Vin Diesel on keeping Paul Walker’s character alive and how the final scene in ‘F9’ could be the best they’ve done

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Nine Movies in a Mega Franchise Now Grossing Over $6 Billion, Series OGs Vin Diesel and Jordana Brewster admit they never envisioned such a long and lucrative future when they came aboard The Fast and the Furious, released 20 years ago this week on June 22, 2001.

“I didn’t think at the time that it was going to be this thing that would grow into nine chapters,” Brewster tells Yahoo Entertainment as the latest episode, F9, opens this weekend (see above).

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Diesel didn’t even think there would be a sequel.

“When the first movie was released [June 22, 2001, it was a modest-budget movie and it was niche, illegal streetcar racing wasn’t something that was super popular or global,” he tells Yahoo Entertainment. “We were shocked that they moved the [release date] to summer. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but later I was told that that’s a sign that they think it’s a summer hit.”

The film made more than $200 million worldwide on a budget of just $38 million.

“The movie comes out and they started talking about a sequel. And I was under the impression that, just like in the ’90s, if you made a sequel to a movie, you destroyed the possibility that that movie would become a classic. So I said, “Don’t make a sequel to this.” And they did.”

Diesel, unlike costar Paul Walker, did not return for 2003 2 Fast 2 Furious, which introduced future series pillars like Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson.

The actor returned for a cameo in 2006 The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (which otherwise featured an entirely new cast), his appearance is so lavish that Universal decided to hand over the keys to the entire operation over the Diesel for the 2009 franchise re-igniter Fast & Furious.

“They came to me for Tokyo Drift and said, ‘We don’t plan on making any more’ Fast and furious movies unless you produce them,” says Diesel. “And I called Paul Walker, who was no longer in the franchise, and he said, ‘If you produce, I’m in.’ I had this really big talk and he just interrupted me and wouldn’t let me give my big talk about why it would be so important to do.

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in a scene from the 2001 movie 'The Fast And The Furious'. (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in a scene from the movie The Fast And The Furious, 2001. (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)

Over the next four episodes, Diesel and Walker became incredibly close as they headlined the series together until Walker died in a car accident in 2013.

furious 7, from 2015, marked the last on-screen appearance for Walker’s Brian O’Connor – whose brothers Caleb and Cody helped out as stand-ins after the actor’s death. But while that film ended with an emotional goodbye to Walker, with Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s poignant “See You Again,” that didn’t mean the end of Brian O’Connor.

The character stays alive in the latest sequels, is retired and lives family life away from the action with his wife Mia (Brewster) and kids.

“What we know about every day we breathe is that it’s always with us,” Diesel says of his late friend Walker. “That’s probably the most profound, not something I could have confirmed seven and a half years ago.

“And who would think that a movie can hold one’s mind? [alive]? Who could ever think of that?”

Part 8, 2017 The Fate of the Furious ended with another tribute to Walker when Diesel’s Dom announces he’s named his newborn son Brian. (In real life, Diesel and his wife Paloma Jiménez named their daughter Paulina after Walker when she was born in 2015.)

But the tribute to Walker that closes F9, says Diesel, surpasses them all.

“Those are tributes. But when you see the end of F9, that’s something even bigger. That’s something, a promise, that’s something special. That might be the best thing we’ve ever done.”

F9 playing now.

Watch the cast talk about the series going to space:

-Video produced by Anne Lilburn and edited by Steve Michel

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