Yesterday, we took you behind the scenes of our visit to the Atlanta, Georgia set of Fast Five, which opens in theaters on April 29th. The film is the fifth installment of the popular streetcar series, The Fast and the Furious, and features the return of original stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and Jordana Brewster. It also features returning actors from all of the films in the franchise including Sung Kang from The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious, Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris from 2 Fast 2 Furious, Matt Schulze from The Fast and the Furious, and Gal Gadot from Fast & Furious.
We travel to Atlanta, Georgia to speak with actor Dwayne Johnson about joining the fifth installment of the successful franchise
When we last saw Brian and Mia, they were breaking Dom out of custody at the end of Fast & Furious. When we pick up with the characters in the new film, they will once again be on the wrong side of the law and now hiding in Rio. When a chance at freedom falls in their laps they decide to take on a risky job that will require putting together a team of elite racers, comprised of characters from the previous movies, in order to pull it off. But they soon realize that the only way they will ever really be free is by confronting the evil businessman who wants them dead. Also hot on their trail is a federal agent named Luke Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson (Faster), who is assigned to hunt down Dom and Brian. But as Hobbs gets closer to his goal, he begins to realize that not everything is as it seems and no one can be trusted.
After speaking with picture car coordinator Denis McCarthy, director Justin Lin, and actor Paul Walker, we met with actress Elsa Pataky. Pataky plays Elena Neves, a Rio police officer that ends up partnering with Johnson's agent Hobbs. The actress began by explaining what it has been like to work so closely with Johnson, and the relationship that their two characters have with each other in the film. "Working with him has been great. He's really professional, his sense of humor, he always has a joke for everything. So we were laughing a lot. It's funny because he's also such a big guy, playing this tough guy and my character is trying to be a tough woman. She's the only girl and she's around all these SWAT guys, so she's always trying to make sure her job is correct," explained Pataky. "She's a patrol officer in Brazil, so she's trying to impress him all the time. Both of us have scenes where we are shooting. We are partners. So I think it was important to have a good relation with him. In the beginning of the movie it's a little tense because she thinks she's in a man's world and this guy gets her because she's good looking. But I'm going to show him I'm more than a smile, that I know my job and that I know what I'm doing. But he says to me, I know your husband has been killed and you're maybe the only police officer that's not corrupt. But at the end they become friends and understand each other."
Pataky went on to discuss her character's relationship to Dom and Brian, the "criminals" that she is chasing, and how things may not be as simple as they seem. "I'm brought in to chase them down with Dwayne but I'm the only one who sees something different in Dom, and she thinks he is not a criminal. She doesn't see him like that. She sees something else in him because the first time they meet, he saves her life. So that's something that is really weird for her because if he were a real criminal, he wouldn't care. So she's the first person who sees something in him and she's defending him throughout the movie. But it's difficult because Dwayne's character is just like, this is the bad guy and we have to get him and take him back to L.A."
Since this is a Fast & Furious movie, we asked the actress if she gets to do any driving in the film? "No, just a little bit, not very much. The SWAT team has this Gurkha, which is the kind of car they use in Iraq and Iran and it's really impressive. But one of the scenes, they attack us and I'm the one who gets in the car. So it's a little action that she can do. I love to drive so for me it was great. But in this movie there's not as much driving and racing like the other ones. It's more action, shots and explosions," Pataky explained. We followed up by asking if the actress has a lot of fighting scenes in the movie? "We have one scene that we're shooting. We're trying to cover Dom in one moment and its Dwayne and I, both of us. We get to go into the commissary that they have in Brazil with the Gurkha and just go thru the wall. But no, I don't have any fight scenes. In one of the scenes we shot I defend myself, but it's not like I'm fighting in the movie."
Pataky went back to set we were greeted by "the big man" himself, Dwayne Johnson. Johnson, of course, began his career as a WWE wrestler but has gone on to become one of the biggest movie stars in the world. The actor has skillfully balanced making comedies and action films, and has starred in such movies as Scorpion King, The Rundown, The Game Plan, Get Smart, Race to Witch Mountain, Planet 51, Tooth Fairy, The Other Guys and most recently, Faster. The actor joins the series as federal agent Luke Hobbs, a hard-nosed, no-nonsense agent who will stop at nothing to capture his targets, which in this case are Dom and Brian. He entered the room wearing a black tank top, cargo pants and boots, with his arms covered in tattoos, and he had grown a goatee. We couldn't help but notice that the actor had gained a lot of weight and muscle for this role, and that his arms look bigger than ever. We asked Johnson if he was at his heaviest since his wrestling days? "I would say so, probably. I don't know if I was this heavy when I was wrestling, probably about five pounds."
Johnson is by far the most successful wrestler to ever become an actor, but you could make the argument that he is the most successful athlete to ever transition into acting, with only former-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as the possible exception. Many actors, as successful as Johnson, might be reluctant to join a popular series in its fifth installment, so we asked the actor what prompted him to take on a project like this at this point in his career? "It was an opportunity to work with Universal again, the studio that I started my career with," explained Johnson. "I did my first four movies with Universal. I've always liked their management, their executives, how they approach their business. This was an opportunity to work with Universal and be a part of a very successful franchise, as well as the opportunity to work with Vin Diesel. I've known Vin for a long time an we've always talked about doing something together, but as long as it was right and wasn't forced. This felt like the right opportunity to create a formidable adversary for him. One that was believable, that we could get on screen, rumble, dance and have some fun with."
"I think the challenge in coming on to something like this is that it is not only successful, but a lot of these characters in this movie are beloved," the actor continued. "So to be able to find new characters that we can infuse story wise, that elevate the movie in an interesting and intriguing way, is the challenge. I enjoyed working with the writer and spent a lot of time with Justin. We talked about story and about character. From the first time Universal approached me and I spoke to Justin, my main attention was how can I come on an elevate this. That was important to me and I think we found a way."
With so many familiar characters returning to the franchise for this next chapter, we asked Johnson to explain his new character fits into the film. "In the story, Dom and Brian are accused of murder. There are two DEA agents who are murdered and the murder gets pinned on them and Mia. I'm sent to find the guys when the government needs me to ... it kind of sounds like The A-Team," the actor joked. "In a way he is a bounty hunter, but he is a U.S. Marshal sent down to Brazil to find these guys. It's a fun character to play. I am able to be efficient in certain skills, and not only efficient in those skills, but have that animalistic, visceral way about me. So I can rip your fucking throat out, excuse my language, but also have the backing of the U.S. government. It's a fun, fun character to play." It is important to note: Johnson was genuinely apologetic for accidentally swearing, and took a moment to personally apologize to every woman in the room. It was a classy move, his mother obviously taught him well.
We followed up by asking the actor if the role was similar to Tommy Lee Jones's part in The Fugitive, where he is chasing the bad guy but then realizes that he might not be that bad after all? "It is very similar to that. The only difference is the physicality aspect, which I am able to bring. That heightens things for me because ultimately, I think from an audience standpoint, you want to see that. You want to see Vin and I go at it." Johnson's description made us suddenly think of the anticipation that built waiting for De Niro and Pacino to finally have a scene together in the diner in Heat. So we asked the actor if that encounter was something he was looking forward to in the film? "Sure, it's over a cappuccino. It's a wonderful scene, one cappuccino with two straws," he joked. "Yes, that was something I was looking forward to just as a fan of movies and a fan of the genre. This is an awesome opportunity that doesn't come along very often, where you can have two guys who are successful, put it down and go at it. There are some great scenes in the movie where we do talk, and it's a nice, stinging conversation and the intensity is palpable, it's in the air. But then fuck talking, eventually you got to get down and kick some ass," Johnson concluded. "Again, I'm sorry for the language," the actor once again said apologetically.
Johnson has spent the last several years making family friendly films like The Game Plan and Tooth Fairy, but has now returned to his action roots with the recent film, Faster and now Fast Five. We asked the actor if moving away from comedy and back to action was part of the goal in choosing his last few projects? "It is always about opportunity for me, it is about creating opportunity day to day. There was an opportunity to do three family movies in a row, putting me in a space where I can continue to entertain. Knowing that we were still developing on the other end a film like Faster, and other intense action movies that we are developing. Tooth Fairy was ready, in the family genre, and it tells a good story. The other, Faster was not ready, so I figured ... let's go. Believe me, I love to entertain across the board. I love that and enjoy that. At my core, I am a physical guy, a visceral guy, and I love kicking ass. So if I can continue to do that, great, but it comes down to what's available, what's ready and what's cooking?
Johnson if he was familiar with the franchise before being cast in the film, and if not, did he watch the previous movies before he started shooting? "Well, I am familiar with their success. I had seen the last one and the opening was a dynamite opening. I e-mailed Vin that Saturday and said congratulations. But with all the movies I do, I feel it's just important to sit down with the director and just talk. To shoot the shit, talk about the character, the story, and talk about how I can come in and help elevate the movie. That's what I do. Then we come up with different scenarios and character traits."
Later in the day we were shown an exclusive scene from the film that had already been cut together. While we don't want to give away too much about the scene, we can saw that it featured Johnson in an explosive gunfight through the streets of Rio. The scene also featured Johnson in his Gurkha and firing off his gigantic, cannon of a gun.
Be sure to check back with us tomorrow for the third part of our five-part visit to the set of Fast Five. We had a chance to speak with returning actor Matt Schulze, who discussed what he's been doing since he appeared in the first film. We also spoke with actresses, Gal Gadot, and Jordana Brewster, who talked about what fan's can expect from their characters in the upcoming movie.