“Director Louis Leterrier Shares the Strategy Behind Bringing Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot Back to the ‘Fast X’ Franchise”

Leterrier explains how he convinced the two franchise favorites to make their returns.

Louis Letterier reveals how he pulled off three of the biggest cameos in Fast X. (Photos Courtesy Everett Collection and Getty Images)

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Fast X.

Just when they thought they were out, Louis Leterrier pulled them back in. Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot had both put the Fast and Furious franchise in the rearview, but the final moments of Fast X reveal that both actors will be back in the driver’s seat when the eleventh installment of Vin Diesel’s immortal franchise speeds into theaters sometime within the next two or three years.

It’s been a minute since either one has been behind the franchise wheel: Gadot’s alter ego, Gisele, was killed off in 2013’s Fast & Furious 6, while Johnson’s Luke Hobbs struck out on his own after 2017’s The Fate of the Furious, headlining the 2019 spinoff, Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw.

Gadot and Johnson’s return to the Fast series follows the looming end of their other cinematic universe. Until recently, they played Wonder Woman and Black Adam, respectively, in the DC Extended Universe that was born out of Zack Snyder’s 2013 Superman reboot, Man of Steel. But those characters likely won’t have a place in the rebooted version of the DC Universe that James Gunn and Peter Safran are launching with 2025’s Superman: Legacy, which kicks off an all-new “Gods and Monsters” storyline that will span movies and television shows.

Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment ahead of the release of Fast X, Leterrier reveals that he personally reached out to both Johnson and Gadot after completing production on the film to invite them back into the Fast fold. He also welcomed a new member to the clan: the late Paul Walker’s daughter, Meadow, makes the first of what may be more in-universe appearances.

“I started looking at the end of this franchise, and asked Vin and the producers where they wanted it to end,” says Leterrier, who stepped into the director’s chair suddenly vacated by Justin Lin just as production had started. “There was no looking at the future that didn’t involve the most important characters of the franchise.”

In reverse chronological order, Leterrier walks us through how Fast X‘s three big cameos came to be, and teases their implications for what’s just around the corner in the next installment.

Justice for Hobbs

Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson met for the first time in 'Fast Five,' the fifth entry in the 'Fast and the Furious' franchise (Photo: Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Vin Diesel and Johnson met for the first time in Fast Five. (Photo: Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection)

2011’s Fast Five didn’t just reinvigorate the Fast and Furious franchise — it also paved the way for how the series is set to conclude. Fast X introduces Dom Toretto’s deadliest enemy yet: Jason Momoa’s Dante Reyes, the vengeful son of Five baddie, Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). After watching his own family get torn apart, Dante dedicated himself to destroying Dom’s familia and by the end of the film, his plan certainly seems to have worked.

Not only does Dom’s recently-returned brother, Jakob (John Cena), appear to be history (again), but the trio of Roman, Tej and Ramsey (Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Nathalie Emmanuel) are passengers aboard a plane that’s headed directly for a crash landing. Meanwhile, Dom and his son, Brian, (Leo Abelo Perry) are about to be swept away by the waters unleashed by an exploding dam — the final movement in Dante’s orchestra of revenge.

But Dante also knows Dom isn’t ultimately the one who pulled the trigger and ended his dad’s life. That would be DSS super-agent Luke Hobbs, who he targets in a post-credits sequence. After Hobbs invades one of the criminal’s hideouts, he finds a special video message that Dante left behind just for him. And Luke makes it clear that he’s going to be seeking a confrontation with the “sumbitch” that’s taunting him.

Johnson’s return to the mainline Fast series is extra-surprising because he’s been so adamant about insisting that he’s moved on. He and Diesel have been in a high-profile feud since production on The Fate of the Furious wrapped in 2016, and the former WWE star took to Instagram to call one of his co-stars — widely assumed to be Diesel — a “candy ass.” Since then, Johnson has rejected peace offerings to return for more Fast sequels, preferring to launch the his own spinoff franchise that paired him with Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw. (Leterrier previously directed Statham in two other vehicular-based action movies, The Transporter and Transporter 2.)

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham trade insults and punches in 'Hobbs & Shaw' (Photo: Frank Masi / © Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection)
Johnson and Statham trade insults and punches in Hobbs & Shaw. (Photo: Frank Masi / © Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection)

But Leterrier says he made it his mission to mend those broken fences with Johnson. “We were talking with Dwayne and his team about ideas for different movies,” the director says. “I’d never met him before, but we sort of wink at each other from a distance. And when I felt that I had a really strong grip on the wheel of the film, I reached out to him and said: ‘There’s no offer, but I want to show you the movie — what we’ve done with the franchise and where I think you’d fit in.’ I guess he liked it, because he’s back, baby!”

Of course, Hobbs hasn’t exactly been idle since his last Fast appearance; Hobbs & Shaw dispatched him on a globetrotting pursuit of Idris Elba’s Brixton Lore — a super-villain capable of superheroic feats courtesy of cybernetic enhancements. Asked whether any of the events of that adventure will spill over into the next Fast 11, Leterrier suggests that Hobbs & Shaw may remain a kind of “Elseworlds” outing.

“In the giant Fast-verse, Hobbs & Shaw is its own path,” he says. “It’s really fun, and those super-suits are great. But as you can see in Fast X, we’re back to a more grounded, less sci-fi centric stuff, because that’s my taste. But it’s a great big world, and it would be a shame not to make it cohesive, so we’ll see.”

Gone Gal no more

Gisele (Gadot) and Han (Sung Kang) in Fast Five. (Photo: Jaimie Trueblood/Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Gisele (Gadot) and Han (Sung Kang) in Fast Five. (Photo: Jaimie Trueblood/Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

At least one of Dom’s family members clearly makes it out of Fast X alive… mainly because she already “died” once before. Captured by the CIA early on in the movie, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) manages to free herself with the aid of frenemy Cipher (Charlize Theron) and new Agency member, Tess (Brie Larson), who also happens to be the daughter of Kurt Russell’s missing Mr. Nobody. Breaking out of their prison, Letty and Cipher discover that they’re in Antarctica and make it back to the mainland courtesy of a submarine piloted by Gadot’s Gisele Yashar — former Mossad agent and eternal flame of Han (Sung Kang).

Gadot confirmed her decade-in-the-making return on Instagram over the weekend, writing that she was “overwhelmed with excitement” about resurrecting her character, who fell to her apparent death at the end of the sixth Fast movie in 2013. But Leterrier reminds us that looks can always be deceiving.

“They shot enough [footage] and did enough different versions of Fast & Furious 6 that we can reinterpret [what happened],” the director explains, noting that they pursued a similar path by revising portions of Fast Five to make that movie fit in with the continuity retroactively established in Fast X. “You can really reinterpret these scenes based on preexisting footage. That’s a testament to Justin’s vision in terms of how you can manipulate a little bit of story in order to fit a greater narrative.”

As with Johnson, Leterrier waited to contact Gadot until he had a completed cut of Fast X to show her. “It wasn’t a done deal, but I called Gal and asked, ‘Would you like to watch the movie? And then we have a plan we want to talk to you about for the next one.’ She watched it and thought it was exactly where she hoped Fast would be heading as it approached the end. She told me, ‘Let’s go to work!'”

Of course, bringing back Gisele does provide further ammunition to those critics who complain about the extreme elasticity of death in the Fast and Furious universe. But for Leterrier, that’s another example of the “beauty” of the franchise. “As a fan and also the director of these movies, it’s like reinventing the wheel — pun intended,” he says. “When I came onto this movie, I said, ‘Gisele’s story is not over.’ I knew my way into her return.”

Han, of course, will be thrilled that Gisele has returned to the land of the living — especially since it means he’ll be able to get off the dating app that he signs up for in Fast X. And while Leterrier obviously declines to explain exactly how the lovers will reunite, he does say that audiences can expect to learn what exactly Gadot has been up to during the ten-year gap between her Fast exit and return. “There are so many characters and you always wonder what happens to them between movies. Being able to explore that is the fun of it.”

A star is born

ROME ITALY - MAY 12,2023: US actress Meadow Walker and US actor Vin Diesel arrive for the Premiere of the film
Meadow Walker with her godfather, Diesel, at the Fast X premiere in Rome. (Photo: Marco Ravagli/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Paul Walker died in a tragic 2013 car accident during the production of Furious 7, but his alter ego, Brian O’Conner, is still alive in the Fast universe. In fact, some fans expected Brian to make an appearance in Fast X via the magic of special effects, the same way that he was able to be part of the seventh film. That didn’t happen, but there’s still a Walker in the new movie: the late actor’s daughter, Meadow — who is also Diesel’s goddaughter — has a small role as a flight attendant who helps Dom’s son and his Uncle Jakob escape a plane swarming with federal agents.

Leterrier says that Walker’s daughter had to be persuaded to appear on-camera for the first time. “She was not an actress, and so she came in very much as a cameo,” he recalls. “The morning of the shoot, she was like, ‘I just do one shot, and I’m out.'”

But that one shot soon became an entire scene as the younger Walker discovered she enjoyed the family business. “I saw the birth of an actress that day,” Leterrier says. “She was just going to drop a mini bottle of vodka down on Jakob’s plane tray and then walk away. But Meadow ended up improvising a line of dialogue and adding a few other things. She really became a character and the rapport she had with John Cena was perfect.”

In fact, the director fully expects that flight attendant to aid the Toretto family again in Fast 11. “At the end of that day, she came over and said, ‘That was fun. When can I come back?'” Leterrier reveals, laughing. “And I just said, ‘See you very soon.’ We were all like, ‘Welcome to the family.'”

Fast X is playing in theaters now.


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