Inside Fast and Furious 9’s OTT garage: John Cena, Vin Diesel and Charlize Theron are joined by a multimillion-dollar line-up of luxury cars from Mustangs to Lamborghinis and Ferraris
“I was not a good limo driver – on my first pickup, I was three hours late,” the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) superstar said recently on a video call from Los Angeles. Just out of high school and living in Massachusetts at the time, Cena had “never travelled” and was unfamiliar with the routes wanted by the client waiting at Boston Logan International Airport.
“I was just taking the wrong road over and over and over again,” he said. “This was 1995, so there were no mobile phones, so I couldn’t call anybody and go, ‘Yo, I’m lost.’ I was just late.”
“Sometimes we are estranged from our family for such a long time over the smallest and insignificant things, just because we have a different perspective,” Cena says, hinting at the potentially lethal antics of his petulant character.
The series, known for its wild car chases, video game-style fight scenes and over-the-top stunts, sees the return of director Justin Lin, who oversaw chapters three through six of the series and effectively translated it into a global blockbuster. This time the story finds Diesel and his team – Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Mia (Jordana Brewster) and Han (Sung Kang) – hurtling around the globe from Central America to Azerbaijan, and even outer space.
The chase begins after they discover that the plane carrying Mr Nobody (Kurt Russell) and the villain Cipher (Charlize Theron) has gone down in the Central American jungle. Cipher, fans will recall, first appeared in 2017’s The Fate of the Furious, while Mr Nobody first appeared in 2015’s Furious 7. Then Jakob gets involved, hunting an object that Diesel and his team must ensure he never obtains.
As usual, high jinks ensue in explosive, vehicular style. There’s Dom Toretto’s US$1 million custom-built Dodge Charger and the modified blue 2016 Ford Mustang GT350 V8 that Jakob Toretto drives through the streets of Downtown L.A. like an escaping convict. According to F9 vehicle supervisor and long-time Fast and Furious visionary Dennis McCarthy, the Dodge vs. Ford tension was meant to mirror the brothers’ own family rift.
“Over the years, the cast cars have developed along with each character and have become extensions of who they are,” McCarthy says. “With each new chapter, my objective is to sync the cars with the cast. The goal is always for the audience to instantly know which car is for which character.”
When the gang decamps to Europe, Letty drives a 1969 Chevrolet Nova (she’s even better on the Yamaha YZ250F and Harley-Davidson Iron motorbikes). Han (yes, he’s back too) drives an orange-and-black Toyota Supra reminiscent of his Mazda RX-7 from Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Meanwhile, Tej drives a modified Jeep Gladiator and Roman drives a Honda NSX and a Marauder military vehicle – and they both get inside a humbler car, too: a 1984 Pontiac Fiero. It just so happens that the American-made rustbucket has rocket engines tied on top, which come in handy for that segment in space.
The scenes in that car proved to be the most challenging ones to shoot, Bridges says during a video interview.
“Man, shooting that space scene was extremely uncomfortable,” Bridges says. “We had layers of clothes on. We were hot as hell. We were suspended by these harnesses we had on, just suspended in air.”
(Bridges, by the way, is an avowed believer in extraterrestrials, especially after the latest declassified government reports: “I definitely believe in aliens”, he says with a laugh. “There are more galaxies than there are pieces of sand on a beach, so you have to believe in other life forms out there, you know. It’s just dependent on when we are able to encounter them, for sure.”)
The best eye candy for car lovers comes midway through the film, outside an exclusive party that the elusive Queenie Shaw (Helen Mirren) haunts. They’re all parked – as if in real life – along the streets of London’s posh Mayfair neighbourhood near the high-end jeweller Boodles: a Bugatti Veyron, a Bentley Continental GT, a Rolls-Royce Wraith, an Aston Martin Rapide, a Morgan Aero 8 and a Mercedes SLR McLaren. All told, those cars alone – plus the extremely rare and built-by-hand British supercar Noble M600 that Queenie police for a getaway joyride – are worth more than US$3.8 million.
Shaw then drives Toretto to a party which upstages even the Mayfair scene. Heaving with beautiful women, the event is thrown by billionaire enfant terrible Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) at his home on the manicured and sprawling grounds of Hatfield House, a Jacobean estate outside London. Here, McCarthy’s genius reaches new heights as he invited more than a dozen private car collectors to show off their prize machines in the scene. On display are a TVR Sagaris, a Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, a Lexus LFA, a Lotus Evora, a Mercedes AMG GT R, a Lamborghini Countach Anniversary Edition, a McLaren 720S, a Ferrari La Ferrari and an Apollo Intensa Emozione.
For Bridges, who has bought a car from every Fast and Furious film set for his own collection – starting with the Louis Vuitton-wrapped Dodge Ram pickup in 2003 – this was a drool-inducing smorgasbord of automotive excellence. “Being able to see such a plethora and so many different cars all within one setting, as opposed to me having to search for these cars myself, is a blessing within itself,” he says.
The Apollo alone would stop traffic if seen on a California highway. With a starting price of US$2.7 million and a top speed of 208mph, only 10 were built. Such pricing wouldn’t pose a problem for the car-mad Atlanta-based artist – but something far more mundane and considerably more practical made him hesitate to snag that, or anything else, from the F9 instalment. “We shot all those cars in Scotland and England,” he says with a chuckle. “I didn’t want to have any issues driving with the steering wheel on the other side in the States.”
- Cars include a Bugatti Veyron, Bentley Continental, Rolls-Royce Wraith, TVR Sagaris, Lexus LFA, Lotus Evora, Mercedes AMG GT R, McLaren 720S and Apollo Intensa
- Michelle Rodriguez, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ludacris and Helen Mirren hurtle around the globe from the US to Azerbaijan and even into space