05/21/2013 12:30 pm ET Updated May 21, 2013

Justin Lin, 'Fast & Furious 6' Director, Talks Robert Altman's Influence, Leaving The Franchise


It's hard to ignore when "Fast & Furious 6" director Justin Lin compares his latest installment of the hugely successful franchise to a Robert Altman movie -- especially since Altman wasn't exactly known for scenes featuring tanks haphazardly steamrolling over oncoming traffic.

Ahead is a fairly comprehensive look at the outline of the last four "Fast & Furious" movies from the mind of the films' director, Justin Lin. (Lin did not direct the first two installments.) He transformed a series that didn't even bring back its own original stars (except for a cameo by Vin Diesel) for Lin's first installment, "Tokyo Drift," into the mega-blockbuster it is today.

And "Fast & Furious 6" will be Lin's last installment (well, maybe). He explains why.

With these last couple of installments, and some of the things that I've witnessed in these movies, I've left the theater shaking my head thinking, Well, Justin Lin has done it again.
[Laughs] Thank you.

These are not things I usually think while walking out of movies.
[Laughing] I appreciate that; that's the ultimate compliment. I feel like since I've joined this franchise, I always feel that if we get an opportunity to make another one, it's a privilege ... Usually when you're successful and then you do sequels, they tend to quantify everything and say, It's successful, here, let's do the same thing again. I really felt like if we have other opportunities, we should really help the characters evolve and further explore the themes. And to the studio's credit, they've been totally open, saying, Do what you need to do.

It's interesting that you say that, because I liked the first couple movies and liked the first two that you directed for what they were. But it wasn't until "Fast Five" that I really started liking these. There's been a definite shift in tone, right?
I'll tell you, what's funny is that when I came on the franchise, I was pitching the studio and, ultimately, it went to Vin -- because I felt like it was important to have him join us in "Tokyo Drift." And part of that conversation was to try to hopefully create a mythology and I think that was the ultimate goal. And if we were to keep growing, we were going to have the other characters join up. And, also, to be honest, behind the camera, there was a cultural shift, too.

How so?
Because when I came on -- because I came from an independent, credit card movie where people came on to work on the project because they believe in the script. And you go on to studio movies and you realize it's very different. The currency with studio movies is money. So you're trying to convert that and you're trying to create a culture -- because when I came on, "Fast & Furious" had become a cultural adjective. People almost feel like they can push the buttons and say, It's "Fast & Furious," so we'll do neon lights, short skirts, blah, blah, blah. And to try to change that? It did take a little time.

How did you do that?
We had to get through "4" to get to "5." "Part 3" was to really set up a new sensibility, "4" we kind of had to pull back and make it a little bit more personal and darker. And then in "5," I felt like, you know, it's interesting hearing your reaction because my greatest hope was that we would somehow get to "5" and "6." And when you watch the film, you'll notice it's titled "Furious 6" -- because it was always supposed to be "Tokyo Drift," "Fast & Furious," "Fast Five," and "Furious 6." That was always by design. So for me to be sitting here talking to you eight years later, that means I've gotten to fulfill everything I had pitched. It's emotional! But, yet, at the same time, it's really fulfilling.

When Vin Diesel shows up at the end of "Tokyo Drift," did you know for sure at that point that he would do the fourth movie, "Fast & Furious"?
Well, my thing was to get him into "Tokyo Drift" because I had heard -- I don't know exactly what happened -- I've heard rumors about why he wasn't in the second one and stuff. But I felt like he was the patriarch of the franchise. If I could convince him to come back, it means we're doing something right. I went to his house and showed him the film -- the footage -- and told him what I was trying to build. When he agreed to do it, that meant a lot. That meant that we were going in the right direction. So, it naturally just went into "4." It is funny, a lot of stuff that is in "Fast & Furious 6," we talked about it that one night in 2005 in his house.

So that night at his house, did he tell you, Hey, man, you should put a tank in "Part 6?"
[Laughs] Oh, I'll tell you, the tank wasn't, but I've been working on the plane sequence since 2009.

I started it before "Fast Five." It was my "Nashville." [Laughs] It's my Robert Altman ensemble piece. I knew it was all going to end there.

"Why Fast and Furious is a Robert Altman movie" will be my headline, I must warn you.
If you watch this film, I have 13 characters to take care of -- and that was the challenge. Altman probably influenced this movie more than anything.

Speaking of that plane, is there a self-awareness of, we have to top ourselves? I know you're not doing the next one, but it will have to have aliens.
[Laughs] Well, I like to say that, by nature, I will savor this. But by next week, I already have the writer of one of my projects developing here in London, so, I'm already moving on. I always feel like it can be better; always get better. But I think when you talk about franchise, that could be a little dangerous because you can get over-the-top. By nature of letting the characters evolve, it just felt natural for it to be bigger. I think the tank was the last piece that I put in -- it came from almost a joke of saying, God, it would be great if we could drive the vault from "Fast Five" and it could fire. And you're like, wait, that's a tank! We got a tank and we got a car and we tested it and I thought, wow.

Running over oncoming traffic, why not?
Well, I think that's, again, I get to work with some of the best, most skilled crew in the world. And I always love that moment when I pitch something and I'll see fear in their eyes. When I do that, I know we're doing something good.

You're not doing "Fast & Furious 7" because of scheduling -- because it's coming out next year. Is there any chance we could see you come back for "Fast & Furious 8"?
Well, I think at this point, again, I'm just kind of savoring the fact that it's so rare to be able to pitch something of this scope and actually be able to, eight years later, carry out everything you had hoped for.

That's not a no.
Yeah, to be totally honest with you, it's been emotional. It's been tough. Because it's been eight years and we've become family -- the crew and the cast. A lot of us have had kids and our kids are growing up together. So, for me to say, Hey, guys, I've got to take a little break because I've been developing a lot of stuff -- as a filmmaker, I'm itching to go and explore, definitely. I talk to Vin; we talk all the time. It's interesting because most of the stuff we talk about in "Fast & Furious" isn't even on screen. It's about the relationships between the characters.

And I can see a scenario, maybe down the line -- if we crack another trilogy -- that is something that I would be totally open to. But I've been a professional filmmaker for 10 years and I've been very fortunate to have done indie movies, TV and a tent-pole franchise. And I think my expectations -- the bar that I want to be there when we start something -- has changed also. So, if the situation is right, part of me hopes that down the line there might be something that comes together because, you know, we are a family.

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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