Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has begun negotiations with James Wan to direct the seventh installment of the studio’s mega-buck franchise The Fast And The Furious. I expect a deal to be made probably before the week is out.

Justin Lin made it clear back at the Sundance Film Festival in January that he wasn’t going to direct the next pic after revitalizing that franchise and helming its last four installments including the upcoming May 24 opener Fast & Furious 6. He wanted to take a break, and while he wasn’t going back to The Terminator, he still considered the reboot of Highlander a possibility at Summit. Universal Pictures has had plenty of time to consider who’ll take over the race car franchise, and recently they have been working from a very short list. Among the directors they’ve spoken to are Baltazar Kormakur, who helmed Contraband, The Deep and the upcoming 2 Guns with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg (I don’t think Kormakur is available); Kick-Ass 2 helmer Jeff Wadlow; and The Karate Kid helmer Harold Zwart, whose next is The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones. Wan, who helmed the first installment of Saw, more recently directed the horror smash hit Insidious, and has The Conjuring upcoming.

The next film brings back longtime producer Neal H. Moritz of Original Film, and Chris Morgan is returning to write his fifth script for the franchise. He will also be exec producer. Also back for sure is Vin Diesel, who’s starring and producing, and Paul Walker, who’s also starring. Not sure at this point about Dwayne Johnson or Tyrese, but those pieces will fall into place. The main task was to find a director, and they’ve gotten one.

Wan has gotten the endorsement of Lin. “I’m extremely proud to be part of the Fast franchise, it is an experience I will always treasure,” Lin said. “It’s time for me to move on to other things and I’m thrilled that Universal and Neal have selected James Wan to lead the franchise into its new chapter.”

Wan is repped by Paradigm, manager Stacy Testro and attorney David Fox.

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