The Fast & the Furious is the first blockbuster to film in Cuba for a half century
F. Gary Gray agreed to direct the fate of the Furious (April 14), the eighth installment in the car racing series, because the Friday and Straight Outta Compton filmmaker wanted to be behind the wheel of the first big-budget U.S. film to shoot in Cuba in over 50 years.
“There’s a cultural richness that’s obvious when you land and experience Cuba—from the cars to the buildings,” he says. “I wanted to capture that. It’s sunny and hot. The party we had making the movie was the party I wanted to convey.”
Gray played his own role in improving relations between the countries. Besides hiring locals as crew members and extras—including real-life street racers—Gray erected a giant screen so bystanders could see live footage broadcast from a helicopter, the first U.S. chopper to hover over Havana since the 1962 embargo.
“You could see streams of tears coming from people’s eyes,” Gray says. “I’ve been in the business for over 20 years, so you get a little jaded. To see them experience their city from the air because they can’t fly, it became emotional for them—and it became so emotional for us that we started crying.”