John Singleton for “2 Fast 2 Furious”

John Singleton seems an unlikely choice as director of the mainstream studio actioner The Fast and the Furious 2, but that’s precisely the reason why the controversial director of the seminal Boyz ?’ the Hood was quick to step up to the challenge.

“The reason why I wanted to make the film was PRECISELY because it’s not expected”, the director explains during a break in filming in Miami. Fishing in between setting up the next shot in the Miami location, Singleton is relishing directing this high-octane sequel, even if it is without now high powered star Vin Diesel even though initially a second trip was written in case Diesel should come on board. “Then when Vin decided to do his own thing, that created an opportunity for Tyrese, and the script we ended up with was hot.” Singleton is adamant that fans of the first movie won’t miss Vin Diesel. “This movie is beyond just one actor, it’s about a culture. The reason why that first picture was so successful was because it delved into a culture that really hadn’t been exploited on film, not at least since American Graffiti.”

At least Paul Walker is back, reprising his undercover cop from the first film, now on the run, reluctantly persuaded to destroy a Miami drug cartel. Singleton describes his star as “cool. I’ve been telling him that he’s going to come up totally different in this picture than any other film he’s ever done, because of working with me”, he ads laughingly. “Paul is like a young Steve McQueen in that he doesn’t have to do much to say a whole lot. He’s really gotten into the whole thing of being an action star but at the same time being able to convey a whole lot of emotion without saying much. He’s a real good-looking guy and a lot of the people that he was working with before wanted him to be just that and not to ACT, while I was like: You’re going to act your ass off during THIS movie.”

Singleton, who in the past hasn’t shied away from criticising the studio system, makes his first non-adult film with Fast and Furious 2, the anticipated sequel to the original box office hit, replacing Rob Cohen behind the camera. “I wanted to do something that was fun to do. I went to film school because I was interested in all types of movies and I believe that I can make all different types of films.” The challenge for Singleton in directing The Fast and the Furious 2, he says, “has been keen to make it hip and fun, as it’s my first PG-13 film, but at the same time I want to find a little edge in it, so it’s not just a bubble gum movie.” The director admits to feeling some pressure in delivering a sequel to the original hit, conceding “that the biggest pressure has always been to make the coolest movie possible, for my goal is for people to see this film and forget there ever WAS a first Fast and the Furious. I think I’ve been basically imbued with the task of being able to set this up so that there’s able to be a third, fourth and fifth one and that’s a great challenge.

The director, whose work has always been thematically defined as character-based, denies that the action will completely take over in Fast and Furious 2. “There is a lot of action in the film, but it’s still character-driven. I think that’s what I bring in this picture, in that the characters in this film are just not thrown away. Everybody in the picture is a tangible character.” While many of Singleton’s films deal with urban Black youth in America, Singleton was happy to making a film far more culturally diverse than its predecessors. “That’s the way it is, man. I remember doing these college lectures about the new Hollywood. The old Hollywood was basically the same old paradigm: The white guy and the white girl on the horse who ride off in the sunset. Now, you know, modern American film is changing and everyone is represented where most of the hit movies now have a diverse cast, from this film to Rush Hour and more, have all these different types of people included.”

Singleton says that he intends drifting back and forth between films such as Fast and Furious 2 and smaller character-based work “because that is where I come from. I just want to tell a variety of stories.”