Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw blasts open a new door in the Fast universe

After eight films that have amassed more than $5 billion worldwide, The Fast & Furious franchise now features its first stand-alone vehicle as Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham reprise their roles as Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

Directed by David Leitch (Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde) from a story by longtime Fast & Furious narrative architect Chris Morgan and a screenplay by Morgan and Drew Pearce (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Iron Man 3), Hobbs & Shaw blasts open a new door in the Fast universe as it hurtles action across the globe, from Los Angeles to London and from the toxic wasteland of Chernobyl to the lush beauty of Samoa.

Ever since hulking lawman Hobbs (Johnson), a loyal agent of America’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), and lawless outcast Shaw (Statham), a former British military elite operative, first faced off in 2015’s Furious 7, the duo has swapped smack talk and body blows as they’ve tried to take each other down. But when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton Lorr (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever—and bests Hattie (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby), a brilliant and fearless rogue MI6 agent who just happens to be Shaw’s sister—these two sworn enemies will have to partner up to bring down the only guy who might be badder than themselves.

The Road to Hobbs & Shaw

Since its inception in 2001, The Fast and the Furious franchise has become a global juggernaut that expands its audience and builds box-office momentum with each new chapter, thrilling and entertaining fans with spectacular, groundbreaking action and a family of characters who delight and resonate with people in every culture and language.

As the first expansion of the franchise, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw amps up the sharp-edged humor and high-stakes action like never before and takes fans down a new road as franchise favorites Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw forge an unlikely partnership that provides fresh insight into their backstories.

Hobbs & Shaw writer/producer Chris Morgan, the franchise’s longtime narrative architect, began his tenure with the series on director Justin Lin’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, the third installment, which reinvigorated the franchise. Morgan transformed the underground street-racing cowboys into reluctant fugitives pulling off high-stakes heists on the international stage, and then upped the ante with next-level exploits and deadly new adversaries.

Chris Morgan

With six Fast & Furious films under his belt, Chris Morgan continues to layer unexpected, multi-picture story arcs into these films with audacious, jaw-dropping moments that leave audiences breathless.

The Fast films are also packed with so many worthwhile and charismatic characters that it inspired the idea to expand the Fast universe with a stand-alone film centered on two audience favorites: Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw. That idea was an evolution, however. Initially, before Statham’s Deckard Shaw first appeared in an uncredited role in 2013’s Fast & Furious 6, the plan was to explore a spin-off Hobbs film.

Dwayne Johnson’s brash, trash-talking Hobbs, who debuted in 2011’s Fast Five as the relentless DSS agent assigned to capture Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster), was a dynamic adversary. Hobbs, of course, would eventually become an unexpected ally to the team over his four-movie arc, but very little was revealed about his personal history. The revelation in Furious 7 that Hobbs had a young daughter, Samantha, was the first real insight into his backstory.

Johnson, who named his bulldog puppy after his character, always knew that Hobbs was a rich vein waiting to be mined. “From the beginning in Fast Five, the character of Luke Hobbs has resonated with film audiences, and I’ve always been happy with his trajectory over the past four films,” Johnson says. “Creatively though, I felt we would have to eventually spin him off to delve into his life and his family background to see what makes him tick, what makes him succeed and how he handles the failures. To do that is always the challenge when you have a such a big cast, like Fast and Furious has, and I really did want to give this character his due.”

Morgan had always enjoyed building up the larger-than-life lawman, and had worked with Johnson and Hiram Garcia, president of Johnson’s Seven Bucks Productions, on the Fast films in which Hobbs was featured, to flesh out his character development. More often than not, the trio would end up laughing their way through those sessions as they came up with more signature Hobbs phrases and verbal smackdowns. That process segued seamlessly into informal brainstorming for a Hobbs-centered stand-alone film.

“Throughout the Fast series, my collaboration with each of these great directors and the incredible cast of actors has been the most fun aspect about all the films,” Morgan says. “On [the potential Hobbs spin-off film], Dwayne, Hiram and I just jumped in and started bouncing around the types of things Hobbs would do and wouldn’t do. We ended up laughing and having so much fun, and I think that comes across on the screen. That’s why this character is so fun to watch, because there’s joy behind everything that we make them do.”

Johnson and Garcia knew how they wanted to present Hobbs’ personal history on the big screen, so they began to confer with Morgan about viable story points.

Meanwhile, fans had gotten their first taste of the power of the dynamic between  Hobbs and Statham’s Shaw with their epic showdown in 2015’s Furious 7, which had landed Hobbs in the hospital. Hobbs then got the last word, though, when he escorted the disgraced spy Shaw to a super-max prison at the film’s end.

The plot of the next installment, 2017’s The Fate of the Furious, was driven by the storyline of a family fractured by an unflinching villain’s sinister machinations, but the hilariously caustic jailhouse back-and-forth between Hobbs and Shaw set the stage for another mind-blowing showdown as Statham’s Shaw tried to escape and Hobbs tried to stop him.

The rivalry and tension between the two characters also gave Morgan the opportunity to push the comedy, which had always been present in his Fast films, to the forefront. Johnson immediately saw the potential for a riotous action comedy. “The Fast franchise is more of an action-drama,” he says. “It’s big; it’s fun; it’s exciting. With Hobbs & Shaw, we’re still in the Fast world, but the premise allows us to pivot creatively into the action-comedy realm, which works on every level.”

Statham also saw an opportunity to dive deeper into Shaw’s history and agreed to not only star in Hobbs & Shaw, but to come aboard as a producer as well. Shaw is still the same man, but the film shifts our perspective of him. “We finally get to learn a lot more about Shaw,” Statham says. “I’ve always regarded him as a guy who has very strong principles. His morals are firm and respectable, and he takes care of the family no matter what. Shaw is the guy who goes to any lengths to do the right thing for his sister and tries to heal the family rift. His ‘bad guy’ label is misplaced.”

The Ties that Bind Hobbs and Shaw

With Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham on board as stars and producers, the focus turned to developing the screenplay. The theme of family has always been one of the unifying threads that weaves through the Fast universe. That theme takes center stage in Hobbs & Shaw and shapes the decisions and motivations of both lead characters.

The Fate of the Furious was Chris Morgan’s most recent film from the Fast & Furious franchise to hit the big screen. He was the writer of the film and served as a producer as well. Morgan joined the Fast & Furious creative team as writer of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, the third installment. He has been the architect of the series ever since, writing each of the subsequent installments of the franchise—Universal Pictures’ most successful franchise, grossing over $5.1 billion.  Other credits for Morgan include writer of Wanted, and creator of the FOX television series Gang Related.

Drew Pearce (Screenplay by) is a multi-hyphenate writer, director and producer. He’s best known for co-writing Iron Man 3 , Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and writing and directing Hotel Artemis. He has also contributed to several other movies including Pacific Rim and Godzilla. Pearce also wrote and directed the celebrated Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King, which starred Ben Kingsley. Pearce’s break into movies came in 2010, when Marvel hired him to adapt Runaways. Pearce also penned and will executive produce the original screenplay Secretary’s Day for Sony Pictures Entertainment and The Billion Brick Race for Warner Brothers. Through his production company Point of No Return, Pearce has several projects as both writer and director in the works, including Quartermaster for Netflix and Hudson (working title), a project co-written by Aaron Stewart-Ahn, the writer of Mandy.

Drew Pearce

Luke Hobbs is an exacting man with an unwavering moral code, but he’s also a man who cut himself off from his family more than 20 years ago, for reasons he won’t explain. When his daughter Samantha becomes more curious about her family tree, Hobbs tries to dodge her questions, but the events of the film will ultimately lead him back to his roots in Samoa, where he’ll be forced to face his past and make peace with his four brothers.

Deckard Shaw has his own family issues to deal with. Over the course of four films, the debonair British operative has shifted from foe to outlier, but that transition has often been perilous. Audiences first learned of Shaw’s existence when he appeared, unnamed, in the mind-blowing postscript of Fast & Furious 6, in The Fate of the Furious, audiences caught a deeper glimpse of the man behind the façade of the covert ops assassin.

Finding Director David Leitch

The filmmakers now shifted their attention to securing a director with the vision and the depth and breadth of skills necessary to harness the enormous scale, action, character detail and humor of Hobbs & Shaw.

In David Leitch, the producers knew they found a director with the versatility to do it all. Leitch’s recent hit box-office trifecta of Deadpool 2, Focus Features’ Atomic Blonde and John Wick (co-directed with Chad Stahelski) proved that he could navigate a mix of genres and infuse the film with a fresh new cinematic take on action and character-driven story. It’s a rare combination of qualities for a director, but Leitch himself is a rarity.

David Leitch with Jason Statham

The veteran stuntman—he worked as Brad Pitt’s stunt double on Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Troy and other films—had rapidly expanded his career, first becoming a stunt coordinator (TRON: Legacy), then a second unit director (Jurassic World and Captain America: Civil War), where he parlayed his ability to integrate innovative action sequences into any genre with a keen eye for storytelling. Leitch quickly became known as the go-to guy for filmmakers who needed a strong, adventurous point of view for their action units. That reputation jumpstarted his feature film directorial debut, alongside Stahelski, with the 2014 genre smash John Wick starring Keanu Reeves.

For Leitch, a fan of the Fast franchise, nothing is more enticing than striking out into new territory to create something genuine and unexpected. So, when word hit the street that the Fast spin-off Johnson had been teasing to his millions of followers on social media was, in fact, imminent, the director took notice. The opportunity to collaborate with two of the world’s biggest action stars and put his stamp on a new extension of a global billion-dollar franchise was a chance too great to ignore. Plus, Leitch had worked with Statham on the star’s films The Mechanic and Parker, they had a great rapport, and Leitch already had an idea of how to inject the energy of a classic 1980s buddy comedy into the high-octane Fast universe.

“The chemistry between Dwayne and Jason in the last two films was pretty special and it’s hard to find that,” Leitch says. “To me, they kind of channeled the best moments of films like 48 Hours or Lethal Weapon. So, to have the opportunity to bring my action experience to these two characters, learn more about their backgrounds and build a world around that chemistry was really exciting to me.”

Leitch’s take on the film resonated with Johnson, Statham, Morgan, Hiram Garcia and Universal Pictures’ executives. “David just had this great vision for Hobbs & Shaw that balances out character and story, but he also incorporates action into the heart of the movie and that action drives the characters and drives their stories forward,” Johnson says. “He is absolutely one of the best directors in Hollywood who is at the top of his game. He knows how to tell a kick-ass story in every way. He always finds a way, utilizing the camera, to make sure that the audience has this visceral reaction and thoroughly enjoys the moment. This is exactly what we want; to ensure that the spirit of the Fast films is present but also make sure that we have our own DNA, our own identity and our own voice front and center.”

Statham was equally excited to see one of his favorite stunt brothers rise through the ranks and make his mark and was thrilled that he and Leitch would get to work together again. “There are a lot of moving parts in any big action movie and for me, it’s important to have confidence in the director,” Statham says. “It takes a skilled hand to capture action on film especially with such physical characters like Hobbs and Shaw. Outside of my personal friendship with Dave, I think he’s a genius at what he does. He’s a superb martial artist who knows how to choreograph and direct big action. He’s ‘been there, done that’ and knows how to direct brilliantly, and that’s what I want to see. If someone wants to direct a big action movie like Hobbs & Shaw, bring me the top guy, and David Leitch is that top guy.”

From the get-go, Leitch knew exactly how he wanted to present the mixed-match duo of Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw. He envisioned a very specific tone for the film, but it would retain the core dramatic themes of family and brotherhood intrinsic to the Fast films. He planned to mix that with visceral, practically executed action that diehard fans of the franchise would love. Leitch’s cutting-edge filmmaking style would showcase it all for a new, fresh, altogether different ride—with a seriously funny side.

“Infusing the humor into Hobbs & Shaw isn’t as hard as it seems,” Leitch says. “They have this history of ripping on each other, and it’s this dynamic that makes you want to spend more time with them to see that conflict play out because it is funny. It’s basically taking that idea and spreading it out over two hours.” To keep that comedic tension taut for two hours might seem like a challenge, but he had a plan. “Let’s keep these guys at odds, force them to work together and create that comedic tension throughout the whole piece,” Leitch says. “Because there’s such a comedy through line in the material, it allows us to do these flashes of more heightened comedy coupled with the classic comedy style that we’ve come to expect of this universe.”

The filmmakers were confident in Leitch’s ability to seed the comedic bits in unexpected moments throughout the material. “There’s an elevated level of fun to Hobbs & Shaw and because of that, Dave’s really been able to dig in to the hilariously harsh banter between the guys,” producer Hiram Garcia says. “With an extremely powerful villain like Idris Elba’s Brixton, the audience will definitely feel the heightened stakes for Hobbs and Shaw. That said, it was still important for us to find humor in the right situations. With a director like Dave who has great experience merging multiple tones, we were excited to see that the movie coming together was unlike anything we’ve seen in the Fast universe to date.”