Rob Cohen

"The Fast and the Furious"

Interviewed by James Mottram

Are you surprised at the success of "The Fast and the Furious", having taken $140 million in the US?

I never expected it to be a blockbuster as it wasn't made it to be one. Until the first test-screening I didn't have any inkling it would have that potential. I knew that I was working in a worn-out genre, that had been over-stepped by mega-budget production, in "Days of Thunder", "Gone in 60 Seconds", "Driven", and so on. But I believed in the new sub-culture of illegal street racing, with its multi-ethnicity, and with this young cast, with a story that had character depth and soulfulness, as opposed to cars, cars, cars, we were approaching it differently. I looked at the other movies, and thought "They're not fast!". "The Fast and the Furious" has a real representation of speed and that's what I set out to do.

You studied anthropology at college. Is that what drew you to this diverse, ethnic universe?

Because of the anthropological training I have, any time that I can focus on a sub-culture, I'm already interested. I was fascinated by the martial arts sub-culture when I did "Dragon: The Bruce Lee story". I did "The Skulls", which was my look at the Ivy League as a unique sub-culture, which has its traditions and its ways of controlling American society. When I saw this world of underground illegal street-racing, its clothes and music, and the colour and panache of the world, combined with this complex technology these kids have mastered, I thought it was like a tribe. I approached it like it was a tribal culture.

What was your actual experience of this world?

I was taken by my spirit guide to Bob's Big Boy, an all night restaurant in the valley. All these kids were hanging out, with all these cars. All of a sudden - nobody said anything - everyone got in their cars, and regrouped on the San Fernando road. They lined up under an overpass. Everyone had made bets, and one kid in a big football jersey, with a shaved head and tatoos, started flagging, and the cars raced off in pairs. Then everyone was scattered because the police were coming, and my guide started to drive off. I had to dive through the window, otherwise I'd have been stranded!