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July/August 2019

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DIRECTOR'S CHAIR 12 POST JULY/AUG 2019 hen it was announced that the long-running Fast & Furious mega-franchise would finally get its first spin-off, Hobbs & Shaw, director David Leitch seemed like the natural choice to take it on. After all, before becoming a director known for his hyper-kinetic, im- mersive, stunt-driven style, Leitch spent over a decade in the stunt business and doubled for actors including Matt Damon and Brad Pitt on such films as Bourne Ultimatum, Fight Club and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. He was also a fight choreographer, stunt coordinator, and 2 nd unit director on many films, including Wolverine, Anchorman 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Captain America: Civil War and Jurassic World. Leitch brought all that experience — as well as his in-your-face directorial work on the irreverent, raunchy Deadpool 2 (which racked up a global gross of nearly $800 million, becoming the high- est grossing X-Men film, as well as the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time); the punk-noir, take-no-prisoners Atomic Blonde; and the critically acclaimed 2014 box-office Keanu Reeves hit John Wick — to the latest adventure in the Fast & Furious universe. When the story starts, there's still no love lost between federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and merce- nary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). But following their partnership in 2017's The Fate of the Furious, the pair team up again, this time to try and stop Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), a cyber-genetically en- hanced villain who's out to threaten the world with a deadly virus. The film, which co-stars Vanessa Kirby and Helen Mirren, has a top-notch creative team led by Leitch's go-to cine- matographer Jonathan Sela (Deadpool 2, John Wick, Atomic Blonde), production designer David Scheunemann (Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde, The Hunger Games series), editor Chris Rouse (Oscar winner for The Bourne Ultimatum) and com- poser Tyler Bates (Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde, Guardians of the Galaxy). Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, Leitch talks about making the film, the challenges involved and his love of post. What did you think when you got the offer to do this? Did it feel like a natural fit for your skill set? "It did. When they first came to me with the idea, I saw the potential to do some- thing like all the great movies I grew up on and loved — 48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop, the Lethal Weapon movies — all these buddy cop movies that had this great mix of action and comedy, with great banter and one-liners. And I'd just come off Deadpool 2 and learned so much from that experience, and mixing comedy and action, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity and fit for me." This is the first spin-off to a huge franchise. Were you nervous? "I was incredibly nervous. We'd delivered against all odds and expectations a very successful Deadpool 2, and that was equally daunting to take on, but I also felt I knew how to do this and how to make it my own, and how to connect with all the Fast fans, so I just went for it." What were your goals with this and what sort of film did you set out to make? "I wanted to make a big summer pop- corn experience — something that's a fun ride and something that's a reason for going to the cinema and seeing it on the big screen, not on a phone or TV. That was the overall goal. But then we also had these great characters already well-established and beloved by fans of the franchise, so we also had to carve out this new world for them and set them up for any future adventures." What were the main technical challenges in pulling it all together? "The big one was time, as we had a very aggressive production and post sched- ule, and we needed so much manpower. For a start, there are over 1,400 VFX shots, and we only had a total of 23 weeks in post, which makes it very hard. So you need a real solid plan and pipeline to cope just with all that VFX work." That's a huge change from Atomic Blonde, right? "You're right. I really approached that from my stunt background and did nearly all of it practically. I think we had under 100 VFX shots in the whole movie, whereas this is a case of enhancing all the action. Every little thing is magnified to create the big theatrical experience." How early on did you start integrating post and all the VFX? "Right from the first day. You simply can't do these kinds of complex movies any other way now. It's ironic it's still called 'post,' as you have to start post well before you even shoot a frame of film. I'd say that even though Deadpool 2 was really challenging and complicated to do, this was even more complicated because of the universe and where this franchise had already gone. There's this high expectation for these spectacular set pieces, and we wanted to live up to all that. So we really merged a lot of practical stunts with VFX, and it was a lot of fun to do, but it took a lot of very detailed planning." Did you do a lot of previs? "We did some with The Third Floor and Proof, and built models and environ- ments and stuff we could then build final post on. Previs is really invaluable for all the big set pieces." How tough was the shoot? "It was tough. You're moving a massive crew around the world, and we shot in London as well as Hawaii, which doubled for Samoa, and just the logistics of shooting in London are enormous when you have 250 people. It's a very large footprint." You reunited with director of photography Jonathan Sela, along with other core creatives. How important was that? "It's very important to me and it really helps to work with people you know well and trust. Jonathan's done a lot of these types of films — huge logistical puzzles, and he's very experienced. And then creatively there's so much trust. On a tight schedule like this, you need to be able to delegate and trust it'll get done. And it's the same with all my core team — my producing partner Kelly McCormick, my production designer DAVID LEITCH ON FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW BY IAIN BLAIR W TAKING ON THE FIRST SPIN-OFF OF A HUGE FRANCHISE

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