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‘F9’ Star Sung Kang Says Christopher Nolan’s Love for ‘Tokyo Drift’ Is ‘Super Validating’

Kang can't believe the "Fast" films have gone from "corny" action flicks to humungous Hollywood tentpoles.

"The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift"

Sung Kang, “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”

©Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

Christopher Nolan surprised many of his fans last year when he revealed on the “Happy Sad Confused” podcast that he has “a very soft spot” for Justin Lin’s 2006 action sequel “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” The third installment of the “Fast” franchise was maligned by film critics (it boasts a 37% on Rotten Tomatoes) and is often referred to as the worst entry in the long-running “Fast and Furious” franchise. But not for Nolan, who has been a “Fast and Furious” fan since the first movie.

“I’m sort of original recipe, the Rob Cohen original,” Nolan said when asked about his favorite “Fast” movie. “But I’ve got a very soft spot for ‘Tokyo Drift’ actually. And Justin Lin’s iterations, as they got crazier and bigger and crazier and bigger they became something else, but something else kinda fun. The fun thing about those [‘Fast and the Furious’] movies is even as they’ve gotten bigger and bigger, as sequels have to do — everyone always complains that sequels get bigger, but we are the people making sequels get bigger. We do want them bigger. You don’t want them smaller.”

“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” marked the introduction of Sung Kang into the franchise as Han, a fan favorite character who just returned to the series in “F9” after a hiatus. Kang recently spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about his “Fast” return and the conversation couldn’t help but touch upon Nolan’s love for the oft-criticized “Tokyo Drift.”

“It’s super validating when you get validation from your peers,” Kang said. “The irony of the ‘Fast’ movies is that they were supposed to be B-movies at first, and now we have Oscar winners like Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron coming to play with us. And Christopher Nolan, a filmmaker like that, his statement gives you insight that the guy is a true film lover.”

Kang continued, “They play ‘Tokyo Drift’ all day, every day, somewhere. It’s a great hotel movie and it’s fun. So it’s just so validating. You kind of have to laugh a little bit, because at one time, it had a prejudice associated with it. It was like, ‘It’s a corny Fast and Furious movie.’ But now, so many people want to come and play with us, right? So we’re doing something right.”

Speaking about his return to the franchise in “F9,” Kang revealed Han’s reunion scene with many of the film’s core cast was the first scene he shot on the tentpole. “I had hella anxiety the night before,” Kang told THR. “It felt like transferring out of school in the middle of your freshmen year and then coming back in the middle of your junior year. Everybody has their friends already, and even though you were friends with everybody, you wonder if you’re going to eat lunch by yourself the next day.”

Kang continued, “I was like, ‘I hope everyone’s cool with me. I hope I didn’t change, and I hope I don’t feel like I’m being squeezed into this movie because my friend is the director. I don’t want that vibe.’ And that hug with Vin, the camera doesn’t lie. Vin set it up, and he was like, ‘Let’s welcome him extra. Let’s make sure he doesn’t have any reservations. Let’s show him how much we appreciate him and the value his character is bringing to the film.’ And I felt it. Really, I was like, ‘Wow, they are genuinely happy to have me here. They are genuinely welcoming me back to the franchise as one of the family members.’ So it was pretty cool. It could’ve gone the other way.”

“F9” is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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