Interviews by Toby White
We talk to all the main cast at the London press conference including Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson and Eva Mendes, in addition to John Singleton (Director) and Neal Moritz (Producer).
Mr Moritz, at what point during the making of the first movie did you realise you had struck commercial gold?
NEAL MORITZ: The opening Friday night. We knew from early test screenings that the audience loved it but we didn’t realise until we showed up that opening Friday night and saw what it had taken and I phoned up Paul and left a message on his machine, what did I say Paul?
PAUL WALKER: It’s a goddam phenomenon!
Mr Singleton, as an acclaimed director, what were your feelings taking on the reins of this movie? And, secondly, how many cars did you total and which was the most satisfying to see smashed to a pulp?
JOHN SINGLETON: I’ll take those in reverse order. I got no satisfaction out of seeing a really expensive product that the audience love – like the Mustang going under the truck – when you see something that you have so much admiration for, that when you see a car like that getting smashed you just wince. And the other thing, I don’t have a fixed number of how many cars we smashed but it was a whole lot of cars. In answer to your first question, I was really intrigued to find a way to top the first one and the way in which the first one was so established in getting a window into the culture of street racing so my thing was how to get to the next level and make it look as new as possible and I told Neal I wanted to shoot it in a style that was different from the first one, it’s just opened in the States and I think it’s paying off.
Tyrese, how did you feel about moving into this team that had been partially created already, how quickly did you feel at home as part of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS team?
TYRESE: Actually, I was a part of the first one, I did a little extras work and was keeping my head around the set hoping that one day I might get that call. Being a part of the sequel was a no-brainer for me, I was like, “let’s do it”. When I got the call I was just honoured that they even had me in mind because I only did one other movie and I was like, “Why you calling little old me?” And after they called me I thought “I’m gonna show up, work every day as hard as I can and make ’em proud because they gave me the opportunity” and everyone on the set made me feel comfortable, I mean Paul was my biggest focus because he already had that relationship with everybody and he wasn’t gonna turn his back on the fans that made the first one successful and if Paul was on his own I wanted to create a comfort zone for him so we can make it seem natural.
Eva, last night on the Jay Leno show when it was screened here…
EVA MENDES: Aw, man, do we have to talk about that?
Yep, he seemed to be hinting at some haphazard driving on your part in the real world, d’you want to own up about these incidents?
EVA MENDES: Okay…I’m not a great driver. [Laughter] It’s no big deal but, actually, can I take the floor? Why did I not get to drive in this movie, John and Neal?
NEAL MORITZ: Maybe because you can’t drive. [Laughter]
Maybe they knew about your past?
EVA MENDES: Yeah, I guess they found out somehow…no, I’m not a great driver but I’ve had good cars.
Paul, any misgivings about continuing with the franchise or were you always on board?
PAUL WALKER: I didn’t really have a choice because the studio had an option on me but, you know, for the last year and a half I’ve been walking around off the back of this movie and kids were coming up to me and their first question is always, “Is there going to be a sequel?” And then I met up with Tyrese and with Mr Singleton – it’s weird you know, I’m talking like this was yesterday but it was so long ago already – and the only thing originally that I was bugging out about was because they had worked together before – John, I haven’t told you this – but I didn’t know what the situation was, Tyrese had been involved already for a couple of weeks but I saw where John was at and he said he wanted to make it the best he could and…I had a really great experience.
Paul, did you buy one of the cars after the movie?
PAUL WALKER: The car I purchased was a Nissan Skyline. You guys are actually really fortunate [in the UK] because you can purchase that car here. It’s the Ferrari of Japanese cars.
How fast does it go? Not that you’d ever drive that fast…
PAUL WALKER: It puts out at just shy of 900 horsepower. Goes just over 200.
It’s appropriate that we have that automobile moment and everyone confesses what they’re currently driving…Eva?
EVA MENDES: What? Why are you picking on me? [Laughter] Right now, it’s something really boring. I’m driving a Range Rover. But my first car was a 1966 Ford Mustang, V-8 engine, original interior – it was amazing.
PAUL WALKER: Where is it now?
EVA MENDES: Oh God, tough crowd. I crashed it, Paul.
Why are we not surprised…Tyrese, your current vehicle of choice?
TYRESE: Since this is my first big movie I drive a Volkswagon Beetle. [Laughter] But I’m gonna change it…
NEAL MORITZ: Tyrese was terrible with the cars on the movie. He wanted rims added to his car. He was always asking and I said, “No, you can’t have rims on the car, we’ve already got shots of it without…” The next day he shows up on the set and there’s the goddam car with the rims on it. [Laughter] He went out, purchased them himself and had these rims put on without us knowing.
Mr Singelton, are you a car affeccionado?
JOHN SINGLETON: It’s a Mercedes Benz SL-500 convertible…
TYRESE: Woo! Spicey.
JOHN SINGLETON: …and it’s got these little rims on it. [Laughter] Great sound system, suede interior.
Suddenly everyone’s very, very jealous. Mr Moritz?
NEAL MORITZ: I actually only do these movies so I can take the cars away. I’ve got the Camero. And a Ferrari from the other one.
Tyrese, did you do your own stunts and is there anything that John wouldn’t let you do?
TYRESE: Yeah, we pissed a lot of stunt drivers off. John had in mind for us to do as much driving as possible. I wasn’t gonna lose a leg for Universal but we stretched it to the max before the other guys came in. I think the biggest challenge was to find somebody with a head as big as mine. [Laughter] We had a strenuous stunt driver audition to try and find somebody with the same head.
Eva, filming in your home city, did you show everybody where to go out?
EVA MENDES: Well, I was born there but I wasn’t actually raised there. I still have family there and it was funny going back for this movie though because suddenly I had more second cousins than I’d ever known. John was the one that took us out, he would call us up and say, “Come on, come down here!” but I spent most of my time in the hotel bar. I’m not much of a clubber.
At what point was Vin Diesel not going to be in the movie? Did it cause any obstructions?
NEAL MORITZ: Actually, we learned early on that Vin wasn’t going to do the movie and myself and the Executives at Universal met with Tyrese early on. He was the only person we actually thought of for the role and we wrote it tailored for Tyrese.
Paul, being the adrenaline junkie, did you get any kicks on this film?
PAUL WALKER: Working on the movie? I got behind the wheel quite a bit. We were about two weeks in before I got to drive but it got a bit heated at one point because I thought it was clear that I’d be driving whenever possible and John, if he’d had his way, would have said yes from the get go but, unfortunately, there’s this thing called insurance and for whatever reason they didn’t like me behind the wheel that much so it took a while but in the end we got to drive around quite a bit. The stunt men were really good about it. Working with Tyrese though was great fun. That bit when we’re fighting on the ground, most guys wouldn’t go for that but one of the good things about Tyrese is that he’s not a pansy and we got to mess about and make stuff up a little bit too…
JOHN SINGLETON: These two guys, man, they were so silly on the set. The hardest thing was to stop them trying to make everybody laugh. The set was a riot.
In the final sequence, the screen is flooded with cars, can you tell us anything about the choreography of that, was it tough to get right?
JOHN SINGLETON: It was just rehearsals. We had the stunt drivers driving in a uniform pattern and a lot of cars were from the Miami street scene mixed in with the stunt drivers. I mean there were hundreds of cars out there…
NEAL MORTITZ: Not one accident.
JOHN SINGLETON: Yeah, not one accident and that was something we were worried about in pre-production.
Neal, are you going to stick with this team for the next one?
NEAL MORITZ: I’d love everybody back if they wanted to come back. We were talking about it yesterday…
TYRESE: I’m gonna be like Vin Diesel and ask for a bank of money. [Laughter]
NEAL MORITZ: But honestly, I think it’s one of those situations where we had so much fun making the movie. My wife actually said yesterday, “D’you really want to make another one of these?” and I said that this is the most fun I’ve ever had making a movie and if I could have that again I wouldn’t wait one second.
TYRESE: I’ve never done anything this big in my life but when you’re having this much fun you don’t pay attention to how big it is and how much people are anticipating it and the pressures to make it as successful as the first one. Not once did I think about it. Especially since Paul was a part of the first one, the fact that me and him got along and it’s not our publicists saying, “They got along so well”, I mean I was hanging out in his room, he hung out in my room, we had barbeques, I was trying to dump black girls on him [laughter] I mean we had the time of our life.
PAUL WALKER: I can’t believe you said that, man! [Laughter]
NEAL MORITZ: You’ve got to understand that there was a lot of pressure on us. The audience of the first film said that it was their favourite movie of last year. They polled it and it came out as the number one movie so a lot of pressure. What was nice about this one was that in the test screenings, we had one in Sacramento, one in Los Angeles and in both of those screenings over ninety percent of the audience voted that they liked it better than the first one. And that was a big boost for us.