The Fast franchise has added another heavy-hitter to the family. UFC fighter, Francis Ngannou is set to join the cast of Universal's Fast & Furious 9. The details of the role are being kept quiet, but at 6'4'' and 258lbs, Ngannou will fit right in.
Also known as "The Predator," Ngannou currently holds the #2 spot in the heavyweight division. He also holds the the most UFC finishes in the division. This includes a recent 71 second knockout against Junior dos Santos and a 26-second knockout against the former UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez. Born and raised in the village of Batié, Cameroon, Ngannou had a long road to the film business and will be making his big-screen debut in Fast & Furious 9.
The Cameroonian-French professional mixed martial artist will be joining a cast of newcomers and original criminals-with-a-code family. Vin Diesel will of course be returning to his role as Dom Toretto. As will Michelle Rodriguez as Letty, Jordana Brewster as Mia, Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey, Ludacris as Tej Parker, and Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce. The Fate of the Furious' Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren will make their return as well. WWE wrestler John Cena (Blockers) and Anna Sawai (Ninja Assassin) have joined the ensemble cast.
Details of the plot are being kept quiet so far, but with Justin Lin returning as director, we can expect much of the same. Lin made his debut to the franchise in the loosely connected third installment, Tokyo Drift, but stayed in the director's chair for films 4, 5 and 6 as well. In comparison, Lin's films tend to be a bit more contained than some others in the series. As contained as a movie with high-speed freeway chases that defy physics and a car vs plane battle can be. Maybe Fast 9 will be a little more Fast Five and a little less Fast 8? The screenplay comes from Dan Casey, based on a story by Lin and Alfredo Botello.
Production on the film has been difficult so far. Stuntman Joe Watts suffered a major injury when he fell from an elevated set at Leavesden Studios in London. The experienced stunt performer has been released from the ICU since, but reportedly still has a long road to recovery. Some of the on-set drama has been self-inflicted by the cast themselves. The original cast seem to take the theme of family very seriously. So, when Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson agreed to a spinoff film after weeks of reported difficulties with co-star Vin Diesel, some cast members had some harsh opinions.
Tyrese Gibson has been outspoken since the Hobbs & Shaw announcement was made, and he has not let up, accusing Johnson of "breaking up the family" by starring in the film. Ironically, Tyrese was cast in the second film to fill a void left by Diesel's scheduling conflicts. Hobbs & Shaw went on to earn $334 million globally by its second week, before its release in China on August 23. China tends to be one of the biggest markets for the high-speed, high-action films.
With his history in UFC, Ngannou should fit right into the action and drama of Fast and Furious. The film is slated for a May 22 release. This news comes to us from Deadline.