At the heart of the globe-spanning, physics-defying films lies a real-life story about street racing in New York City.
The Fast and the Furious (2001), the first in the Fast and Furious franchise was loosely inspired by a Vibe magazine article, “Racer X,” written by Ken Li, about New York street racing. Director Rob Cohen reveals he was inspired to make the film after hearing about the article and subsequently watching a race in Los Angeles.
Racer X, published in the May 1998 issue of Vibe Magazine, was the work of Kenneth Li, a freelance journalist in New York who had stumbled upon the world of illegal, underground street racing. Li initially brought the story to Vibe as he saw parallels between what he was witnessing on the streets and a story Vibe had published years prior, which explored a group of black youths who had been using inner-city architecture as their own improvised skate parks.
Here are excerpts from “Racer X”:
A black Nissan 300ZX and a white Mitsubishi Starion pull out of the pack and creep up to the starting line. As the sun dances on the nearby river, the sound of honking horns and screaming drivers is drowned out by the sonic blast of the two engines revving for takeoff. A stocky Latino dude in a blinding yellow shirt stands in the middle of the highway and raises his hands. Both cars lurch and halt like chained pit bulls, their wheels spitting out black smoke. The hands drop.
Young men have been fascinated with tweaking and tuning big block Chevys and Mustangs since the days of Rebel Without a Cause. But the new guys wouldn’t be caught dead driving the gaudy muscular beasts of yesteryear. Instead, they’re tricking out low-buck Japanese imports like Honda Civics and Acura Integras and tattooing them like skateboards with Neuspeed and Greddy car parts stickers. By stroking the engine, adding a supercharger, and hitting the “juice” (nitrous oxide: a gaseous liquid once used to boost bomber planes in WWII), they can smoke the herb in the Iroc at the stoplight.
The eighth film in the “Fast and Furious” franchise is in theaters April 14. Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, The Rock, and Tyrese are just a few members of the cast returning for “The Fate of the Furious” in which Dom (Diesel) surprisingly turns his back on family to work with a mysterious newcomer played by Charlize Theron.
The franchise, which has earned over $3.8 billion globally, has become Universal’s biggest franchise of all time!