No Prep, No Second-Guessing: ‘Fast X’ Director Louis Leterrier Jumped Straight Into the Fast Lane

When “The Fast and the Furious” regular Justin Lin stepped out of the director’s chair on “Fast X” just days into production, action veteran Louis Leterrier (“The Transporter,” “Clash of the Titans”) was given the keys to one of Hollywood’s biggest and most beloved franchises. On the one hand, it was a call he had been waiting for, as he had been a fan of the series ever since he and Jason Statham saw the original “Fast and the Furious” while shooting “The Transporter.” On the other, he was stepping into the most massive production of his career with no prep time to oversee another director’s crew. “Normally, being a film director is like being a conductor in charge of a 100-piece orchestra,” Leterrier told IndieWire’s Filmmaker Toolkit podcast. “This was like doing it with Metallica next to me playing at the same time, and Daft Punk playing nearby, and everybody had to play together and make it seem organic.”

For Leterrier, the concern was delivering the satisfactions audiences expect from the franchise without leaving his own voice behind. “I didn’t want to break the stuff that was working,” he said. “I just wanted to take the opportunities I saw to enhance a couple of things here and there and put a new spin on them, while also bringing my own original ideas and everything the actors gave me.” Luckily, Leterrier found that Lin’s crew was more than open to trying new things. “I walked into the Rolls Royce of film crews,” he said, adding that he knew the cooperation of this crew would be essential toward realizing his vision for “Fast X.” “I’m not a sculptor or a painter, I’m a director. So I surround myself with a crew and a cast and a post-production team and a studio. And if all of us are making the same movie, it’s a smooth process.”

“Fast X”©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

Although Leterrier initially feared that a new crew and limited prep would be a challenge, he realized that there were unexpected advantages. Given the speed with which he had to work, “I was not second-guessing my instincts,” he said. It helped that Leterrier felt he had the complete trust of not only the cast and crew but the studio. “The studio gave me complete freedom. I never felt that ever in my career. When you do these giant movies, there’s always somebody breathing down your neck — ‘It’s too expensive, you’re not fast enough, are you sure about this shot?’ This time there was none of that.” According to Leterrier, the trick to gaining collaborators’ trust is simple: “You gain people’s trust by listening to them. When people feel really heard, and what you say back to them is not just a monologue about what you think, a relationship is forged.”

Leterrier had to quickly forge that kind of relationship with every member of the film’s massive cast, from series regulars like Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez to newcomers Brie Larson and Jason Momoa. Even with Statham, who saw the original “Fast” with Leterrier over 20 years ago, a new kind of partnership had to evolve. “Jason Statham in ‘The Transporter’ is different from Jason Statham in ‘Fast X,’” Letterier said. “So even when I know the actors, this is different. You have different conversations with people on different movies, and you can’t just come in with your own thing and say, ‘OK, now it’s me and off we go.’ You have to ask, ‘What was your experience [on the other movies]? What do you want from this one?’ And I had to do all that with no prep or rehearsal.”

Ultimately, Leterrier found that everyone was game and enthusiastic, and hopes that the pleasure everyone took in their jobs on set is evident on screen. “We all pitched in and had a blast, and I think you can see when everyone making a movie had a blast shooting it,” he said. “It’s big in scope, but the emotions are real, and I’m so, so proud and so happy.”

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