Actor Vin Diesel admitted he made a mistake turning down the second film in the Fast & Furious franchise because he didn’t like the script. “I realised later the audience didn’t care about what I thought about the script. They wanted Dom Toretto,” Diesel said of his character, the leader of a team of street racers.
It may seem like Diesel and his diverse crew drive Universal Pictures’ longest-running and most lucrative franchise, now in its seventh film, but the action star chalks up its longevity to “the audience claiming it as its own.”
As Furious 7 opened on Friday, its weekend haul could hit $122 million in the United States and Canadian ticket sales, predicted Phil Contrino, chief analyst at boxoffice.com. That would set three box-office records: biggest debut for the franchise, for the month of April, and any movie so far in 2015. The first six movies earned $2.4 billion combined.
The cast of the family-friendly PG-13 franchise stoked interest on social media, posting photos from the set and taking fan feedback, Contrino said. The movie’s Facebook page has 54 million ‘likes’, higher than any other active film franchise. “It just listens to its fans and incorporates what they say into the movies,” said Contrino. “In that sense, it is a very smart franchise.”
At a time when Hollywood is under fire for lack of diversity, the franchise boasts one of the most diverse casts of any production, with blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians and women all breaking stereotypes. “It is such a multicultural cast that I think our fans and audience globally see themselves in us,” said Jordana Brewster, who has played Dom’s sister Mia since the first film.
There is also the thread of family and brotherhood among street racers, who fight evil in far corners of the world. “Not just in the movies, but off camera, we are a real family and I think… the whole world knows it to be true,” said Tyrese Gibson, who plays Roman. Fans may love the over-the-top, car-heavy action, but Furious 7 director James Wan said, “It is the characters you keep coming back for.”