Interview: 'The Fate Of The Furious' Writer Chris Morgan On Building The Story Like A Dungeon Master, Hints Of 'Fast 9', And More

I'd argue that there's no one more important to the Fast and Furious franchise than Chris Morgan. Directors and actors have come and gone, but Morgan has been the sole writer on these movies since 2006's Tokyo Drift, which was the turning point that saved the franchise from direct-to-DVD obscurity. He's the series' architect, crafting the blueprints responsible for its meteoric rise in popularity and helping to turn what began as a simple Point Break riff into a billion dollar box office behemoth. In addition to writing every movie since then, he also executive produced Fast and Furious 6, Furious 7, and the newest film in the series, The Fate of the Furious, which comes out this Friday.

Last week, I had the chance to speak with Morgan about the process of crafting a new sequel. In addition to teasing a possible return for Han Seoul-Oh and updating me about his exciting time travel sci-fi film Crime of the Century, we chatted about how many set piece ideas he has left, if he ever consults physicists about the series' insane action sequences, whether he'll ever take Dom into space, and much more.

Chris Morgan interview

First question: I'm sure you've heard jokes about this before, but I'm asking completely seriously here: do you have any intention of taking these characters into space before this franchise comes to an end?

Well, OK, imagine this: someone comes to Dominic Toretto. His long-lost relative...Riddick! The fate of the universe depends on them working together! [Laughs] No, the answer is no. We're not going to space. I mean, never say never. We're definitely not going to space, but how fun would that be to put Riddick and Dominic Toretto together? It would be hilarious! I think Riddick would like Dom, actually. I think they'd find common ground.

One random thing, too. I hear that same thing about space – like, 'You couldn't go to space because if you go to space, then that's where you lose me.' So we hear that from fans a lot. Also, time travel and dinosaurs. Those things do jump the shark for everybody as well. Although how fun would it be for Dom to find Marty McFly's DeLorean?

I mean, if some people are telling you that's not the direction you should go, I think they're incorrect. I think that's where this franchise needs to go, personally.

[Laughs] I'm going to take that under advisement.

Everything changed for the Fast movies in a big way with Paul Walker's accident, and Furious 7's ending was entirely reworked. How much, if any, of that film's original ending were you able to repurpose in this movie?

So Brian's arc, Paul's arc in that movie, it kind of remained the same. Paul died partway through the filming and it was devastating. He had done a lot of the action stuff but not a lot of the drama stuff, and so obviously you've heard all the stories about how we were able to pull that thing together and give him a really good send-off. But his arc essentially remained the same.

His original character arc was, here's a guy who's now a family man – we had this great scene we didn't end up shooting, we didn't put it in the movie. It's at the beginning of the film and he's mowing his lawn somewhere, and these teens or 20-somethings come racing down the road and they stop at the streetlight and start revving their engines because they're going to race. Brian just kind of looks on wistfully, and Mia, inside, sees him and realizes he's still aching for something. He's this guy who's at this moment in his life where, even though he loves his family and loves his kid, he still misses the action and the bullets. The journey for him was, after going through this giant adventure, realizing what he really wants out of life is the family side. He can appreciate all that stuff, but where he really belongs is here.

So we were able to maintain that story and give him a great sendoff. Now, obviously, we wouldn't have sent him off had the accident not happened. But there's nothing really for us in this film that we didn't get to do that we put in or to be repurposed. We were able to close that out as we planned.

Vin [Diesel] has been very vocal about his involvement in this series as a producer and an actor, and I'm interested to know how much impact he has on the overall storytelling. What is the process like between you two when you set out to develop a sequel like this?

He has a massive part of the storytelling. We're really in sync from the very beginning. Normally what will happen is, while we're shooting one of these films, we'll be thinking about what comes next and we'll be bouncing ideas back and forth. Eventually I'll form a basic idea or a structure, and I'll go to the studio and I'll go to him, and we kind of spitball and bounce it around, it starts taking the shape.

Ever since I've met him – it's funny, he and I have a lot in common in that we're both kind of nerdy. We talk in Dungeons & Dragons [terms] a lot. So we throw around words like 'saga,' and 'mythology.' Essentially the way we look at telling these stories is – again, nerd alert – is kind of like how a dungeon master would create a campaign for their players. We're building a world for Dom and Letty and all our characters, and we're watching as they level up emotionally. To go through the hurdles of their lives and become stronger and more potent for it. So we're pretty tight together on creating the world of the stories for Fast.

So we're eight movies in, and you've written six of them. How many ideas for set pieces do you have left in the bank at this point?

Oh my God, a ton. A lot. It's interesting. The way we tell stories over a long period of time really is more like a cable TV show. Every time we have a movie we don't have to reestablish everything about the characters. People who come to the films generally know some of the backstory about the characters, so we can always forge ahead and let them grow. We don't have to carry this obligation to reset everything for everybody. The problem is always the time. So you get essentially two hours every couple of years for one of these films, and a lot of that tends to have to be plot and we end up having a certain budget and things always get trimmed out for time or money.

So as an example, in Fast Five, when we were developing the story, we were going to put a version of that Antonov plane that ended up at the end of 6 at the end of Five, and we just ran out of space and money. So we ended up lopping it off and doing it at the end of the next film. So we have a lot of things like that. We have a lot of action set pieces that we've thought about, talked about, but we just haven't been able to do for time or money.

The Fate of the Furious

I love the action in these movies. In your opinion, what is the most ridiculous action scene in the franchise so far?

The one that always triggers me is in 6. It's on the highway where Dom sees Letty is about to go flying off into the abyss, so he kind of surfs on the top of his car, speeding at 90 miles an hour. He smashes into a barrier, and he goes flying, and she goes flying, and he catches her, and they both crash into a car together. And later in the movie, she goes, 'How'd you know that car would be there to break our fall?' [Laughs] The physics of that alone always kind of astound me. That's the one where I think we break reality the most.

That's actually my next question. When you're writing the action scenes, how far is too far? Do you ever consult physicists to see what's actually possible?

Yeah, I will do it to find out. I kind of live in the world of, it's reality, but heightened reality. We push it a little bit, but not so far that hopefully, it won't break your enjoyment of the film or care for the characters. Fast 6, that runway sequence – there's been a ton of stuff online where if you actually do the math, the runway is 26 miles long at that speed to do that sequence. Fair enough, you know? But that's what I mean by heightened reality. I think as long as you continue to be engrossed in the action and the character moments that are happening in front of you, then I'll go for it. But I will talk a lot of times to car guys or like a physicist or a scientist about, 'What's the maximum, most plausible version of this?' And then I'll play with that edge a little bit.

Have you ever used NOS in your personal life?

Oh, in L.A.? Not likely. [Laughs] L.A. freeways? Absolutely not. I'd love to, though.

[Laughs] Not even for research purposes?

No. Traffic over here is like, if I'm doing over 30 miles per hour, I'm lucky.

Yeah, I feel you. So how early do you start working on an official treatment for the next film?

It varies. Kind of like I was saying with Vin, while we're doing one of the films, we'll start talking and daydreaming about other ideas and it'll be a loose thing then. But as soon as the studio plants a flag and officially decides 'we're going to do the next one,' that's really when we get serious about a treatment or an outline or a scriptment or something like that.

Have they done that yet for Fast 9? Have you started work on that movie already?

No, we're still sort of talking about it. Vin and I have talked about this one for a while, because the intent is to do 8, 9, and 10 and to make it a trilogy. So how do they all connect, what are we moving toward, what's that final end point? We've been playing around with that stuff, and the studio has announced dates on it, but in terms of the script actually being written right now, we're not at that stage yet.

Is there anything at all that you can tell me about those conversations that you've had about Fast 9? Any hint at all about what we might see?

Not really, other than just the things we set up in 8, we're going to pay off in the trilogy. But other than that, it's all kind of under wraps, unfortunately.

I think I have time for one more question. What's the latest on the Universal Monsters franchise? How's that going?

It's going awesome. We have The Mummy coming out in June. That's been a great experience. Tom [Cruise], and Russell Crowe, and Sofia [Boutella], and Annabelle [Wallis], and Jake Johnson. The movie, I don't know if you saw the latest trailer that came out, but I think that trailer is so cool. So cool. I think that's going to be a really fun, scary, action-y, great movie. And beyond that, we're developing Bride of Frankenstein, Van Helsing, Creature From the Black Lagoon, Invisible Man, Wolfman, on and on, and just figuring out each of those films and how they work into their own franchise. It's been great – working with great writers, and the creativity level is super, super high. It's a job, honestly, that I would pay to do. Coming to work every day is a treat. I mean, I have a werewolf head on the wall of my office that I'm sitting in right now. [Laughs] Life is not bad when you have a werewolf head mounted on your wall.


The Fate of the Furious hits theaters on April 14, 2017.