How Diversity Helped Earn ‘The Fate Of The Furious’ Record-Breaking Returns

Written by Dana Sanchez

“The Fate of the Furious,” the eighth installment in Universal’s “Fast & Furious” series, just earned the biggest global opening of all time at the box office with more than $100 million domestically and $532.5 million internationally, LA Times reported.

Directed by “Straight Outta Compton’s” F. Gary Gray, “Fate of the Furious” is known not only for its multiethnic cast, but for the diversity of its directors.

The franchise is now on a level with the Harry Potter series as the longest single narrative film franchise ever, The Telegraph reported.

The record-breaking franchise has built fan loyalty across the globe thanks in part to stunts, a compelling story line, and its diverse cast. “The Fate of the Furious” was filmed in Cuba, Iceland, New York, Cleveland and Atlanta.

The franchise’s episodic story arc has taken its heroes global, from racing the streets of Los Angeles a quarter mile at a time to saving the world from nuclear annihilation on the icy plains of Russia.

The “Fast and Furious” series has long been heralded for its diverse cast. U.S. audiences reflect that diversity, according to Hollywood Reporter. Here’s the U.S. audience make-up for “Furious 8,” per ComScore’s exit polling service PostTrack:

  • Caucasian: 41 percent
  • Hispanics: 26 percent
  • African American: 21 percent
  • Asian: 11 percent
  • Native American/other: 3 percent

According to Hollywood Reporter, that diversity also continues to pay off overseas with a globe-trotting storyline about a villainous superhacker (Charlize Theron) who turns Vin Diesel’s character against his crew. Returning castmembers include Dwayne Johnson — who famously feuded with Diesel on set — Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky and Kurt Russell. Newcomers include Theron alongside Helen Mirren and Scott Eastwood.

“The concept and point of view has always been like catnip to hip and diverse audiences who all speak the international language of fast cars, beautiful people, high-octane action and cross-cultural camaraderie,” said box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of comScore.

Franchise is known for the diversity of its directors

Past directors of the franchise include John Singleton, who directed “2 Fast 2 Furious.” Justin Lin directed four chapters in the series through “Fast & Furious 6,” and James Wan directed “Furious 7.”

With “Fate of the Furious,” Gray has broken the record for the highest-grossing opening ever by a black director, LA Times reported.

Hollywood has a dominant market presence worldwide, but “There’s a void in the market,” said actor Michelle Rodriguez. She starred in “The Fast and the Furious” (2001), and sequels “Fast & Furious,” (2009), Fast & Furious 6 (2013), Furious 7 (2015) and “The Fate of the Furious” (2017):

“When you have that kind of penetration but everybody who’s leading your movie on the big screen is white, a lot of people don’t feel included. Don’t you think they’re going to buy more tickets to those movies where they do feel included?

”We’re allowing the 99 percent to be part of Hollywood and I think that puts a fire under us to make it good,” said Rodriguez.

Gray, who had recently directed Universal’s “Straight Outta Compton,” was a logical choice to direct “Fate of the Furious,” LA Times reported:

“What I learned in joining the ‘Fast’ family was the art of collaborating differently,” said Gray, who also praised Universal head Donna Langley for supporting a push to put inclusive heroes on-screen. “It’s the next level when your star is also producing and you have actors who have lived with these characters for 15-plus years. I come to the party and I end up doing a whole lot of listening.”

While “The Fate of the Furious” is expected to be a blockbuster, it’s not expected to be a contender for an Oscar, Kristopher Tapley wrote in Variety:

On the heels of a landmark year for diversity at the Academy Awards, the upcoming season may be hurtling toward an #OscarsSoWhite scenario once again.

Other than Dee Rees’ “Mudbound,” Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and Reginald Hudlin’s “Marshall” — all more likely to be fringe possibilities rather than the heavy hitters “Fences,” “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight” were last year — contenders from filmmakers of color are going to be lacking.

Last season saw many exciting firsts: A film with a predominantly black cast, from a black writer/director, won best picture (“Moonlight”); seven actors of color were nominated; two won (Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis); a black film editor was nominated (Joi McMillon); an African-American cinematographer was nominated (Bradford Young); a black female documentary director was nominated (Ava DuVernay); and three black producers were nominated for best picture.

Countries where ‘Fate’ broke records

Outside the U.S., “Fate of the Furious” scored all-time opening weekend records in 19 countries including Argentina, Colombia, Egypt, Estonia, India, Indonesia, Israel, Lebanon, Malaysia, Middle East, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, South Africa, U.A.E., Uruguay, and Venezuela, Deadline  reported:

Speaking about box office longevity, Universal domestic distribution chief Nick Carpou said, “Each (Fast and Furious) title renews the audience, sustains a new audience and stays relevant to today. It feels fresh to people. We’re finding new youngsters and continuing to resonate with people who have been there for all eight films. Each title drives momentum in its own way.”

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About Dana Sanchez
Dana Sanchez is the editor of Moguldom.com and AFKInsider.com. She has worked in digital and print news media as a business writer and news editor. She has a master's degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. Prior to working in news, Dana worked in advertising.

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