Written By: Michael Clouse
This weekend, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw powered its way to a $180 million opening worldwide, easily securing the number one spot at the box office. The 9th film in The Fast and the Furious franchise grossed over $60 million in the United States, 50 percent more than the second place movie, The Lion King.
The $60.8 million opening weekend return was the lowest for the franchise since The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, but the spinoff still met all expectations. Plus, the big money on this film will be made overseas, where it still hasn’t opened in one of its biggest countries, China. The film premieres there August 23rd.
The box office numbers should come as no surprise. The franchise has taken in more than $5.3 billion since the first movie premiered in 2001. That’s BILLION with a B. And are we nearing the end? Absolutely not. There is at least one more movie in production, and with audiences still craving the adrenaline-packed punches and high speed car chases, studios would be foolish not to continuing following Dominic Toretto and his crew as they play the Robin Hood of the automotive world.
The franchise phenomenon isn’t just about movies, either. The series has spawned several video games, action figures, and over 60 live shows around the world where stunt drivers put on a stunning display, swerving around obstacles and pyrotechnics. More than money, that’s THOUSANDS of people who have jobs because of the success of this franchise, whether actually working on the films, or the projects that have been formed in their wake.
All in all, this brand is MASSIVE. Almost as big as it’s stars.
Movies Vin Diesel has starred in have made over $10.3 billion dollars. Yes, you read that right, over TEN BILLION DOLLARS.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is right behind, with his movies having grossed $9.8 billion worldwide.
With all this money at play, it was a bit of a surprise when The Wall Street Journal released an article seemingly criticizing Diesel, Johnson, and Jason Statham for negotiating their action scenes to make themselves come out looking like winners in the franchise. The article quoted franchise producer Michael Fottrell, who admitted the fights were choreographed so that none of the main stars appears to be the definitive loser in the fights. Diesel reportedly created a system that ranked punches, kicks, and headbutts, so the violence in the films was spread out. To note, the system apparently was too hard to follow and wasn’t used.
The Wall Street Journal used specific examples from the films, including Diesel’s sister, Samantha Vincent, allegedly asking if her brother was “going to get his licks back in” after a fight sequence was rehearsed. Johnson reportedly requested his character be sitting on the ground rather than lying on the ground following a fight in The Fate of the Furious.
What was portrayed as Diesel lobbying to his sister about being punched is actually Vincent doing her job. She is an Executive Producer on the films, so it’s up to her to ensure the series’ ultimate success, which is predicated on the stars’ reputations.
Actors wanting to appear better in movies, whether by measure of more screen time or less blood should come as a surprise to nobody.
Let’s look at the last 5 movies for the three stars:
VIN DIESEL: Avengers: Endgame, Avengers, Infinity War, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Fate of the Furious, and XXX: The Return of Zander Cage
DWAYNE JOHNSON: Hobbs & Shaw, Fighting with My Family, Skyscraper, Rampage, and Jumanji
JASON STATHAM: Hobbs & Shaw, The Meg, The Fate of the Furious, Mechanic: Resurrection, and Spy
Are these guys super villains in any of these movies? Of course not; they’re all likable characters. Why? Because likable characters sell.
TEST: Can you name a villain off the top of your head, besides Thanos and Brixton (Elba), in any of the movies above?
Diesel, Johnson, or Statham all have stellar reputations as heroes or anti-heroes, which is why their brands are so valuable and their movies make millions. If that reputation fails, so does their box office allure. We wouldn’t go to the theater every six months for years on end to see these guys lose repeatedly. We show up to see them battle it out, come out victorious, and live to fight another day.
With the incorporation of social media, where even an average Joe can become a hero or a villain with a trending tweet, Hollywood stars especially know they have to protect their brands at all costs, because their public opinion stock can rise and fall ten times faster. Nearly everything put out is scheduled, programmed, tested, and proven because as we’ve seen, billions of dollars are at stake.
Diesel, Johnson, and Statham regularly make around $10-$20 million for each movie, and sometimes have contracts that pad that amount with money on the backend depending on how well their movies do at the box office. They also all have corporate sponsorships, which pay millions of dollars, because these stars are well liked by everyone.
Generally, the negotiation of these “number of punches” contracts go unnoticed. Had the WSJ not reported it, we all would have likely continued heading to the movies to see the latest installment of The Fast and the Furious, been blown away by the acting, the action, the writing, and the explosions, and been counting down the days until the next movie comes out.
We can’t criticize actors and actresses for wanting to protect their livelihoods, when billions of dollars are on the line.
You might want to pretend it’s all fantasy, but it’s time to leave the theater and realize in the real world, situations are produced as much as they are on screen. And that OK.