EXCLUSIVE: Eager to move ahead with new installments of what's currently the studio's hottest series, Universal Pictures is considering shooting its sixth and seventh "Fast and Furious" movies back-to-back with a single story connecting the two films.
Screenwriter Chris Morgan, who wrote the last three films, is busy working on story ideas while director Justin Lin, who also worked on the last three "Fast" movies, is expected to return behind the cameras for both films, according to people familiar with the studio’s plans but not authorized to discuss them publicly.
Universal already has penciled in a May 24, 2013, release for “Fast and the Furious 6,” but the consecutive shooting schedule may result in a later launch, as Lin would be shooting the seventh film before he could edit the sixth. By making the two movies together, the seventh film could be in theaters sooner than the typical two-year gap between the Vin Diesel movies.
The idea of shooting multiple films has been tried (and has succeeded) before. Recent examples include “Back to the Future,” whose first and second sequels were filmed consecutively, as were the second and third “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. Peter Jackson shot all three “Lord of the Rings” films in one epic swoop, a pattern he is following with his two “Hobbit” films, due Dec. 14, 2012, and Dec. 13, 2013.
Paramount Pictures is also considering shooting the fourth and fifth "Transformer" movies together, according to a report in Variety.
Such combined production schedules can significantly reduce the combined cost of the two films and also minimize scheduling and staffing issues, as the lead cast and filmmakers essentially work on one longer production rather than coordinating their calendars to reassemble two separate times.
Universal's potential "Fast and the Furious" strategy would represent a risk for the studio, as it already would have invested hundreds of millions to make a seventh movie before knowing if the sixth was a hit.
The "Fast and Furious" franchise, which began in 2001, almost died with 2006's modest performer "Fast and the Furious 3" before revving back with 2009's fourth installment and this year's hit "Fast Five," which grossed $624 million worldwide.
A Universal spokeswoman declined to comment.
-- John Horn and Ben Fritz
Photo: Elsa Pataky and Vin Diesel in "Fast Five." Credit: Universal Pictures