‘Fast Five’ Flashback: ‘Tokyo Drift’ Introduces ‘Furious’ Director Justin Lin To The Series

With just two days until the starting pistol is fired for the U.S. release of “Fast Five,” we enter day 3 of our week-long look back at the films that came before. Today we turn to the most exotic and unusual addition to the franchise: “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” featuring an all-new main cast and scenes primarily filmed overseas.

For the third installment of “The Fast And the Furious” franchise, the filmmakers broke away from the pack and relocated the series to the Tokyo streets that gave them the Asian-import cars from the original film. Just as Vin Diesel dropped out of the second film, his founding co-star Paul Walker opted out of this third film and pushed producer Neal H. Moritz to find a completely new cast to rebuild the franchise. For that he turned to noted independent actor Lucas Black, who became known for both his acting chops and Alabama accent in films like “Sling Blade,” “Friday Night Lights” and “Jarhead.” For directing this primarily Tokyo-based production, Moritz turned to Asian-American filmmaker Justin Lin, known at the time for his 2002 crime-drama “Better Luck Tomorrow.”

The “Furious” Rundown
Black stars as Sean Boswell, an American teenager straight out of the south who bails on the states to avoid a jail sentence and ends up living with his military father who relocated to Japan after his career. Although he left the U.S. to avoid crimes committed while a street racer, Sean falls in with the same crowd once he hits Japan – albeit with a new playing field and style. “The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift” widely employs a driving style known as drifting, which became popular in Japan in the ’70s but didn’t get U.S. attention until the mid-’90s.

Sometimes Being a Black Sheep Has Its Advantages
This third film had some big shoes to fill from the two installments that came before; with no original cast members carrying over from the previous films, they were forced to go in a bold new direction. Whereas the first film became popular in no-small-part due to the first mainstream film use of Asian import cars, the decision to place “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” in Japan gave it some real street cred and did more to expand the boundaries of where the franchise could go. Although it ended up as the lowest selling of the four films released to date, it brought a lot to “The Fast and the Furious” family.

Bringing Drifting To The Masses
Drifting is a driving technique where a car intentionally over steers when turning a corner, causing the rear wheels to lose traction and swing out of place while the driver remains in full control. Although drifting became known in American car circles as far back as the mid-90s, “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” was the first mainstream feature film to depict it in its entirely – going into the mechanics of it as well as the subculture surrounding it. But it’s not an easy style to implement – this film’s production went through over 4000 tires, and all of the vehicles had to be converted to rear wheel drive to properly perform the technique. The filmmakers went a step further by avoiding CGI and employing professional drift drivers for all the car scenes including scene stars Rhys Millen, Keiichi Tsuchiya and Samuel Hubinette.

The Franchise Meets It’s Franchise Director
Although director Justin Lin only had two major directing jobs to his name prior to 2006’s “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” he took to the franchise and its flavor with aplomb. Despite the fact that his first outing with the franchise failed to live up to its two predecessors, the studio had faith in Lin and brought him back for both 2009’s “Fast & Furious” and the upcoming “Fast Five.” Based on his work here, he’s been tapped to remake the “Highlander” franchise and direct Arnold Schwarzenegger in a new “Terminator” movie.

A Surprising Star Returns to the Fold
While the film utilized an all-new cast for this Tokyo edition of the franchise, the film wasn’t without some old face. In the final post-climax scene of the film, Vin Diesel reprises his role as Dominic Toretto from the first “Furious” outing to engage in a race with one of the new stars. This cameo was reportedly an unplanned last minute re-shoot, but opened the door for Diesel and his other original co-stars to return in the next film.

Check back with MTV Movies Blog all week long for more “Fast and Furious”!