Universal’s Fast and Furious franchise will be continuing without Justin Lin.
The director informed studio execs late Wednesday that he will not be returning for the seventh installment of the long-running and profitable movie series. Lin has been the franchise’s director since the third installment, 2006’s The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, helming four Fast movies, with the latest one, Fast & Furious 6, due to open May 24.
Lin’s exit from the franchise is not due to any clashes with the studio, where Lin has a first-look deal, or star Vin Diesel, but rather timing, according to insiders. Universal, which has fewer tentpole franchises than other major studios, has put Fast 7 on an aggressively accelerated timetable and wants the film ready for release in summer 2014.
Lin would have had to begin prepping for the movie while still working in post-production on Fast 6. The filmmaker is said to have felt the rush would not result in his best work.
One insider says that franchise exhaustion also was a factor. Lin has spent the better part of his directing career on the Fast franchise, after initially breaking out with 2002’s Better Luck Tomorrow, the Sundance movie centered around Asian-American high schoolers. He also directed the boxing drama Annapolis. The initial plan was for Lin to direct Fast & Furious 6 and 7 back-to-back (similar to Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3) but that plan was scrapped early in the development process. There always has been two or three years between Fast movies but Universal wants one for next summer. The studio now is searching for another director, with a decision expected as early as next week.
Four movies seems to be the going number for directors and franchises. George Lucas helmed that many Star Wars movies. Same with Steven Spielberg on the Indiana Jones front, though those were spread out over decades and the two also were the franchise's creators and co-creators, respectively. More recently, David Yates directed four Harry Potter movies and Michael Bay is now gearing up for his fourth Transformers.
Lin has been a major part of the Fast franchise, growing as a filmmaker as the movies have become bigger, more technically complex and international in scope. Lin’s first Fast, Tokyo Drift, grossed $158 million worldwide while the last one, Fast 5, revved up $626 million globally. The most recent movie also breathed new life into what was considered a tired franchise, with Fast & Furious 6 now one of the more anticipated films of the summer.
It is unclear what Lin, repped by CAA, will do next. Finishing Fast 6 is his immediate task.