'Fast Five' Helmer Justin Lin In Talks With Universal For Former Spike Lee Project 'L.A. Riots'

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by Oliver Lyttelton
August 7, 2012 10:20 AM
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A couple of years back, Justin Lin was a director who worked constantly, but was seen as a fairly mid-level guy: his debut "Better Luck Tomorrow" was well regarded critically, but follow-ups like "Annapolis" and his work on the third and fourth "Fast & Furious" movies were much more coolly received. But then came his third turn on the road-racing franchise "Fast Five," and the film was both a monster hit and surprisingly popular with critics -- and so it should have been; it's easily the best of the series, with excellently handled action and a playful spirit, suggesting Lin had finally found his groove.

As such, it's made the director a hot property, and alongside the currently-filming "Fast & Furious 6," Lin has won the gig of helming the next "Terminator" movie, assuming it gets off the ground, as well as an adaptation of Manga "Lone Wolf & Cub." But it looks like Lin (who's also helmed episodes of "Community") is keen not to be pigeonholed as an action director -- he's attached to helm a film version of David Henry Hwang's acclaimed play "Chinglish," and just this morning it was announced that Lin is in talks for a based-in-fact drama that could make for a powerful movie.

According to Vulture, Lin is in discussions with Universal about directing "L.A. Riots," a screen take on the famous uproar after the acquittal of the cops who assaulted Rodney King twenty years ago, which led to the death of 53 people, and $1 billion in property damage. The film, which is set up at Ron Howard and Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment, was originally to be directed by Spike Lee, with "Red Tails" and "Undercover Brother" writer John Ridley penning the script, although it's unclear if Lin will be starting anew, or what kind of scope he's going for -- following several characters, or focusing on one story in particular.

It seems as though the film might be Universal's attempt to keep Lin within the studio fold with more serious subject matter, although one Vulture source wonders how serious they might be about making the film for that reason, saying "They didn’t want to make this movie for $35 million with Spike [Lee] four years ago, and with the way the business has changed, I can’t imagine they’re going to spend even $20 million to make it now.” Do they want Lin for a seventh "Fast & Furious" enough to greenlight a Oscar-bait passion project that could lose them money? We're sure we'll find out sometime between now and the release of Lin's "Fast & Furious 6" on May 24th, 2013. 

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