“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” is a strange outlier in the blockbuster action franchise that’s essentially about fast cars, crazy stunts and big explosions. The 2006 film had no real connections to the previous two installments of the Universal series. In fact, the plot takes the viewer far away from everything that defined “The Fast and the Furious” and its sequel, “2 Fast 2 Furious”: the charmingly flawed characters, the grungy urban settings and the beefy muscle cars. But that wasn’t always the case. At one point, “Tokyo Drift” was set to star Vin Diesel, and it was directly tied to the previous two films.
Directed by Justin Lin, who went on to become a franchise mainstay, “Tokyo Drift” stars Lucas Black as Sean Boswell, a high school student who’s sent to live with his father in Japan after he’s arrested for illegal street racing. Boswell quickly makes friends with Han Lue (Sung Kang) and, before long, the two run afoul of the yakuza. Of course, the rivalry is solved with a hefty dose of street racing and some mafia violence that results in the death of a major character. The film was the first in the franchise to be written by Chris Morgan (who went on to write all of the subsequent movies). Originally, Morgan had big ideas for the third film in the series, but, of course, so did others.
“There was an open writing call for the third film,” Morgan recalled to Uproxx. “I think originally I came in and pitched. Essentially it was ‘Tokyo Drift,’ but it was with Vin, and his character kind of had to go out and learn drifting. And there was a murder he had to solve.”
Morgan’s Tokyo noir murder mystery was turned down. Diesel had already departed the franchise after the first film, opting instead to take on the starring role in “xXx.” As a result, Morgan was under a mandate to shift the story to a high school setting without any of the previous films’ stars. While “Tokyo Drift” didn’t do gangbusters at the box office (it earned just $159 million worldwide on a budget of $85 million), a cameo by Diesel in the film’s closing moments excited the fan base enough to propel the series onward — all the way up to eighth movie, “The Fate of the Furious,” which opens this week.
Arriving Friday nationwide, “The Fate of the Furious” is a production of Original Film directed by F. Gary Gray and starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren.