Do us a favor and close your eyes. (Did you close them? Good.) Now, whisper the words “Fast” and “Furious” to yourself. What images come ramping into your head, like so many Hondas winding their way through the infinite mental highways of your mind? Do you see glistening, be-tank-topped muscles? An endless labyrinth of neon underglow? A leathery lawman with a world-weary, jaundiced voice, which nevertheless conveys a souring belief in the inherent goodness of man?
If one of those things doesn’t sound like the others, you might find yourself surprised by a recent F&F casting secret, revealed by producer, star, and trailer-inhabitor Vin Diesel. Diesel went on Facebook Live last week to connect with his fans, operating a half-hour long Q&A that doubled as a detailed examination of every pore of his constantly sunglassed face. In the Q&A, he revealed that Dwayne Johnson’s role in the franchise was originally written for Tommy Lee Jones.
Presumably, the part of Luke Hobbs—a sort of government bounty hunter tasked with tracking down Diesel’s Dom Toretto in 2011’s Fast Five—was originally conceived as more grizzled and less bulked up. (We can just imagine Jones setting his internal VCR to The Fugitive and giving himself a month-long nap.) But lo, says Diesel, the fans cried out. “Do a movie with The Rock!” they shouted, eager for every inch of their screens to be filled with exploding motorcycles and giant, sweaty men. “Do a movie with The Rock right now.”
And so the part was re-written, to better accommodate the hordes’ demands and Johnson’s hulking mass. And, as Diesel notes, Johnson went on to “shine” in the part, appearing in every subsequent fast and furious film. (Shined like the gleam off a glistening candied ass, Diesel resisted the urge to add.) Still, it’s fun to imagine that other world, the one where Tommy Lee Jones became a member of Dom’s rip-roaring gang of thieves. “Yee-haw,” he drily notes as he BASE jumps down to a waiting dune buggy, muscle shirt hanging loosely from his aging frame. “Yee-haw, indeed.”