First, let me say, yes, I know that the likelihood of every single one of these directors being considered for the job is slim; however, indulge me; humor me...
Justin Lin, director of 4 of the existing 6 Fast & Furious franchise of movies, has revealed that he informed Universal Pictures studio executives last night that he would not be returning for the 7th installment of the long-running and profitable movie series - the latest, Fast & Furious 6, scheduled to open May 24.
His reason for exiting the franchise?
According to The Hollywood Reporter, timing is the issue. Universal Pictures put Fast 7 on fast-track, wanting the film ready for release in summer 2014, which I think is a bit too soon for the next one. At least give audiences a couple of years to forget the last one before releasing another.
So with that aggressive schedule, director Lin would've had to begin pre-production on the movie while still working in post-production on Fast 6, which he felt would interfere with completing the latter, and doing so strongly.
THR also adds that Lin may just be sick of the franchise, given that his relatively short Hollywood studio directing career has comprised almost entirely of Fast & Furious films. Some might say Lin is nuts for leaving a cash-cow, but I really can't blame him. I'd want to do something else too.
But regardless of what his reasons for not wanting to direct Fast & Furious 7, the studio has begun an aggressive search for another director to replace Lin, with a decision expected as early as next week.
So, with that, as I often love to do, I thought I'd take a look at black directors who MIGHT be on Universal's short list.
Whomever is chosen to direct may find themselves locked into a franchise, depending on how well Fast 7 does, because Universal might decide to continue producing Fast & Furious films until audiences tire of them. So, it could be a long-term gig for whomever is chosen.
Immediately, I'd expect that Universal would probably aim for a director of Lin's stature in Hollywood. I'm not sure if he's a household name, or if the average Fast & Furious fan even knows who he is, but the replacement director would likely have to be one who's displayed an ability to handle big-budget, action movie fare. The budgets for films in the franchise have gradually increased from the first film in 2001 ($38 million) to the last film in 2011 ($125 million). The budget for the upcoming 6th film isn't public yet, but I won't be surprised if it's higher than $125 million.
And when you consider the key criteria that will likely be taken under consideration, when picking directors, the list of black candidates is a terribly short one; and, as I said, the likelihood of a black director being chosen to direct is slim to absolutely none.
But give it some thought, and share your short list of black directors who might be considered for the job.
First, I should note that a black director did in fact direct one of the Fast & Furious films, so it's not completely out of the question that he, or others, could be chosen. I'm talking about John Singleton; he did direct 2 Fast 2 Furious, which grossed over $236 million worldwide on a $76 million budget, and was released in 2003. It ranks as the 4th best performing film in the franchise, but was still very much a box office hit.
And most recently, Singleton directed Abduction, which was a box office flop - domestically anyway. Although I wouldn't blame that on him. The script and lead actor were weak. But Singleton might get a look.
The next 2 obvious choices would be Antoine Fuqua, who's helmed films like King Arthur (a $120 million action/adventure movie, although it flopped), and Tears Of The Sun (a $75 million action/adventure movie, which also flopped at the box office), and most recently Olympus Has Fallen (which just opened to a $30 million box office take). And then there's F. Gary Gray, the man behind action movies like The Italian Job (his most successful movie), Law Abiding Citizen and The Negotiator.
The problem both gentlemen might face is that their resumes comprise primarily of adult action dramas; Fast & Furious is more for the PG13 crowd, and almost all entirely spectacle.
Although Gray was, at one point, said to be on the short list of directors to helm the Captain America sequel, but he reportedly dropped out of contention, to take the NWA biopic job. However, that shows confidence in his abilities by studio heads, to handle mega-budget spectacle movies.
There's also Tim Story, who helmed both recent Fantastic Four movies (which made money, although neither was exactly what you'd call a home-run).
And of course either of the Hughes Brothers (who now seem to be working separately); consider past works like The Book Of Eli and From Hell. And they were once attached to direct a live-action big screen adaptation of the complex, sci-fi adventure drama Akira, so there is/was obviously some faith in them to handle this kind of material from the studios, even though they also seem to be more interested in more weighty adult fare.
Of course, Universal could decide to go with *no-name* but capable directors, expecting the film and its cast to sell themselves, since we ARE talking about Fast & Furious here, assuming Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and company return for another.
So with that said, a name completely out of left field like Djo Tunda Wa Munga, who helmed the international crime drama sensation Viva Riva! would be worthy of a look.
That movie wasn't what we'd call spectacle cinema, with bloated action sequences, and such, but I'd say he's demonstrated enough skill with what I thought was a pulsating, violent, crime thriller in Viva Riva!, that I'd like to see him given the opportunity. After all, when Justin Lin was tapped as director the first time around, he hadn't done anything prior to his first go at the franchise, to demonstrate that he was definitely the man for the job. But he proved himself. So another *unknown* director (as Lin was at the time) could be given a similar chance.
Although the franchise isn't quite what it was in 2006, as budgets have increased tremendously, fans are at a fever-pitch, and there's a lot more at stake.
But the fact that there aren't many who would immediately qualify, and that most other lists on other mainstream film sites, probably wouldn't include a single mention of even one black director, obviously speaks to a much larger issue that we've addressed ad naseam on this site, so I won't bother revisiting (instead I'll refer you to my Pondering The Seemingly Dismal Outlook For Black Filmmakers Working Within The Hollywood Studio System post which you can read HERE).
But feel free to chime in with your thoughts on who you'd like to see direct the next film, or who you think has the best chance, if any, or anything else related that comes to mind.