Relations between Cuba and the United States have greatly improved over the past year, with an American embassy sitting atop Cuban soil for the first time in over five decades. Not only is this good for foreign policy and trade relations, but it may have a positive effect on the film industry as well.
F. Gary Gray, the director of the next installment in the Fast and Furious franchise (listed as Furious 8 on IMDB), scouted locations in Cuba as part of research for the next film. He reportedly took things a step further by acquiring the necessary documentation and permits to make things official. If Furious 8 is to take place in Cuba, then it will be the first major Hollywood blockbuster to shoot there since the end of the embargo.
With the embargo having previously stood since the 1960s, this would be a landmark achievement for Universal Studios. The whole thing may sound like simple industry buzz based on a routine scouting trip, but the studio confirmed these rumors in a statement quoted by The Hollywood Reporter:
“Universal Pictures is currently in the process seeking approval from the United States and Cuban governments to explore shooting a portion of the next installment of the Fast & Furious series in Cuba.”
This is not to say that no other Hollywood productions have found their way onto Cuban soil since the embargo ended. Indie film Papa shot in Cuba as recently as 2014. Showtime series House of Lies will be the first American television show to shoot in Havana, and Conan O’Brien is the first late-night talk show host to film in Cuba since 1962. But while Papa may have been the first Hollywood film to shoot on Cuban soil, Furious 8 will most certainly be the first major studio production.
Papa director Bob Yari notes that there are certain difficulties attached to shooting in Cuba, which may be more pronounced on a large-scale production.
“There isn’t the infrastructure and facilities and equipment down there, so a lot of it has to be brought in. The crews are wonderful, they’re very dedicated and passionate about what they do, but they’re not used to the pace of U.S. filmmaking.”
Aside from the multiple challenges that will be faced by a film as large as Furious 8, there are also some benefits to shooting on the island. According to Yari:
“It has a unique beauty to it. You’re in a very unique setting which is really hard to duplicate anywhere else. People have tried in places like the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, but Cuba has such unique features like the Morro Castle and the Malecon. It’s a beautiful location.”
Furious 8 is looking at a number of other locations as well, such as Iceland and Russia. The treasury paperwork for the Cuba permits are not finalized, so locations for the film are still up in the air. But with the number of locations currently being scouted, this looks to be a globetrotting adventure for Torretto and his team. They’ve come a long, long way since the early days of local street racing.
Furious 8 is currently scheduled for release on April 14, 2017. Roles will be reprised by Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson.