First we found out the 10th Fast & Furious installment wouldn’t be called FasTEN Your Seat Belts, and now there’s more disappointing news for the anticipated sequel. Longtime franchise staple Justin Lin announced on April 26 that he will no longer serve as the film’s director, though he will remain involved in a producer capacity.
“With the support of Universal, I have made the difficult decision to step back as director of Fast X, while remaining with the project as a producer. Over 10 years and five films, we have been able to shoot the best actors, the best stunts, and the best damn car chases,” Lin said. “On a personal note, as the child of Asian immigrants, I am proud of helping to build the most diverse franchise in movie history. I will forever be grateful to the amazing cast, crew and studio for their support, and for welcoming me into the Fast family.”
Lin has been involved with the F&F universe since directing The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift in 2006. Since then, he’s led four more installments, in 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2021. He was also set to helm the 11th and final movie in the series, and it’s unclear if a return to the director’s chair is a possibility in the future. Lin’s contribution to the franchise has been crucial—he expanded the series’ scope and introduced fan-favorite character Han in Tokyo Drift, before reuniting the core cast in the following film. In particular, Lin’s work on Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 helped make the franchise a cultural mainstay and established its gleefully over the top, winking tone. (Think Five’s unbelievable bank vault chase sequence or 6’s bonkers airplane fight.) According to Deadline, Fast X is still slated for a May 19, 2023 release, and the studio has no current plans to adjust the date over Lin’s departure.
The timing of Lin’s announcement is particularly newsworthy, since production on the movie began just a week prior. Sources told Deadline that “creative differences” are the main reason for his decision to step back. Fast X sees the return of franchise mainstays like Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Sung Kang, Ludacris, and Tyrese Gibson, while adding Brie Larson in an unknown role and Jason Momoa as a key villain. Charlize Theron is also slated to return as Cipher, the cyberterrorist who has been an antagonist in the series since the eighth installment.
Though the franchise remains popular and profitable–F9 earned over $700 million at the global box office despite a mid-pandemic release–there has been some noteworthy friction behind the scenes. Most widely covered has been the feud between Diesel and one-time co-star Dwayne Johnson, which has seen the two action heroes exchange barbs in social media captions and interview quotes, most recently via Diesel’s last-ditch attempt to get Johnson to put aside their differences and return for the final films. Because of this, there has been speculation online that issues with Diesel and Lin could have played a role in the director’s departure, though there isn’t a known history of conflict between them.
Since last year, rumors have swirled about a Tokyo Drift sequel or a spinoff film primarily focused on Kang’s character Han Lue. Kang and Lin are close and have worked together since the latter’s breakthrough film, Better Luck Tomorrow, in 2002. “I can assure you I’ve definitely been working on a lot of stuff, been talking a lot about Han,” Lin told Entertainment Weekly in June 2021.
Presumably, Lin would be intimately involved in any possible Han-related projects, though his decision to step down as Fast X’s director obviously makes his future with the franchise seem a lot murkier going forwards.