The Fast & Furious franchise hit a new gear with 2011′s Fast Five when it added in Dwayne Johnson as the anti-Diesel. The addition of the Rock was a net positive for all involved, and this year’s Furious 6 followed suit, with a sequel-teasing mid-credits sequence that introduced a very familiar antagonist for the next film. Universal is bullish on the future of the franchise — understandable, since the sixth film has grossed a franchise-high $740 million so far. It makes sense that they would already be looking towards the future. And if the current hot rumor is to be believed, they’re setting their sights high. Mike Fleming at Deadline reports (mid-rant) that the studio approached Denzel Washington about a small role in Fast 7 that would lead into a major role in Fast 8 — similar to the soft-launch of Evil Statham in Furious 6.
Fleming claims Washington opted out of the role. (Universal had no comment.) That’s understandable. Washington is one of the very, very few stars in Hollywood who can still open a movie just with his name. He’s also a member of the elite crew of megastars who has never acted in a franchise movie. (His American Gangster costar Russell Crowe finally broke down and played Superman’s zombie-hologram dad in Man of Steel.) Still, it’s interesting to hear that the Fast franchise is reaching for stars at that level for whatever this New Important Role is. (A new villain? A new mentor figure? A time traveler from the future sent back in time to warn Dominic Toretto about the Sentinels?)
It got me thinking: What star at the Denzel Washington level would work in Fast 7? And who would want to join the series, which isn’t exactly Oscar material, but which is getting more popular critically and commercially with age? Here’s a long shot idea: Post-After Earth, could Will Smith revitalize his career by joining the Fast ensemble? (Hey, it sounds better than Men in Black 4 or Hancock 2 or Bad Boys 3.) Or, if they wanted to go in a different direction, isn’t it inevitable that Liam Neeson will join this franchise sooner or later? Then again, maybe Samuel L. Jackson could just play Nick Fury and/or Mace Windu, therefore linking the Fast films to the Avengers and Star Wars films in the ever-expanding Patton Oswalt movieverse.