Twelve years ago, The Fast and the Furious was, in the words of star Paul Walker, a movie "about cars, girls, and guns" with a catchy title. Now with five films in the series, it has become one of the most successful action franchises in history. Before Fast & Furious 6 hits theaters, let's take a look behind the scenes of the nitrous-oxide-powered series.
The premise of the first film was simple but effective: an undercover police offer (Paul Walker) infiltrates a group of street racers and truck hijackers, led by a professional street race (Vin Diesel), whose sister (Jordana Brewster) falls in love with Walker's character, and his girlfriend (Michelle Rodriguez).
Add some roaring engines, tanks of nitrous oxide, and open roads and a golden formula was constructed.
After an impressive $207 million at the box office, a sequel was green-lighted, entitled 2 Fast 2 Furious. However, there was a drastic casting shift in the sequel. Only one main character, Walker, returned for the follow-up film and Eva Mendes, Tyrese, and Ludacris were added to the series.
Despite generally negative reviews from critics, the film remained true to the formulaic scheme of the first Fast and Furious and attracted an even larger audience than the first film ($263 million). Although late film critic Roger Ebert said the film didn't "have a brain in its head," he praised the underlying fastness and furiousness that carried it.
The success of the sequel was encouraging enough to develop the franchise in a trilogy. The story was then taken abroad to Japan for the third installment, this time with Vin Diesel as the only original main character appearing in the film.
Although the core element of racing, this time combined with drifting, was present, the film didn't fare as well the first two films, paling over $100 million in comparison to the previous film.
This likely served as an indication that in order for the franchise to remain afloat, it would have to bring back the original characters, which it did. The original core four—Diesel, Walker, Brewster, and Rodriguez—returned for the fourth film, simply titled Fast & Furious, which was the franchise's first authentic sequel.
The core four proved to be an integral part of the Fast & Furious formula, as the film, which picks up five years after the original film, raked in a massive $363 million at the box office.
At that point, the story was still alive and the franchise had raked in a cumulative $786 million, so to the surprise of none, another sequel was in the works, Fast Five, which spiced things up a bit by adding Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who has a dramatic fight scene with Diesel.
Adding The Rock in the mix and hosting the film in Rio de Janeiro worked wonders for the already successful franchise, as it pulled in an incredible $626 million, boosting the action series' total to $1.4 billion.