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Before The Franchise: 20 Photos Of The Fast & Furious Stars

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Before The Franchise: 20 Photos Of The Fast & Furious Stars


The Fate Of The Furious recently passed the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office, after less than three weeks of release. It is the second instalment in the franchise to make more than $1 billion, after the stratospheric success of 2015’s Furious 7. There is already talk of a spin-off movie starring Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw as a bickering, odd-couple team, and Furious 9 is sure to be put into production as soon as humanly possible. This is one series that continues to go from strength to strength, and audiences continue to lap up its preposterous mix of car racing, international superspy action and gravity-defying stunts.

The cast of the franchise has grown and changed over the years, from sequel to sequel, and this article will take a look at some pictures from the main cast members’ pre-Fast & Furious lives. From early movie roles, to pictures from industries very far removed from acting, these people have done it all on their way to franchise glory.

Let’s take a look!

20. Nathalie Emmanuel In British TV Soap ‘Hollyoaks’

Nathalie Emmanuel is an English actress who recently found her big break in Hollywood with supporting roles in blockbusters like The Maze Runner and Furious 7, as well as a substantial role in HBO’s hugely successful TV phenomenon Game Of Thrones. She recently reprised her Furious 7 role (as sexy computer hacker Ramsey) in The Fate Of The Furious. It’s all a far cry from when she was a cast member of British soap opera Hollyoaks, which was set in a fictional village in Chester.

She played Sasha Valentine in the show from 2006 to 2010, and British TV viewers effectively watched her grow up on-screen. Her storylines included prostitution and heroin addiction at various points, as long-running soap characters in the UK tend to be put through the ringer! Interestingly, in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Emmanuel revealed that she found out she had won the role in Game Of Thrones while working as a shop assistant in a clothes shop!

19. Vin Diesel In ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Vin Diesel is in Saving Private Ryan?! What the what?!

These days Vin is mostly known as an action star with, shall we say, a somewhat limited acting range. His megabucks franchises (Fast & Furious and xXx), as well as efforts like The Last Witch Hunter, show a guy who is comfortable being a man of few words who kicks a lot of on-screen ass.

But it wasn’t always this way. In 1994, Vin wrote and directed a short film entitled Multi-Facial, in which he played a struggling multiracial actor mired in the auditioning process. He then wrote and directed his feature debut, Strays, a drama about a gang leader whose love for a woman makes him reform. These two things led to a small, supporting role in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar winning war epic in 1998! Well played, Vin.

18. Michelle Rodriguez In ‘Girlfight’

Michelle Rodriguez had only starred in one film before she won the role of Dominic Torretto’s main squeeze Letty in the Fast & Furious franchise. 2000’s Girlfight, in which she played Diana Guzman, a troubled teenager from Brooklyn, New York, who channels her aggression into training to become a boxer.

The movie was directed by Karyn Kusama (who would go on to direct Aeon Flux and Jennifer’s Body), and was received rapturously by critics. It won the Grand Jury Prize and Best Director awards at the Sundance Film Festival, and Rodriguez won several acting awards, including the Independent Spirit award for Best Debut Performance. This is impressive enough, but even more so when you consider that Rodriguez had never acted before! She simply answered an open casting call, and beat 350 other young actresses to the role, as Kusama said no one else even came close to her ‘physical power’.

17. Dwayne Johnson As The Rock In WWE’s Attitude Era

‘If you SMMMELLLLLLL…what THE ROCK…IS…COOKIN’?’

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is pretty much the best thing about the Fast & Furious franchise these days, in our opinion. His role as Luke Hobbs, the jacked-up US Diplomatic Security Service Agent who was hell-bent on arresting Dominic Torretto and his whole crew in 2011’s Fast Five, was a revelation and helped give the franchise a much needed shot in the arm.

Back in this era, however, Johnson was finding fame as one of the WWF’s top performers in the famed Attitude Era. This was where most of Hollywood first clapped eyes on Johnson, and his off-the-charts charisma and athletic gifts were easy to see. As was his aptitude for catchphrases, love for expensive shirts, and inability to control that one wandering eyebrow…

16. Eva Mendes In ‘Training Day’

Eva Mendes has appeared in two movies in the franchise: 2 Fast 2 Furious in 2003, and then a short cameo in Fast Five in 2011. She played Monica Fuentes, a US Customs Agent working undercover for Carter Verone, an Argentine drug lord.

Mendes’ breakthrough role was in Antoine Fuqua’s awesome 2001 crime drama Training Day, in which she starred alongside Denzel Washington (pictured) and Ethan Hawke. Denzel won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his towering performance as corrupt police detective Alonzo Harris, and Mendes played his long-suffering girlfriend Sara. Despite limited screentime, she made enough of an impression that leading roles in 2 Fast 2 Furious and Once Upon A Time In Mexico soon followed.

15. Jason Statham Swimming In The Commonwealth Games

No, your eyes do not deceive you. That is Jason Statham, cinematic hard man and general ass-kicker, as a swimmer/diver in 1990. With hair.

Statham grew up in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, in England and was interested in two things: football (soccer) and diving. He grew up alongside Vinnie Jones (who would, of course, go on to become a professional footballer and then an actor), and played for his grammar school team.

Diving eventually took over, however, and he became a member of Britain’s National Diving Squad for 12 years. He even competed for England at the 1990 Commonwealth Games (which is when this picture was taken). After this, he became a model for French Connection, and appeared in a few music videos for British bands like Erasure and The Beautiful South, before he was introduced to director Guy Ritchie, who would cast him in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

14. Paul Walker In ‘Pleasantville’

The late Paul Walker will undoubtedly be remembered most fondly for his role as Brian O’Conner in the Fast & Furious franchise. The first movie, released in 2001, was his big break as a leading man in Hollywood, but he had been seen in a few eye-catching supporting roles before he and Vin Diesel drove into audience’s hearts.

One of these was his role as Skip Martin in the 1998 comedy-drama Pleasantville, which starred Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon in early roles. The movie was a financial dud, but was critically beloved and has gained a cult following over the years. The movie featured Maguire and Witherspoon’s modern-day siblings being transported into the world of a black and white 1950s sitcom.

13. Vin Diesel In ‘Pitch Black’

In the year 2000, Vin got his big break in Pitch Black, a sci-fi action horror film from director David Twohy. Still one of his very best films, this ingenious genre gem spawned his first franchise, as he reprised his role as the anti-hero criminal Richard B. Riddick in 2004’s The Chronicles Of Riddick and 2013’s Riddick.

The plot is simple and effective: Riddick is being transported to prison on a spacecraft, which is forced to make an emergency crash landing on a desolate desert planet. The planet has three suns, which keep it in perpetual daylight…but an eclipse is coming. And this darkness will give the ravenous alien beasties that live underground free rein to attack the crew of the spacecraft! But it’s okay, because Riddick has surgically-enhanced eyes that enable him to see in the dark…

12. Jordana Brewster In ‘The Faculty’

Just take a gander at this image from the promotional campaign for 1998’s The Faculty, the ‘teachers are really evil aliens’ teen horror from director Robert Rodriguez. How 90s does everyone look?! Yeesh. And yes, that is Josh Hartnett and Elijah Wood in the foreground…next to Jordana Brewster aka Mia Torretto from the Fast & Furious franchise.

This movie was Brewster’s film debut, after starring in the soap opera As The World Turns for a number of years. To be fair, despite its dated look, the movie is a ton of fun and features Jon Stewart (yes, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart) in a rare early acting role. Brewster went on to star in such cinematic disasters as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and D.E.B.S., before finding more success on TV in the likes of the Dallas and Lethal Weapon updates.

11. Dwayne Johnson In The 90s

Okay, we’ve got to be honest. This picture is just here for us all to have a giggle at.

These days, we all know The Rock as a charismatic, bronzed adonis, who looks like he’s been chiselled out of stone. But he didn’t always look like he does today! Oh no! In fact, Johnson himself has been quick to make fun of himself in this none-more-90s photo, in which he sports a turtleneck/chain combo. And looks utterly ridiculous!

What is just out of shot, though, is the leather fanny pack he was also wearing. On an appearance on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon in 2014, Johnson was asked what he kept in his fannypack during this time period. Flashing that million dollar grin, he answered ‘pop-tarts and condoms’. What a bizarre, yet hilarious, answer!

10. Paul Walker In ‘She’s All That’

Walker co-starred in She’s All That, one of the most popular teen comedies of the 1990s. You mightn’t recognize the guy standing beside Walker in the picture, but that is Freddie Prinze Jr., who at one point was one of the hottest young actors in Hollywood! He starred in the film as Zack, the popular guy on campus, who is dumped by his airhead girlfriend in favour of a faded reality TV star (played by Matthew Lillard, who would go on to star with Prinze Jr. again in the Scooby Doo films).

Zack believed that his ex was replaceable by any girl in school. Walker played his best friend Dean, who challenged Zack to turn any random girl into the Prom Queen within six weeks. Zack chooses Laney Boggs, played by Rachel Leigh Cook, a geeky art student. And wouldn’t you know it, she turns out to be hot and they fall in love! Of course.

9. Gal Gadot Competing For Miss World In 2004

Gal Gadot is about to have a very big summer. Her starring role as Diana Prince in the very first big-screen Wonder Woman movie is about to drop, and a lot is riding on it for Warner Brothers/DC Entertainment. It will be Gadot’s first leading role in a major film, but not her first time starring in a big franchise. She played Gisele Yashar in four Fast & Furious films, which is where she first came to the attention of DC.

Her story, prior to acting, is an interesting one. She won the 2004 Miss Israel competition at the age of 18, and then went on to compete in the 2004 Miss Universe pageant. After this, she completed her mandatory two years of military service in the Israeli Army, and then studied law!

8. Tyrese Gibson Modelling For Calvin Klein

Dwayne Johnson isn’t the only prominent member of the Fast & Furious cast who got their start outside of the acting world. Tyrese Gibson, who plays funnyman Roman Pearce, was a model in the mid-90s, whose big break came in a 1994 Coca Cola advertisement. He then went on to model for Tommy Hilfiger and Guess, before pursuing his first love: music.

In 1998, he released his debut R&B album, Tyrese. It peaked at number 17 on the Billboard 200, and was certified Platinum after selling one million copies. He went on to release five more albums over the course of his career, and now splits his time between movies and music.

7. Jason Statham In ‘Revolver’

By the time ‘The Stath’ (as he would be dubbed by British movie magazine Empire) starred in Guy Ritchie’s 2005 film Revolver, audience’s had become well versed with his particular brand of bald, English badassery. So imagine everyone’s surprise when they saw him like this, with long slicked back hair and a handlebar moustache. To be honest, we could never quite decide whether we thought it was a good look or not…

Revolver was a critical and commercial failure, and it saw Ritchie receive his most scathing reviews up to that point. Statham played Jake Green, a con-man who used a universal formula that he believed would guarantee victory to its user, in any game or con scenario. This description barely touches on what lies within the film however, and it turned many people off by being deliberately convoluted and confusing.

6. Charlize Theron In ‘Monster’

The fact that The Fate Of The Furious, the eighth entry in the franchise, featured an Academy Award winning actress as its villain, should tell you a lot of how this series is viewed in Hollywood today. The old logic was that each successive instalment in a series would make less money and be less beloved than its predecessor, especially when it came to franchises with a high number of sequels. But Fast & Furious has well and truly bucked that trend. If anything, it keeps getting bigger and bigger with every entry, and therefore Charlize Theron appearing as the villainous hacker Cipher makes perfect sense.

This picture is from 2003’s Monster, where Theron played real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Her vanity-free performance (for which she gained 30 pounds, shaved her eyebrows and wore prosthetic teeth) was a revelation, with the late film critic Roger Ebert calling it “one of the greatest performances in the history of cinema”. In total, Theron won 17 acting awards for the performance, including Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe trophies, alongside the aforementioned Oscar.

5. Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges In His Early Days As A Hip-Hop Artist

A former pro-wrestler. A former model/R&B singer. A former swimmer/model.

The cast of the Fast & Furious franchise is full of people who initially came to prominence in areas outside of acting. And here’s another one!

Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges stars in the series as the loveable tech-nerd of the team, Tej Parker. He has appeared in five of the movies, and is an enjoyable screen presence. Before he became an actor, however, he was a very successful rapper. His first album, the amusingly named Incognegro, gave listeners their first taste of his unique fast, comedic style, which was unusual for ‘Dirty South’ rappers at the time. His next album, 2000’s Back For The First Time was a mainstream hit, peaking at number 4 on the Billboard 200.

4. Lucas Black In ‘Sling Blade’

Lucas Black starred in The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift, which is usually remembered as the worst of the franchise. It didn’t star Paul Walker or Vin Diesel (although he did make an uncredited cameo at the end), and is the lowest grossing effort in the series. However, it was the debut of director Justin Lin, who would go on to define the series as the megabucks franchise it is now, so it’s not a total loss. Black starred as Sean Boswell in the film, who was competing in the ‘drifting’ racing community in Tokyo.

Up until that point, Black may have been best known as a child actor, after his roles in spooky TV series American Gothic (1995/96) and the movie Sling Blade, which is where this picture comes from. It was written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton, who also starred as a man with a developmental disability who was released from the psychiatric hospital where he had lived since he was 12 years old, after he killed his mother and her lover. Upon release, he develops a friendship with a young boy (Black) and his mother.

3. Tyrese Gibson In ‘Baby Boy’

In 2001, the year that the first Fast & Furious movie debuted, Tyrese was busy releasing an album (2000 Watts) and starring in his first major acting role, in John Singleton’s drama Baby Boy. The third single from the album, Just A Baby Boy, was featured on the movie’s soundtrack.

The movie co-starred Ving Rhames and Snoop Dogg, and told the story of Jody Summers, a bicycle mechanic, as he fathers two children and learns how to be a man in South Central, Los Angeles. The film was originally going to star Tupac Shakur in the main role, but following his death in 1996, the movie was put on hold, before Tyrese was eventually cast.

2. Luke Evans In ‘Tamara Drewe’

Finally, we turn to Welsh actor Luke Evans, who starred as the villainous Owen Shaw in Fast & Furious 6. Shaw was the leader of a mercenary organization, and a former SAS Major and Special Ops soldier. At the end of that movie, we found out that his big brother was none other than Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who would go on to be the main antagonist of Furious 7 and a reluctant hero in Furious 8.

Evans had an extensive filmography, especially in British movies, before he joined the franchise in 2013. Roles in Clash Of The Titans, Immortals and The Hobbit movies are probably his best known performances, but this picture is from 2010’s Tamara Drewe. Here, he played Andy Cobb, a small-town Dorset man who loved Gemma Arterton’s Tamara

1. Dwayne Johnson In ‘The Scorpion King’

Even though there are a number of pro-wrestlers throughout the years that have transitioned into acting, Dwayne Johnson has been by far-and-away the most successful. Today he is the highest paid actor in Hollywood and one of the biggest box-office draws in the world, and is considered a movie star first and foremost, as opposed to a wrestler-turned-actor.

His first big roles came in the early 2000’s, when he played The Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns (2001) and the self-titled spin-off prequel in 2002. His appearance in The Mummy sequel was brief, but he displayed a strong screen presence (even despite some godawful CGI). The studio quickly greenlit the spin-off, and Johnson was paid $5.5 million, which was unheard of at the time for someone who had never headlined a movie before.

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