Street racing, spats and sad deaths – 20 years of The Fast & The Furious

This summer marks 20 years since we were first introduced to The Fast Saga. With the ninth film out now, we take a look at how The Fast & The Furious first shattered box office expectations in 2001 to become one of the biggest franchises of all time.

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In June 2001, The Fast and the Furious was released across cinemas worldwide and shattered box office expectations – earning more than 40 million dollars on it's opening weekend.

The debut Universal action film saw Paul Walker take on the role of Brian O'Conner, an undercover cop tasked with the job of discovering the identities of a group of unknown car hijackers led by Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel.

Since then, the street-racing saga has spawned multiple sequels and spin-offs and become one of the biggest movie franchises of all time, ranking seventh as the highest-grossing film series ever.

As the first instalment celebrates it's 20th anniversary, we take a look back on two decades of street-racing, spats and sad deaths.

THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY

The first film from the Fast & Furious franchise was a surprise hit in 2001
(Image: Bob Marshak/Original/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock)

Just a year after its unanticipated success, studio bosses ordered a sequel to The Fast and the Furious in 2002.

The original film had grossed more than $200 million worldwide and made Paul Walker and Vin Diesel household names.

However, not everyone was keen to continue the story.

Lead Vin decided not to reprise his role and instead star in xXx which saw Universal forced to create a standalone sequel with Paul taking the main billing.

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Rapper Ludacris, who would go on to become a long-running cast member and singer Tyrese Gibson joined him and 2 Fast 2 Furious was released in 2003.

Even with the absence of Dominic Toretto, the box office was again impressed and a third instalment was commissioned.

This time around, Paul joined Vin in opting to work on other projects and in 2006, Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift wrapped up the trilogy to a lukewarm reception.

With none of the original stars, even the biggest fans of the car-chasing saga were left unimpressed and the third film still remains the least financially successful of the entire franchise.

THE RETURN OF VIN DIESEL

The 2009 reboot saw Paul Walker and Vin Diesel reunited on screen for the first time since the franchise's first film.

While Vin had stepped away from the franchise to focus on other projects, since appearing in The Fast and the Furious he had starred in a number of flops.

Keen to revive his career, the 53-year-old actor signed up for fourth film in a reboot of the series, alongside original co-stars Michelle Rodriguez, and Jordana Brewster in 2008.

Paul was less enthusiastic to revive his role as former LAPD cop Brian.

"I thought it was stale," he told Los Angeles Times.

"They were talking about my involvement in the fourth one and I was like, 'Are you kidding me? Really?'"

However, co-star Vin stepped in and convinced him it would be the first "true" sequel and in 2009 Fast & Furious hit cinemas screens and marked a new chapter for the franchise.

THE INTRODUCTION OF THE ROCK & CAST FEUDS

The Rock's arrival caused tension in the Fast family.
(Image: Getty Images)

A new decade saw a new tone to the revived franchise.

Stepping away from the street racing elements from previous films, the saga established itself as a heist action series in new instalments.

In 2011, former wrestler Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock joined the team for Fast Five and added even more star power to the brand.

His portrayal of Security Service agent Luke Hobbs would see him later head up the franchise's first spin-off in 2019, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

However, not all of his co-stars were supportive of his solo venture.

When the production of Hobbs & Shaw saw Universal delay the filming of F9, Dwayne's Fast Five co-star Tyrese Gibson made it clear he wasn't happy about it.

The 2 Fast 2 Furious star accused The Rock of trying to make the franchise about him.
(Image: Getty)

In 2017 he posted to social media: "Congratulations to The Rock and your brother in law aka 7 Bucks producing partner for making The Fast and the Furious franchise about YOU – And like you, DJ even if they call I will not be deleting this post."

"Gn folks see you in 2020 April #FastFamily right? Nah… it's about #TeamDewayne. 3 yrs will it be worth the wait? #NoShaw just Hobbs will this be another #BayWatch? Guys guys just relax I'm just a passionate film critic," he added.

The feud escalated with more social media comments and shade thrown but in 2020, Tyrese revealed all was well again in the Fast family.

"Me and The Rock peaced up by the way. We talked for like four hours about three weeks ago," he revealed in an interview.

THE DEATH OF PAUL WALKER

Fans and co-stars alike were shocked by the tragic death of Paul Walker

On 30 November 2013 the world was rocked when we learnt that Fast & Furious star Paul Walker had died in a car crash aged just 40 years old.

According to a report, the star had left a charity event and was riding in the passenger seat of a Porsche Carrera GT, when the driver lost control. The car slammed into a post or a tree, and burst into flames, according to a report.

His death left his Fast & Furious co-stars heartbroken, with close friend Vin confessing he was "absolutely speechless" at the news of his passing on Instagram.

The late actor's brother stepped in to conclude the filming of his final movie
(Image: Instagram @codywalkerroww)

Paul's tragic accident came during the filming of the seventh movie in the Fast & Furious franchise – his fifth starring as Brian O'Conner.

With the help of CGI, script rewrites and the late actor's brother Caleb and Cody Walker as stand-ins, Furious 7 was able to complete production and give Paul's character a fitting ending.

After unavoidable delays, the film was released in April 2015 and become the highest-grossing film in the franchise, grossing $1.5 billion.

Whereas previous offerings had received mixed reviews from critics, Furious 7 was lauded for its emotional tribute to the late star.

THE FINAL CHASE

Vin recently revealed the plans to say goodbye to the popular franchise.
(Image: Relativity Media/Universal/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock)

Following Paul's death, there were two more huge-grossing chapters in the saga, The Fate of the Furious, 2017 and F9, 2021, with a tenth film set to be released in 2022.

However, star Vin Diesel recently admitted the journey is coming to an end.

It's believed there's going to be two more films before the franchise is retired, so the end may be in sight but it will be a few years yet before the curtain falls on the Fast and Furious films.

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