But finding a director isn’t the only problem, sources close to the production say that behind-the-scenes from Furious 7 seems to be another contributing factor.
With a 2017 release date already locked, Universal needs to get moving shortly on the next entry in the Fast & Furious movie saga. The pressure of making Furious 7 was enormous, especially after the film had to undergo major changes following Paul Walker’s death in 2013. As a producer, he is said to have questioned even smalles details on elaborate action sequences, often holding up the complex production.
One scenario they reportedly don’t want to see play out is Vin Diesel, who apparently has big sway over the franchise – including consultation on the filmmakers who get hired – deciding to do it himself. So even though it would be awesome for Universal to hire someone like Lee Daniels – an emerging cult-of-personality icon in his own right, with hits on screens small and large – it seems more likely that the studio will opt for a proven professional.
The studio was fine with Wan’s decision, and had hoped to bring back Justin Lin, director of the films in the series from The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift to Fast & Furious 6, for Furious 8 in his stead. He is also known to summon directors late at night just to discuss about his character’s story and dialogue.
No franchise is more important to Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) than Fast & Furious, the car-racing series whose 7th installment grossed $1.5-B worldwide in 2015. When Lin chose Star Trek Beyond over another Fast and Furious, this forced the studio to make a “life-altering money” kind of offer to Wan to return for at least one more installment.
There have been rumors of on-set issues between Diesel and Wan, both of them denied any such thing with a rep for Diesel saying it was nonsense, while Wan flat-out denied there was any friction between the two. In a statement to THR, Universal said “the studio and filmmakers loved working with James on Furious 7, but he was never in the mix for an eighth film due to a scheduling conflict with The Conjuring 2″.
However, the studio is also looking at potential newcomers, all with Diesel being consulted on the director choices. Producer Neal Moritz, who has been with the franchise since its earliest days, actually told us back in July that they were consciously waiting to hire the next director until they had a better-developed screenplay, and a fuller idea for the direction of Fast 8. THR says some at Universal fear that Diesel will want to direct an installment of the series at some point, while another source says that prospect doesn’t interest Diesel.