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Furious 8 has some problems under the hood halting its ignition

The FAST & FURIOUS... or is it FAST/FURIOUS... franchise has taken it to another level ever since they abandoned much of the street racing element that carried it through the first four films Once they went much more ensemble/heist in their focus, their box office numbers have been astronomical, and, like a fine wine, they've seemingly gotten better with age. After all, going back to that first film, if you would have told me that it would have started something that is now set to head into its eighth movie, I probably would have laughed so hard that I would have peed myself.

But here we are with FAST FIVE, FAST & FURIOUS 6 and FURIOUS 7 setting the stage for the series to keep on going into the future, stronger than ever. In the past, we've heard Universal exhibit so much confidence in what they have on their hands that they'd like to at least get F&F into double-digit entries, but they have to start with #8 first... and that's proving to be more difficult than originally imagined. 

A release date for the film has already been set, with Universal sticking its flag in April 14, 2017, but when you don't have a director lined up to execute that plan... Well, that's a bit of a problem.

Originally Universal wanted James Wan, who moved away from his horror roots to do FURIOUS 7, to return for another go-'round. In fact, the studio even has options on Wan to direct the eighth and ninth installments. But Wan opted to instead do a sequel to THE CONJURING. That was fine by Universal, as they thought they might be able to lure Justin Lin back to the series after stepping away for a film, but once Lin signed on for STAR TREK 3, that left Universal between a rock and a hard place.

They went back to Wan, offering up an obscene amount of money, hoping he wouldnt be able to balk at the truckload of cash they backed up to his house. However, Wan didn't exactly have the best experience directing FURIOUS 7. There was the unfortunate death of Paul Walker that the production suffered and eventually had to deal with, using rewrites and digital technology to work around his loss in order to complete the film. In addition, Vin Diesel, while the personable face of the franchise, wasn't exactly a peach to deal with behind the scenes. As a producer, Diesel reportedly questioned even the most minute details during action setups, holding up the production until he was satisfied. Then there was the matter of calling Wan into late-night script sessions to get a better understanding and feel for what his character was doing and the dialogue he'd be saying.

Universal, Diesel and Wan all deny these instances took place, saying it was all a very collaborative effort. But, when push comes to shove, Wan stuck with his CONJURING decision, opting for peace of mind and his sanity over a fat wallet and another F&F movie.

That leaves Universal still in search of a filmmaker to make this eighth movie happen, as Chris Morgan keeps cranking away at the script. Universal has been looking into some veteran action directors who could perhaps handle the magnititude of the film (Jaume Collet-Serra is one name the studio looked into, but he was unavailable). They're also looking at some relative newcomers who might be able to cut their teeth here in a big way, but think about it. If Wan had his problems with a film of this nature, someone else without his cache might prove to be a disastrous direction to take. Diesel does have to be consulting on the directorial search, but he does not have the power to veto any choices when they're ultimately made.

There are some who believe Diesel would love a shot at helming one of these pictures, but, for a debut, F&F would be a massive undertaking, and, considering the goodwill he's built for himself since returning to the series, it seems like a tough spot to put yourself if this is the one that winds up going sour.

In the meantime, Universal will continue to do their due dilligence and hopefully turn up a name that would make the right fit for the next step in the franchise. However, with studio co-president of production Jeffrey Kirschenbaum, who oversaw the franchise and really helped get it back on track after the Walker tragedy, recently exiting, things have started coming apart a tad without that glue there to keep it all together. Now it's up to someone else to step up and keep this train rolling before a potential mess derails the success they've built.

FURIOUS 8 is supposed to be released on April 14, 2017. We'll see if that happens.

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