May 2003
2 Fast 2 Furious : An Interview with Director John Singleton

Interviewed by Wilson Morales

2 Fast 2 Furious: An Interview with Director John Singleton

After directing Baby Boy, the third film of the South Central films he’s done (Boyz N the Hood, Poetic Justice), John Singleton is taking a break from hard hitting subjects to something fun and exciting. In his first PG-13 film, John Singleton is directing 2 Fast 2 Furious, the sequel to the blockbuster hit The Fast and the Furious. In an interview with, he talks about his input to the film and having musicians/ rappers in his films.

WM: Was the film fun to do?

JS: It was definitely fun to do. The cool thing about this movie was that it was like hanging out with some good friends for 8 months in a sexy city like Miami. We were working seven days a week but it didn’t feel like a job.

WM: Were there any concerns about doing the sequel?

JS: No. At first I had concerns but at the same time I thought that if I have to make a new movie I might as well make it as new as I can. Change it all up with a whole new cast and new cars and new location. Basically it’s a whole different kind of film in the way that it is shot and the way that it looks, and it the way that it feels. There’s more humor.

WM: Can you talk about the casting of Tyrese?

JS: Tyrese came on because the head of the studio, Stacey Snider, got a 35mm print of “Baby Boy” the opening day. She said we had to do something with this kid. She had the head of production call me and when Vin (Diesel) fell out of the sequel to “The Fast and The Furious” and they said they wanted my opinion on my putting in Tyrese in the film. I told them to watch cause he’s gonna be a huge star. I believed in him from the beginning. They asked if I would direct the film if he agreed to be in it. I said yes and that’s how it happened.

WM: Was it difficult to shut down South Beach while you shot several scenes there?

JS: We didn’t shut down South Beach at all. A lot of this movie is not even in South Beach, it’s in different parts of Miami that you really don’t see as much.

WM: How much of the filming was CGI?

JS: A little bit. There’s some in the first race and there’s a couple in the second race that’s CGI, but a lot of it is practical shots with this thing called “mick-ray”, basically a truck with a car shell mounted on it. They guys would drive for real because it’s always good to see the actors do it. When Paul is doing a 180 car spin, he had to rehearse that several times. Some of this you can’t create with CGI. It needed to look realistic.

WM: Did you do research for this before you started shooting?

JS: I did a lot of research. I learned a whole lot while I was making the picture. It was a great learning experience for me. I’ve always wanted to do a film where I can basically plan out a whole lot of stuff and be creative. Most of things I’ve done have been hard-hitting dramatic pieces, so I wanted to do something that was really more like an action adventure film.

WM: Some of the action car scenes were similar to those scenes we see in video games. Were any games an influence to shooting those scenes?

JS: Yeah, funny how you were able to pick that up. When I formulating the way I wanted to shoot the film, I watched a lot of Japanese anime and I watched the “Road Warrior” over and over again, which I feel is the best car movie ever made. I played a couple of video games where it allowed me to free my mind and shoot something different from the traditional way. I also played with “hot wheels” on my desk and I thought about how a camera can shoot this from different angles. I would come up with these cool ideas and then drawn them out and put them in a sequence and then figure out how we would do this. It was cool for me because my whole goal for this movie was that from the beginning of my career I was only concern about being a real serious filmmaker. I wanted to be taken seriously so that when I make a movie, it means something. I got this monkey of being too serious a filmmaker and saw all these cats coming out of the music world getting these cool jobs and I thought about not always doing serious pictures while these guys are getting the fun work. So I was like “I’m going to do some popcorn work and make a film that’s going to make a lot of money”. I did “Shaft” which was a huge hit and felt like flipping it up cause the filmmakers I really admire from the old days like Howard Hawks and older filmmakers would go from a western to a comedy and to an adventure movie and I just felt like it was time for me to do that. I could always do another socially relevant film that’s really hard-hitting. At least I have that. It would be different if I was just either or. Now, hopefully people will see me as being able to shoot anything. I was to USC film school, the best school in the country so I know cinema. I’m a student of cinema.

WM: Can you talk the casting of Ludacris? You have a way of making musician shine in your films such as Ice Cube, Tupac, Janet Jackson, and Tyrese.

JS: It depends. Anyone that comes from any medium whether it they come off the bus to Hollywood for the first time or they’re established musicians, if they come to act, they have to respect for the craft. There’s been so much about too many hip-hop artists taking the work from actors. The artists that have worked for me, if you have noticed, have gone on to have careers in this business and doing other films. It’s not like when they work for me, they’re a flash in the pan. I have a rigorous process from which they learn the respect for the craft. They have an acting coach and go through some improvisation and scene study and stuff. It’s like a boot camp for 3 or 4 weeks before they get to do the movie.

WM: Is it surprising to you that Tyrese says that he doesn’t like to watch films?

JS: Yeah, he doesn’t watch a whole lot of movies. While we were making “Baby Boy” I would watch about 3 or 4 films and he would fall asleep in the middle. He didn’t even know the stars of “Raging Bull”. Keep in mind that he’s only 24 years old.

WM: How much did you work with him on the set?

JS: I worked with him scene by scene. I lived vicariously through him. He’s like my baby brother. It was cool that we did another movie before this because our goal was to show how funny he could be as opposed to how serious he was in “Baby Boy”. There was a little bit of humor in that film. But here we wanted to show how he’s funny and magnetic.

WM: Cole Hauser is also someone you have work with before. Has he grown since you last saw him?

JS: Cole first worked with me when he was 18 years old on “Higher Learning” when he should have been in high school. He was a wild and crazy kid. He played the lead skinhead in the movie and now he’s 27 and young man and has come into his own as an actor. I really want to do another movie with him. He’s got a cool vibe about him.

WM: Tyrese mentioned that you wanted him to “leave the nest”? Is this true?

JS: It true. We’re close friends, but he has to work with someone else besides me, and then he’ll appreciate me better.

WM: What kind of car do you drive?

JS: I drive a Lexus truck. It’s like a ’98, but I just got a Mercedes. It’s an SL500. It’s hot as hell.

WM: Paul is the one holdover from the first film. What’s that like for you as a director? Is that character already done for him?

JS: Not at all. What we did for Paul’s character was I told Paul that “You can’t be the nice white boy” like he was in the first film. He was going to be edgy, he’s a criminal now, and the cops are after him. Once you see how he is in this movie, it’s totally different from the first movie. We wanted to make the dialogue a bit realistic and he and Tyrese would go over the script constantly to make it so. This film is still very much a fantasy action movie but it was important for the audience to believe that these guys had a history together. Paul and Tyrese had such good time on and off the set, that you feel it in the movie than you felt of Paul and Vin in the first film. Paul and Vin weren’t close and all that stuff in the back of the movie shows on film.

WM: Can you compare the energy spirit between Tyrese and Tupac?

JS: When I worked with ‘Pac, he was 20 years old. He was a totally different person than he was years later. ‘Pac was convoluted because of all of the stuff he went through before he got into the show business. He and his mom went through a lot of issues before he got in the business. Tyrese has a whole lot of focus. He’s not self-destructive and I give him a lot of respect for that because he knows what needs to be done in his career with singing or acting or whatever. He’s the first kind of cat that I could kick it with. He takes my advice and we’ve had some success together on it. He’s now producing movies and he’s written a movie that Universal wants to make. They’ll probably make it. It’s really cool to see him grow in the entertainment medium.

WM: How important was the look of each car?

JS: Very important. When I first got this gig, we went to the auto show in the Staples Center and I checked out the cars. The cars are like dream cars and every sponsor wanted to be involved with this film. You should see the amount of stickers on the cars. I was upset I didn’t get any free stuff out of it.

WM: Would you do the 3rd film if asked?

JS: Probably

WM: What are you working on next?

JS: I’m writing something right now. I don’t know if it will be my next project or not.