It’s fast. It’s furious. It’s frequently ridiculous. And it’s a whole bunch of fun. Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw takes the long-running action franchise down a whole new road, in a buddy team-up movie that unites Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw on a mission to take down Idris Elba’s villainous Brixton. When director David Leitch came to town, he spoke to the Empire Podcast for a spoiler special episode, delving into the alternative edits, top-secret cameos, and where the series goes next. Listen to the episode here, and read on for 13 interesting tidbits he dropped through the interview.
1) It nearly had a different opening
Before we get to the ice-cold can of whoopass, Hobbs & Shaw has a cold open – going straight in on Vanessa Kirby's Hattie Shaw infecting herself with the programmable virus. But it didn’t always start that way, as Leitch details. “I had two versions of the movie – first act, very different,” he reveals. “One was more non-linear and I start on those duelling close-ups of them insulting each other, and they're staring at camera, right at the lens. And then you smash cut and it's 'One Day Earlier', and then they wake up, the alarm clocks go off, they're respectively hanging a guy out of the window. Then we flash to the night that the virus was stolen.” That unused version was Leitch’s personal favourite of the two – not that he has any issues with the final cut. “It was a little more frenetic,” he argues. “Tonally, I think it set up the movie in a more fun way. But ultimately I think it wasn't as clear, and when you're making a movie for such a wide audience, you sometimes have to step back and go, I want to make this as accessible to people as possible. I liked both openings. The cold open is great – it sets up the stakes, and then we meet our guys and you sort of delay the anticipation. They both have their merits."
2) His director’s cut could end up on the Blu-ray
While Leitch is happy with the opening of the finished film, his original edit could still end up on the home release. “I think we're going to try and get that additional scene on the Blu-ray,” he says. “It's a fun opening. But it's really all the same material, just jumbled.”
3) The split-screen opening was inspired by a song
Leitch re-introduces Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw in a supremely fun split-screen sequence, showing the pair’s equal and opposite daily routine. It all came out of the song that accompanies the sequence on the screen, ‘Better As One’ by The Heavy. “I heard that song in a list of stuff that Universal sent, some songs that hadn't been released yet. I started to think about these guys coming together, and how I can explain them physically, how I can make this visual motif of who these guys are,” he says. “I think it serves some really good character building without any words, just a song and some very distinct visuals that explain that these guys are very different, but they're actually the same.”
4) Ryan Reynolds shot his cameos around various other projects
Hoping to spice up his expository scenes, David Leitch called on his Deadpool 2 buddy Ryan Reynolds to step in as Agent Locke. He shot his two cameos separately, fitting them around his other recent projects. “Ryan was shooting the Michael Bay movie Six Underground in Europe and we were here in London, and I called him and said, 'I have this scene about this virus and I have to explain it, and it's boring and stuffy. Do you want to play the guy that gives him the mission?' And he's like, 'Yes!'” says Leitch. “He flew over on a weekend and we shot that in London.” His later scene was shot a while later, fitting in around the filming of Shawn Levy’s Free Guy. “We were trying to wrap up the virus, we needed a little bit of exposition after we tested it a couple of times. He actually flew from Boston to L.A. on a weekend and we shot it."
5) Agent Locke could be back
Once you’re in the Fast universe, the chances that you’ll be drafted into a future instalment are high. And when you’re already box office gold like Ryan Reynolds, that can’t hurt. While it was a personal favour to his Deadpool 2 director that Reynolds joined Hobbs & Shaw, the filmmaker reckons we could see him return in future Fasts. “Moving forward, I'm sure people would love to see him in this world. I want to see him in this world, make the Locke movie – let's do it!"
6) It got away with a 2-in-1 F-bomb
In a PG-13 (or 12A) film you can get away with one no-frills f-bomb. But Hobbs & Shaw found a slight loophole there, having its two leads swear in sync. “We ended up getting away with two f-bombs, as long as they’re said simultaneously, and it worked out great,” says Leitch – who also confirmed that a string of other swears were cut out, even a silent, mouthed one. “You plant a lot more F-bombs in your movies so you can take a bunch out,” the filmmaker explains. “You submit the first pass with what you'd really want. We had a couple of other F-bombs in there, and we even had Hobbs mouthing one on the descender sequence, and it's in the trailer. In the actual movie we had to spider-web the glass, so you kind of see his mouth say it. That was the last negotiation – they were like, 'You've got to get rid of the mouthing of eff-you'. And we were like, 'Really?'”
7) David Leitch embraced the sci-fi side of things
For the first time in the Fast franchise, this one goes outwardly sci-fi at points thanks to the introduction of Brixton’s augmentations and shadowy organisation Eteon. “It's a bigger metaphor for Man vs Machine, will technology be the end of us?” says Leitch. “I wanted to keep the organisation grey, in the sense that we can build it out in the future, but it is a lot to do with advancing technologies, A.I., classic themes in sci-fi movies.” If you weren’t thinking about the future of humanity while watching the film, Leitch was thinking about it while making it. “I liked that Brixton could ask these philosophical questions – the more machine I am, the more human I become,” he says. “Ultimately, there's something in the human soul that can transcend just pure logic and algorithms, black-and-white ones and zeros. We have the ability to do things that are special and creative, and that a computer hopefully will never be able to do. Otherwise we're going to be consumed. That's the ultimate villain right now.”
8) The Samoan set-piece meant they could dial down gun-play
The final act’s Samoan showdown introduces a fun conceit – ditching guns in favour of traditional tribal weapons. For Leitch, that was partly about keeping things PG-13. “It became more of a Braveheart battle sequence as opposed to a gunfight, that was a conscious choice,” he says. “We wanted to have a subtle message to families like, not every set-piece has to have guns.” Beyond that, it also offered creative challenges about how to get away from firearms. “The gun is always the throwback. I’m guilty of it – I mean, I did Deadpool, Atomic Blonde and John Wick, we created gun-fu,” he laughs. “But it was fun to cleanse the palette and take guns away – how do we make a third act set-piece sing?”
9) The final fight features slow-mo acting
As Hobbs and Shaw finally set about defeating Brixton and come to the revelation that two punches are better than one, the dramatic rain-stricken brawl is depicted with lashings of slow-motion. Part of that was an in-camera effect. But partly, it involved Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Idris Elba doing their best slow-mo punch-acting. “It became logistically difficult because you've got to punch the guy in the face, because of the way I was shooting it,” Leitch explains. “So then we decided, OK well we'll shoot it at 45 frames (per second), but we'll do a post-effect. They're actually acting in slow-motion and hitting each other. They thought it was so fun, everyone was geeking out. And then all that post-effect water, Dan Glass my visual effects co-ordinator, really helped me with that. Framestore did that, it was really beautiful stuff."
10) There was too much going on to bring in Owen Shaw
Considering how the rest of the Shaw clan – including Helen Mirren’s matriarch Maggie, and Vanessa Kirby’s newly-introduced sister Hattie – gets involved, it’s an interesting omission that the original Fast Shaw, Luke Evans' Owen, didn’t get a look in. As Leitch points out, there was already a lot going on in the film to factor in yet more siblings. “There were so many characters,” he says. “How do we focus on setting up the worlds of Shaw and Hobbs and focus on those characters? I had a lot of story to tell, regardless – everyone's estranged from their family, everyone's trying to reconnect. I had the backstory between Brixton and Shaw. There's a lot to wrap up. I think it was saving Luke for additional stuff, in I don't know, a Shaw standalone movie or whatever.”
11) Brixton is still on the table – and could be back
While Idris Elba’s powered-up baddie Brixton is defeated at the end of the film, he notably isn’t killed off. Not only that, but his downfall comes at the hands of Eteon’s mysterious Director rather than the titular duo. Both were “intentional choices”, says Leitch. “The Director's the ultimate villain, and The Director takes him out,” he says. “Our heroes say, we'll let you live to fight another day.” As relentless as he is in hunting down Hobbs and Shaw, Leitch wanted viewers to feel a connection to Brixton should he return in future instalments. "We made him a conflicted villain so the audience could access him and be empathetic to him at the end,” he says. “You want to make him formidable, you want to make him diabolical, and you want to make sure that he deserves his death. But you also want to empathise with him, you want to make him charismatic and likeable. We were trying to mould all of those things into him – as he falls off that cliff you're like, 'Oh man, I kind of liked that guy'. Because, maybe we bring him back."
12) Leitch knows who The Director is – but it could change
We ultimately never see who’s behind the orange vocaliser that represents Hobbs & Shaw’s unseen big bad, but Leitch knows who it is. Not that that means it couldn’t end up being someone else when it’s eventually unveiled. “I know who it is,” he confirms, teasing that it might not even be human. “We've been keeping it under wraps, and I think part of it is because maybe we want to change who that is. But in my mind, could it be a person? Yes. Could it be A.I.? Yes. It could be a lot of things.” Rumour has it that it could have been Keanu Reeves – now that would be a tantalising addition to the Fast universe.
13) The Fast & Furious future is unwritten
The Fast franchise is as somewhat of a crossroads – with Hobbs and Shaw on their team-up spin-off, and Fast 9 being made with the rest of the gang. Whether more spin-offs and team-ups are in the running is yet to be decided. "Right now, the potential for the world is whatever the studio would like to do with it,” says Leitch. “Hobbs, Shaw, apart, back together, you've got Brixton who could have his own movie if he survives, who knows?"
Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw is out now in UK cinemas. Listen to the Empire Podcast Spoiler Special episode here.