Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Jason Statham’s Fast & Furious spinoff movie is now officially scheduled to open in theaters on July 26th, 2019. This news comes on the heels of Universal’s announcement that the next mainline entry in the Fast & Furious saga, which for now is known as simply Fast & Furious 9, will be arriving in April 2020 rather than on the April 2019 launch date that was previously announced by the studio.
Johnson joined the Fast & Furious franchise in 2011’s Fast Five and has played Diplomatic Security Service Agent Luke Hobbes in every installment in the franchise since then. Reports of a spinoff movie focused on Hobbes and Statham’s Fast & Furious characters emerged around the time of this past spring’s theatrical release of the eighth chapter in the franchise, The Fate of the Furious. Statham’s character, Deckard Shaw, began as a villain when he was first introduced in the post-credits scene for Fast & Furious 6, but had evolved into an anti-hero of sorts by the end of Fate of the Furious.
It was the strong screen chemistry demonstrated between Statham and Johnson in the eight Fast & Furious movie, in particular, that helped to fuel studio interest in giving the duo a solo film of their own. According to THR, longtime Fast & Furious franchise screenwriter/producer Chris Morgan will be writing the script for The Rock and Statham’s spinoff film, though a director has yet to be announced. Here is the official statement from Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley, regarding the news:
“Fast & Furious is one of Universal’s most beloved properties, and we handle every decision we make surrounding this franchise with great care. The global brand of Fast & Furious is strong and full of iconic characters, and we look forward to continuing to build on the film that started it all, as well as expanding into different narratives beginning with our first spinoff.”
Johnson’s growing star-power over the past few years, coupled with the ongoing commercial viability of the Fast & Furious brand, have led him to become a key ingredient in the franchise’s enduring appeal. However, as Johnson has begun to take up more of the spotlight for himself, that has caused friction with his Fast & Furious costars. This not only contributed to the much-publicized feud between Johnson and Vin Diesel during production on The Fate of the Furious, it has also led Tyrese Gibson to publicly criticize The Rock – blaming him for Fast & Furious 9‘s release date being delayed.
These aren’t the only behind the scenes problems that have plagued the Fast & Furious franchise of late. Longtime star Michelle Rodriguez has made it known that unless she and her female costars are given more substantial screen time in Fast & Furious 9, she may decide to walk away from the franchise. Diesel has lent his support to Rodriguez in this respect too, putting added pressure on Universal and the other Fast & Furious creatives to actually honor her request.
The Rock and Statham’s spinoff, by comparison, seems by and large free of internal conflict at the moment and should be able to make its 2019 release date with little to no hassle. Filming on the project will presumably get underway shortly after Johnson wraps up production for Disney’s Jungle Cruise movie in the first half of 2018. The spinoff is currently set to open against director Tim Miller’s Terminator 6 in theaters, but it seems safe to assume that one of those franchise installments (probably the latter) will eventually move to a different launch date.