f9 han return

When the #JusticeforHan campaign first sprung up in the wake of the eighth entry of the Fast and the Furious franchise, The Fate of the FuriousJustin Lin wasn’t even aware of the fervor that had kicked up around the fan-favorite character that he had introduced in Tokyo Drift. Lin had stepped away from the Fast and Furious franchise with 2013’s Fast & Furious 6, having left Sung Kang‘s Han Lue to his tragic, seemingly random doom in Tokyo. But after the seventh Fast and Furious film introduced Han’s apparent killer, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), only for the eighth installment to welcome Shaw into the family fold, fans began to call for justice.

When Lin came back to direct and co-write F9, those calls are what inspired him to bring Han back, he told /Film in an interview ahead of the U.S. theatrical release of the action sequel.

In an interview I conducted with Lin, the filmmaker admitted that he would not have even thought of bringing Han back if it wasn’t for the “Justice for Han” campaign, in which thousands of Fast and Furious fans called for the franchise to acknowledge the death of a fan-favorite character after his killer was apparently forgiven by the family in Fate of the Furious.

“When I left [the Fast and Furious franchise], I felt like it was time. That I came in with Han and I was going to leave with Han, so there was never any intention of bringing him back. And we were having a — I think it was 15th anniversary Better Luck Tomorrow screening at the Egyptian — and that was the first time, during the Q&A, someone brought up ‘Justice for Han.’ I was like, ‘What’s Justice for Han?'” Lin said.

Lin explained that he was as upset over the treatment of Han’s legacy as many fans were, and that inspired him to bring him back in F9:

When I found out I was baffled, but I think if anything, I maybe was a little hurt. I think that he was such a beloved character, the way he was treated it was almost like he was just dismissed. And I really appreciated that [social media uproar]. So I think the idea of bringing him back, to me, is not justice. I feel like how we treat this character going forward, to me, that’s justice. And I give the fans 100% credit, because I came back not for that reason, I came back for the exploration through Jakob, but now looking back I kind of feel fortunate, because of everything that’s happened, I now get the gift of getting to work with Han and creating hopefully a lot more journey for him to explore.

Lin addressed the franchise’s shaky relationship with life-and-death, explaining that he doesn’t “wake up wanting to bring dead people back!” But Han’s return was especially important to him, not just for the social media outcry it inspired, but for the character’s place in pop culture, as one of the few major Asian-American characters in an action franchise.

“That was one that that I actually felt really proud,” Lin said. “Because when we started, we were at a very different place. And the fact that people cared enough to voice it, and it became this thing. It made me feel like this character that I’ve been with for all these years meant something to others. I’d never done anything like it, and it is very special. I am glad, if anything, it’s for Han.”

F9 hits theaters on June 25, 2021.

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