Vin Diesel: Memory of late Paul Walker influenced casting of John Cena in Fast 9

The WWE star joins the cast for the next instalment of the Fast & Furious franchise.
The WWE star joins the cast for the next instalment of the Fast & Furious franchise.

Vin Diesel has said it felt as though the late Paul Walker had sent John Cena to be in the new Fast & Furious film.

WWE star Cena joins the high-octane action franchise for Fast & Furious 9, to play Diesel’s on-screen brother and arch nemesis.

Walker, who was Diesel’s co-star in six Fast & Furious films, was killed in a car crash in 2013 when he was 40.

A trailer for the new movie, which was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, shows Diesel’s Dominic Toretto clashing with Cena’s Jakob, at the behest of Charlize Theron’s character, Cipher.

Diesel said: “Justin (Lin, the director) and I both have brothers and all of us have brothers. And that interesting dynamic of what your brotherly love is, and how complex it can be at times, makes for great storytelling.

“But I remember, once we started getting closer to production, Justin would talk about how harrowing it would be, to actually have to cast a new Toretto, the brother of Toretto – there’s so many different directions you can go.

Fast and Furious 6 Premiere – London
Vin Diesel (right) with Paul Walker (Ian West/PA)

“And I remember John Cena coming into this Dom shrine that I had, where I would kind of go meditate and train and start getting into that Dom state of mind.

“I remember John coming in, and, call this crazy, but I remember feeling as though Pablo, Paul Walker, had sent him in.

“And I remember talking to Justin that night and saying ‘My gut and my heart feels like this was meant to be’.”

Cena said: “I certainly didn’t overlook the responsibility, the opportunity as well. I get to reap the rewards of this family who has poured the foundation and built the structure of global delivering blockbuster.

“And I get invited into the ninth instalment to share the last name Toretto to be Don’s greatest adversary of all time, that that is not lost. And I think it has to start there, it has to start with respect.”

Diesel also addressed the return of fan-favourite character Han, played by Sung Kang, who seemingly died in a collision at the end of 2006’s The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift.

Han (Sung Kang) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) in Fast & Furious 9 (Universal/PA) (Photo Credit: Giles Keyte/Univer)

He said: “This instalment is in so many ways about fatherhood … and fatherhood, to really grasp the significance of that, we have to examine the brotherhood.

“We have this very interesting and fascinating and mysterious character in Jakob, who is a blood brother.

“There’s a significance in the brotherhood of Dom and Han. If you go back to Los Bandoleros (a video short prequel to the first Fast & Furious film written and directed by Diesel), if you go back to Tokyo Drift, there was no brotherhood between Dom and Brian (played by Walker).

“Brian was a cop. Obviously Dom was an outlaw. There was a brotherhood between Han and Dom, they were outlaws in Mexico. They were brothers.

“So, in creating this whole mythology, the presence of Jacob was beautifully balanced by the return of Han, the return of a brother, that’s been a brother, that was there when Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) got married so long ago in the Dominican Republic.

“So there’s a relevance and a power that lives in this mythology that only Sung Kang – Han – could bring to our mythology.”

– Fast & Furious 9 will be released in UK cinemas on July 8.