuban people — they know how to do without, so they also know how to create and improvise.”
Gray recalls one unexpectedly poignant moment, as the crew was preparing to shoot on a busy Havana boulevard and brought in a camera-ship helicopter for aerial shots.
“I remember watching the crowd watch the helicopter almost as if they were watching a spaceship. So I put up a monitor for them to see what the helicopter saw, and realized a lot of them were seeing Havana from the sky for the first time. Some people started to cry, and then we started to cry. This is something we take for granted, but for these people who have never left the ground because of some of the restrictions, they’ve never seen where they lived from that angle. It was profound all around.”