Moritz says, “Because of the incredible response to The Fast and the Furious, we knew we had struck a chord with young audiences. I believe we had tapped into a culture—the very urban world of street racing. It really resonated with our fans, who continued to support the film when it hit the streets on DVD and video—I mean, it really just exploded again, allowing even more people a chance to take the ride. We knew they were ready for another film, but only if we delivered one with the same authenticity and edge as the first. Well, we’ve done just that.”
And as if Moritz and the team behind those fast and furious projects needed any more evidence that the youth culture was hungry for more, studies conducted by Teen Research Unlimited or TRU (a marketing research firm specializing exclusively in teenagers) confirmed the phenomenon: in both TRU’s Fall 2002 and Spring 2003 study results, The Fast and the Furious was ranked as teens’ all-time favorite movie.
For Oscar®-nominated director John Singleton, watching the original film gave him an eerie sense of déjà vu. Singleton explains, “When I saw The Fast and the Furious, I was like, ‘Damn, why didn’t I think of that?’ Growing up in South Central L.A., we had street races all the time.
We sort of had car shows along Crenshaw Boulevard, people lining up their cars with the snazzy wheel rims and hydraulics. And late at night, they’d race between Crenshaw and Florence, and into Inglewood and around Centinela Park. I referenced it in Boyz N the Hood.”
The director sides with Moritz on the fact that the world of street racing is one that most young audiences either want to see or be a part of. He feels that speed is endemic to the urban lifestyle and, as such, perfect subject matter for seat-of-your-pants moviegoing. He happily signed on to helm 2 Fast 2 Furious.
As production got underway, the filmmakers were again reminded that they were capturing a popular way of life that is continuing to burgeon—which began clearly evident during a particular weekend during pre-production.
Singleton, Moritz and the screenwriters were in total agreement that the original’s success was due mostly to its freshness…in everything from the visuals of it to the wheels driving in it. So, they turned to custom race enthusiasts themselves to get a look at what was scoring with drivers and turning heads with on-lookers.
Singleton reflects, “We put a casting call out on the West Coast for owners to submit their cars for use in the film. We made a couple of contacts and put out a notice on the Internet for drivers to convene in a parking lot in Santa Monica. There was only about a 36-hour notice, so we expected about 100 cars or so.
On the day of the call, there were traffic jams in the area because drivers with more than 700 cars showed up, some from as far away as Seattle. There is definitely a car culture out there, and by doing this, we were able to pick up on what is contemporary now and project what’s coming—and what’s coming is what’s in the film. I want people to come to this film and then emulate the cars onscreen.”
Much like building their four-wheeled stars, the filmmakers gave a great deal of attention to creating the onscreen characters who drive the vehicles and are they themselves driven by them. The locations and situations depicted in the original Los Angeles-set film had been covered.
It was decided that the conflicted character of the disgraced (now fugitive) cop O’Connor (as played by Paul Walker) would be the through line to the next high-octane story; his driving prowess would provide him with the opportunity to restore his name. And this would take him to another city, where the nighttime streets come alive with the roaring of engines—the humid, gritty streets of Miami.
Another lure to filmmakers, particularly Singleton, was that there were no color limitations, within the cars or the cast. The setting of Miami is itself a character of mixed heritage, resulting in everything from pastel-tinged architecture, stunning beach vistas and pricey real estate to urban sprawl, multi-generational families and varied, vibrant neighborhoods populated literally by citizens from around the globe—all exciting opportunities to add to the excitement in the film.
Familiar landmarks such as the Seven-Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys, Homestead Air Force Base with its U.S. Customs headquarters, as well as the former Coral Gables mansion of actor Sylvester Stallone are among the many locations used by the production.
“Because of the sleeper success of The Fast and the Furious, we needed to repeat the excitement created by the first film, but also turn it up a few notches,” observes producer Moritz. “By having an accomplished director such as John Singleton shoot the next film, he has brought a gritty realism to the story. Combine that with exciting stunts and the attractive, talented cast, and the film delivers on many levels.”
Paul Walker’s return as Brian O’Connor is not just another turn in a familiar role. Singleton asked even more of the tough, blond Californian—which included Walker continuing and increasing his high-speed driving training in order to include him in even more racing scenes. (This allowed Singleton to bring the camera along for more of the ride, staying with O’Connor inside the vehicles he controls—more on that below.)
Himself a car enthusiast (and a self-confessed pedal-to-the-metal driver), Walker comments, “I was glad to come back because I knew that the fans would want to see it. Rarely do you have the luxury of going into a movie that you know a lot of people want to see. This film is going to be bigger and better, especially the driving sequences. We are just taking it one step further. This time around, we went for more exotic cars. We have a Nissan Skyline R-34, which isn’t even available in the States, and a Mitsubishi Evolution 7, just out this year. That is what makes it fun for the car enthusiasts.”
About working with John Singleton, Walker says, “We had a blast together. His enthusiasm really kept me going. John’s a guy who really loves movies, so when he sets up a shot, everything is an analogy, he’s not telling you how to do it. He is genuinely excited.”
The young star heaps equal high praise on his onscreen partner, the singer/actor Tyrese Gibson, stepping into the role of fast-talking ex-con Roman Pearse. Walker elaborates, “Tyrese said to me, ‘Hey, man, I’m a singer, not an actor!’ And I told him he’s kidding himself. He’s a natural. What’s great is that he brings an amazing amount of credibility, street credibility—you hear actors talking about coming from tough neighborhoods, that sort of thing. Tyrese is the real deal, and he feels it’s his duty to bring that history and honesty to the screen. He’s also a dynamic, funny man.”
When asked about stepping into a role in a film with such high expectations, Tyrese explains that he did not feel any pressure. “When you are given the opportunity such as this, you just need to bring yourself to the film. After seeing my performance in Baby Boy, Universal approached me about the role. And like I was thrilled to take it,” he adds.
Gibson found the car culture depicted in the screenplay different from the one he was familiar with growing up in Los Angeles. He comments, “The story depicts a lot more detail than I ever knew about. It’s a brand new experience for me. In the film, they race for pink slips. We kind of do it another way…”
About the partnership between O’Connor and Pearse, Gibson jokes, “I think Paul and I have a lot of chemistry because, basically, I am from the ‘hood and he is this white boy from Huntington Beach.”
Cast as O’Connor’s entrée into Verone’s world is Eva Mendes, portraying undercover agent Monica Fuentes…who may herself have wavering loyalties.
But it was Mendes’ loyalty to filmmaker Singleton that led her to the role. She says, “What really attracted me to the role was John Singleton, I’ve always liked his work—where he’s come from and what he says about it in his films.”
The talented newcomer also had other motives behind taking on the role. Mendes offers, “I have a lead foot. My first car was a ‘66 Mustang, and I love fast, muscle cars. And I have it out for [producer] Neal Moritz, because my character doesn’t even get to drive!”
Actor Cole Hauser, who plays the film’s heavy, Carter Verone, previously worked with director Singleton on his film Higher Learning. Hauser relishes getting to step into the expensive shoes of Verone who, he says, “has a bunch of different colors—he’s charming, he’s the kind of guy that everyone’s after, plus he’s got his hands in everything in Miami…legitimate businesses like clubs and real estate, but also drugs and money laundering.”
Playing villains is something the actor admits he enjoys, explaining, “There are no walls. If you play a hero, you have to act a certain way, but being a bad guy, it’s up to your imagination—you can do as you please. And working with John [Singleton] is a gift. He keeps instilling confidence in you, which allows you go further out on a limb and deliver the goods.”
“I also have to give all props due to my man, John Singleton,” adds accomplished recording artist Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, cast in the role of racing ringleader/promoter Tej (the first time the entertainer will have portrayed anyone other than himself onscreen).
“He personally asked me to try out for the part. He’d seen my videos, and said he thought I’d be perfect. I nailed it, I mean, I was totally up for the challenge.”
Ludacris’ natural personality and presence dovetailed perfectly with a character the performer himself dubs, “the P.T. Barnum in this insane, crazy automobile circus that goes down in this movie.”
Rounding out the large cast of characters also participating in the “automobile circus” are such familiar faces James Remar (as Federal Agent Markham) along with relative newcomers, such as popular model Devon Aoki (cast as Suki, the lone female driver in the male-dominated Miami street racing scene depicted) and rapper Jin (as Jimmy).
Prior to filming 2 Fast 2 Furious, Aoki had never driven anything other than a golf cart. The exotic beauty earned her driver’s license and then gamely undertook a “crash” course in professional racing to prepare her for the role where she fearlessly challenges the male drivers on the streets of Miami in her pink Honda.
“Don’t let the paint job fool you,” Aoki admonishes. “It may be pink, but it’s a very powerful car. It can really whip around.”
The character of Jimmy works as the “go-to” guy for garage owner Tej, and the young star found similarities between his onscreen personae and himself. Of his character, Jin says, “He’s young, energetic and likes to have fun—his life revolves around the races and being Tej’s right hand man. Working with someone like Ludacris, I can totally relate.”
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