‘Tokyo Drift’ at 15: Sung Kang on straight-to-DVD expectations, why Han is always eating in ‘Fast and Furious’ movies
In one of the boldest, most unprecedented and underrated steps in recent film history, screenwriter and director Justin Lin brought one of his favorite characters, Sung Kangs Han Lue, from his 2002 indie directorial debut Better Luck Tomorrow to the 2006 franchise Dreiquel with Fast and the Furious: Tokyo drift.
Still, with the Fast saga's biggest cult favorite turns 15 today, Kang admits that expectations for the 2001 sequel to The Fast and the Furious and 2003's 2 Fast 2 Furious weren't incredibly high, stars like Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Michelle failed to attract Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster (except for a cameo by Diesel's Dominic Toretto).
"We were the underdog movie," Kang said in a recent interview with Yahoo Entertainment to promote the return of his fan-favorite character, fast-moving but quiet-speaking Han, in Friday's F9 nationwide release (see above) . “As far as I remember, we were meant for the DVD. I thought there was no life after Tokyo Drift. I was just grateful to be there, to have a job and to be part of this universal world. "
Tokyo Drift was released on June 16, 2006 and follows an American teenager (Lucas Black) who is sent to Japan with his father and falls into the local drift culture. It was a mild to modest hit for Universal, grossing $ 159 million worldwide on a budget of $ 85 million, and receiving poor reviews from critics. But the film grew in popularity with fans over the years as the series became an unstoppable box office giant with later episodes and the hashtag #JusticeforHan - a fan movement pushing the franchise's filmmakers to do better with the popular character, who was killed in Tokyo Drift - became popular.
Han (and Kang) returned in Fast & Furious from 2009, Fast Five from 2011, and Fast & Furious 6 from 2013, but all were considered prequels to Tokyo Drift in the series’s sometimes brain-wrecking timeline, while Hans’s killer - Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw - was redeemed and made the hero of his own saga spin-off (2019 Hobbs & Shaw with Dwayne Johnson).
However, thanks to this movement, Han lives in today's F9. That means Kang is getting his meatiest fast-roll in 15 years and is coming back with the most famous quirk: the fact that he sees chips nibbling on almost every corner. During our interview, Kang explained exactly why Han always seems to have the nibbles.
"Han was a chain smoker" in Better Luck Tomorrow, says Kang. “He was a rabble in high school and he always smokes, tries to look cool and stuff. And when Han was about to be brought into the Fast and Furious world, I knew a bunch of kids would be watching this movie. Better Luck Tomorrow was a very quirky, R-rated indie film, it was an art house film, so I knew what our audience would be. But a lot of children watch it with Fast.
“So I started watching actors like Brad Pitt and Steve McQueen and hearing behind the scenes [interviews], and what does an actor do when he doesn't speak a lot? If you go back to Tokyo Drift, Han likely says three words throughout the movie. He's always watching. And I needed an activity, I needed something to do instead of just my hands in my pockets. And what do you do when you look at something? You eat, you nibble. I thought, 'Oh, this is the perfect activity.' You can stay active. You can trade in a snack. "
F9 opens on Friday.
Check out the trailer:
F9 (trailer 2)
Dom Toretto leads a quiet life away from the net with Letty and his son, little Brian, but they know that there is always danger lurking beyond their peaceful horizon. This time around, that threat will force Dom to face the sins of his past if he is to save those he loves most. His crew unite to stop a world-shattering conspiracy led by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they have ever met: a man who is also Dom's abandoned brother Jakob.
-Video produced by Anne Lilburn and edited by John Santo
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