Surprise! Dwayne Johnson has returned to the “Fast and Furious” franchise, making an appearance in the post-credits sequence for the upcoming “Fast X,” out next Friday (May 19), TheWrap has exclusively learned.
What makes his return so shocking is how adamant Johnson was about not returning to the series. In November 2021, “Fast and Furious” franchise star and producer Vin Diesel took to Instagram, essentially to beg Johnson to return to the mainline franchise. In 2019, Johnson starred in “Hobbs & Shaw,” a spin-off with Jason Statham.
A month after Diesel’s social media appeal, Johnson told CNN: “I told [Diesel] directly that I would not be returning to the franchise. I was firm yet cordial with my words and said that I would always be supportive of the cast and always root for the franchise to be successful, but that there was no chance I would return. Vin’s recent public post was an example of his manipulation. I didn’t like that he brought up his children in the post, as well as Paul Walker’s death. Leave them out of it. We had spoken months ago about this and came to a clear understanding.”
Whether or not the most recent move means an official end to a six-year public squabble between Diesel and Johnson, it does show that all parties understand that Johnson in a “Fast Saga” film is a mutually beneficial scenario. While the franchise began as an ensemble series anchored by Diesel and the late Walker, its commercial highs throughout the 2010s were implicitly or explicitly tied to the added value that The Rock’s hard-charging, butt-kicking super cop Luke Hobbs brought to the series. The series is simply more popular with The Rock as part of its ensemble than without.
“Fast Five” earned rave reviews and grossed $620 million worldwide in 2011, a strong performance that catapulted the series from a B-level street racing heist series to an A-level action franchise. “Fast & Furious 6” built on that earned goodwill and grossed $788 million in the summer of 2013. “Furious 7,” a release and reception that was admittedly skewed (especially in North America) due to the tragic death of Paul Walker, earned a colossal $353 million domestic and $1.52 billion worldwide.
As for Diesel, an apparent burying of the hatchet shows that he is willing to work with an actor if it helps the franchise that he cares so much about. While Johnson seemingly rejected Diesel’s pleas to return in November 2021, a change of mind now constitutes an acknowledgment that he’s been humbled a bit, that he works best within an ensemble and that he can be a team player too.
As recently as 2019, Johnson was on a hot streak with hits like “Rampage” and the two blow-out “Jumanji” sequels ($962 million in 2017 and $800 million in 2019) alongside noble failures like the original “Die Hard” meets “Towering Inferno” mash-up “Skyscraper.” However, Netflix’s “Red Notice” earned tepid reviews and, despite huge viewership, became shorthand lingo for budgetary bloat and four-quadrant mockbuster mediocrity in the streaming era. Two sequels are still in development.
But his momentary cool streak has just ended spectacularly, as he rejoins one of the most profitable and beloved franchises ever – the series is the eighth highest-grossing franchise in Hollywood history, with a combined gross of over $6 billion.
“Fast X,” directed by Louis Leterrier and starring Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Jason Momoa, Nathalie Emmanuel, John Cena, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren, Brie Larson and Rita Moreno, opens everywhere on May 19.
Scott Mendelson and Drew Taylor contributed to this report.