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The perfect duet
The Fast & Furious franchise has two new stars behind the wheel. After eight films, the series is turning the ignition on its first spin-off. Uniting fan-favorite characters Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham).
Their first meeting back in 2015’s Furious 7 resulted in a fistfight and a hospitalization, but since then Hobbs and Shaw have formed a reluctant alliance whenever the world needs saving. In the new film Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw (out Aug. 2), the globe is unsurprisingly once again in peril, forcing the super-skilled odd couple to work closer than ever. They’re both virtually indestructible heroes who know their way around a bad-guy brawl or a car chase. They both sport identical hair (or lack thereof). The similarities, however, end there: Hobbs is a straitlaced lawman of Samoan descent who’ll stop at nothing to see his foes brought to justice. Shaw is a slippery Brit with a not-so-sparkling past. And he’s more than willing to bend the rules if it serves his own interests.
“I think people like to see oil and water have to merge,” Statham tells EW with a laugh. “These characters are bigger and larger than life, so to try to cork up their egos to work together is not an easy task.”
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So, what baddie could possibly be bad enough to unite these strange bedfellows? Idris Elba plays Brixton, a super-soldier who’s nicked a lethal bioweapon. Cyber enhancements and genetic engineering have turned him near invincible — and he’s looking to cause some mayhem.
“The overall goal was ‘Let’s create the greatest and baddest bad guy the Fast & Furious franchise has ever seen,’” Johnson explains. “That’s a very high bar, considering who we’ve had in the past. So when Charlize [Theron, who starred in 2017’s The Fate of the Furious] reads this, I’m going to get a text from her like, ‘Dude, what the f—! No one’s better than me!’ And I’m going to say, ‘I love you, but…’”
Along the way, Brixton crosses paths with Hattie (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby), Shaw’s sister and a highly skilled MI6 agent who teams up with Hobbs and Shaw to try to bring Brixton down. (Also making an appearance is Hattie and Deckard’s mother, played by a returning Helen Mirren.) Their pursuit of Brixton takes them from the Shaws’ home turf of London to the Hobbs family chop shop in Samoa, with plenty of explosions and bare-knuckle scraps along the way.
Hobbs & Shaw takes the Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham characters from The Fate of the Furious (aka Fast 8) on a new adventure without the rest of the cast. Though the film’s full title is Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, a Universal source says the presence of only two characters is not enough to establish that Moritz has any right to be involved. Moritz seeks not only the money he says he is owed as producer, but also millions more in reputational damages.
Moritz claims in court papers that he not only came up with the idea for the spinoff with screenwriter Chris Morgan, but also spent months developing and prepping it. The studio even paid for his production executive, Amanda Lewis, to move her family to London to oversee the filming.
So what happened? A studio insider contends Universal tried, even struggled, in good faith to work out a deal with Moritz but after “a long, torturous history” of fighting him to the courthouse steps on every movie in the franchise, the company got fed up when he became combative on Hobbs & Shaw. Says another source familiar with the franchise’s story. It’s always hard getting those movies up and running. There are a lot of heavy hitters, a lot of emotion, a lot of people who feel ownership. Moritz is very exacting on his deals, this person adds, and has a legal team that likes to get on the phone and send letters.
A cynic might wonder whether Universal might have taken into consideration what one knowledgeable source describes as the studio’s plans to expand the Fast and Furious universe dramatically. Comcast-owned Universal is hard up for franchises and obviously hopes Hobbs & Shaw will generate sequels. And the studio is exploring other ideas. Including a female-fronted Fast and Furious spinoff built around Charlize Theron’s character Cipher from The Fate of the Furious. The question for Universal, says a rep with important talent in the films, is “How do you broaden the franchise? How do you Avengers-ize it?”
In his suit filed in October, Moritz maintains that Horowitz had promised him a $2 million fee and first-dollar gross for Hobbs & Shaw — an arrangement based on Moritz’s deal for Fast and Furious movies eight through 10. According to Moritz’s court filings, the studio could pay him one of two ways for each of those movies. Either give him $2 million upfront plus 6 percent of the gross or pay him a $6.8 million fee plus additional millions from bonuses and a profit-participation pool.
Moritz says Universal, citing the growing budget of Hobbs & Shaw as it moved toward production, asked top talent to participate in a pool that would allow the studio to break even before cutting the various players in on profit. (Few if any nonwriting movie producers get first-dollar gross in today’s world.) Sources say even Johnson, who gets dollar-one gross as a matter of course, agreed to jump into that profit-sharing pool. But a studio insider says Moritz wound up for his usual game of hardball, prompting the studio to drop him.