By Giancarlo Aulino
Fast & Furious - one of the highest grossing film franchises ever - recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and the release of the latest installment: F9. This newest addition swiftly raced to top spot in the box-office by grossing $70 million domestically and $404.9 million worldwide on opening weekend.
The franchise became a global phenomenon, branching off into theme park attractions, action figures, video games, and spin-offs.
With a 2001 debut, The Fast and The Furious, focusing predominantly on street racing has morphed into an action ensemble focusing on heists. The franchise led to an entire generation taking an interest in the car hobby - whether it be customizing cars, learning about the history of their favourite brands, or even collecting cars.
VIBE 105 recently interviewed Craig Lieberman - Technical Advisor for ‘The Fast and The Furious’ and ‘2 Fast 2 Furious.’
Craig talked about how he got involved with the original film, the impact the franchise has had on car culture, and much more.
The iconic Toyota Supra used in the original film originally belonged to Lieberman himself. In fact, that vehicle led to the hiring of Lieberman as Technical Advisor. After speaking to somebody at a car show, Lieberman, invited to a restaurant, received a script for a film titled "Red Line". After meeting some members of the cast and crew at the studios, Lieberman took director Rob Cohen for a ride in his Toyota Supra, which turned out to be a memorable experience.
"I started giving them a tour and that kind of stuff. And I take Rob Cohen, the director, for a ride on the Highway 101 in Universal City,” Lieberman said. “I jumped on the gas- the target top was off - and Rob looks at me as the boost is coming off the turbo and Rob Cohen screams 'is that the NOS?' and I said 'no, that's the turbo!' So, we get back and he goes this is the car that we're putting in the movie.”
Following the car ride, not only would Lieberman’s 1994 Toyota Supra Turbo serve as the main car for Paul Walker's character Brian O'Conner, but he would also be hired as the film’s Technical Advisor.
“They invite me upstairs and we start talking about cars and I put on my diplomatic face. I said, ‘well look, it’s clear in the script you guys have done a lot of research and you have a basic understanding of what’s going on here but the sequence of cars, what cars are being used, and what roles could use some work?’ And that started a multi-year adventure.”
Although Lieberman was Technical Advisor, his expectations for the film were low. Lieberman recalled a phone call with his wife following a pre-screening: "This thing's going straight to DVD. Actually, straight to VHS cause I don't think they're going to pay the extra to put it on DVD."
On the contrary, The Fast and The Furious was a massive box-office success in 2001. "It had a sell-out weekend. It broke all kinds of records; it recovered all of its money it had spent to make the movie in the first weekend. It was one of Universal's biggest releases at the time. At one time, the DVD was the number one selling DVD in history. It's crazy," says Lieberman.
It would not be a celebration of the franchise without highlighting Paul Walker’s contributions. The late actor played the role of Brian O’Conner, an undercover officer who infiltrates the world of illegal street racing to bring Dominic Toretto, portrayed by Vin Diesel, into custody. O’Conner would later align with Toretto and see himself on both sides of the law in future installments.
Lieberman recalled doing promotional work with Walker for the original film and shared a fond memory from working with him on the sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious.
“He didn’t think of himself as an actor. He was just a car guy and getting to talk with him when I would travel with him, he said ‘if they want to put me in movies, as long as the movies have cars, guns, or surfing, I’m pretty much going to say yes,’ stated Lieberman.
“He was just a down to earth guy, and he was a great ambassador for the car hobby. So many people want to be Paul Walker. Be that kind of cool, laid-back, chilled kind of dude.”
Listen to the full interview here.