It is said by the ancient ones that the role of Scarlett O’Hara was the single most desired job in Hollywood history. A star-making turn for an unknown actress, or a star-affirming turn for a known actress; based on a bestselling novel; a guaranteed hit, perhaps even a guaranteed Oscar. It took David O. Selznick two years to find his Scarlett. Soon, the second-most desired job in Hollywood history will be filled. Soon, Universal will find a director for Furious 8, the latest chapter in the mythic saga about flying cars and the biceps that punch them.
As of two weeks ago, Furious 8 was like one of Google’s driverless cars: moving forward inexorably with no one at the wheel, but nevertheless guaranteed to arrive at its final destination. But the clock is ticking. The films scheduled for April 2017. Given the movie’s size and scope — the “size” infinite, the “scope” eternal — a director will need to begin working on the movie. Now. Thus: A flurry of new reports from Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Wrap, variously declaring that the search is down to four finalists, three finalists, or one ultimate Chosen One who will carry the story of our Family forward into the undiscovered country.
Who will be the final victor? Let’s examine all the candidates and rate the likelihood that they will soon be the person waking up at 3 a.m. to a phone call from Vin Diesel demanding to know the philosophical subtext of the scene where Dominic Toretto drives a Dodge Charger off of the top of Mount Everest.
Will Eubank: Variety’s dark horse candidate. Best known for last year’s sci-fi film The Signal, and also made Love, the Angels & Airwaves movie. None of the words in that sentence probably make sense to you, which actually could be good for Eubank, since Hollywood right now loves promoting microbudget filmmakers into megablockbuster franchises. (Universal is the studio that turned Safety Not Guaranteed director Colin Trevorrow into Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow.) But given that Furious 8 is supposedly a reboot of sorts toward a new trilogy, it feels unlikely that Universal would opt for such an untested newcomer. 12-1
Adam Wingard: What what what? Has Universal been reading my diary entries? Wingard is a slightly less-out-there microbudget-filmmaker choice, the man behind the cult hit You’re Next and the Netflix favorite The Guest. He’s been working/tweeting about the manga adaption Death Note, which seems more in line with his sensibilities, and it’s hard to imagine him giving up that big-budget debut for a big-budget octoquel. (But we can dream!) 15-1
Louis Leterrier: A journeyman action director with lots of franchise work on his resumé, Leterrier has ridden a few different waves in his career. He started with Luc Besson’s euro-action factory, co-directing The Transporter and helming Transpoter 2. He made The Incredible Hulk, generally considered either the best or worst Hulk movie. He made Clash of the Titans, a movie you saw back when you thought everything was better in 3D. He made Now You See Me, a curiously Furious-esque heist movie, with Mark Ruffalo playing The Rock and Woody Harrelson as Vin Diesel, sort of. Leterrier feels like a safe, steady choice for a franchise in search of a caretaker willing to take notes. 8-1
F. Gary Gray: Speaking of “willing to take notes,” here’s the guy who made Straight Outta Compton, the NWA movie produced by NWA and starring the son of one NWA member. That he produced something coherent would be a triumph in itself; that Straight Outta Compton made lots of late-summer money for Universal is an extra feather in his cap. Gray’s trajectory the past decade isn’t too different from Leterrier’s, but it feels more Furious-friendly. He made the Diesel action film A Man Apart, and the early Rock showcase Be Cool. And he made The Italian Job, a heist film about cars doing unusual things (which starred Furious Seven baddie Jason Statham!) This feels like Gray’s job to lose. 2-1