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When the original Fast and the Furious movie debuted in 2001, no one could have expected it to spawn a globally successful film franchise, including nine movies and one spinoff. But here we are in 2021, and that’s exactly what happened. 

While The Fast and the Furious saga ends with F9: The Fast Saga, many people may not know how the saga actually began. It all started with a magazine article that lit a fuse still burning to this day. 

‘The Fast and the Furious’ has taken the box office by storm over the course of 20 years

In 2001, Paul Walker wasn’t a well-known actor by any stretch. Vin Diesel had a bit more notoriety: he had a scene-stealing turn in the cult hit Pitch Black but had yet to achieve superstardom. And yet, those two were the leads for the very first Fast and the Furious film that came out 20 years ago. 

Each ensuing sequel heightened the ridiculousness of the action sequences. What started as a simple action movie about roadway thieves and illegal street racing became a full-on franchise with aerial car chases and exotic locations. Each film features new and zanier stunts than the movie that preceded it. It’s added more star power: everyone from action stars like Dwayne John and Jason Statham to respected actors like Dame Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron have joined the party. 

The Fast and the Furious may be coming to an end, but there’s no denying how successful it’s been. Each film has been a hit at the box office, critics be damned. The films may not be high art, but they seem to leave audiences having a great time at the movies. 

How a magazine article inspired ‘The Fast and the Furious’ franchise

There’s no telling what will inspire a hit movie. Many Disney films are based on fairy tales or old fables. Many films are based on books. Famed authors like Stephen King and Cormac McCarthy have seen their novels adapted for the big screen. The new film Zola is based on a popular Twitter thread. Movies can come from just about anywhere. 

The Fast and the Furious was based on a magazine article. 

According to Entertainment Weekly, Kenneth Li wrote the article for Vibe Magazine in 1998. The title was Racer X. It told the story of a drag racer named Rafael Estevez from the Dominican Republic. 

“I was a reporter at the New York Daily News and had written about illegal drag racing on local tracks, but it was a family paper so they didn’t want me to write about the criminal aspect of it. It was intoxicating that there was this world of kids tuning their cars, making money, and killing themselves.”

Li didn’t believe it when he got the call from a studio about turning it into a movie: 

“I didn’t know anybody in Hollywood at the time and a random call came in from Universal that I thought was a prank.”

It wasn’t, and the rest was history. 

How ‘F9: The Fast Saga’ will conclude ‘The Fast and the Furious’ franchise

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker stand next to each other in the film 'The Fast And The Furious'
Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in a scene from the film ‘The Fast And The Furious’ | Universal/Getty Images

‘F9’ Movie Review: The Fast and the Furious Family Gives the Fans What They Want

So will the saga end? According to IMDb, the final film is in theaters now. They’ve added one more star to the franchise for good measure: former WWE and Blockers star John Cena. He plays Jakob, the younger brother of Vin Diesel’s character. Though Cena often plays the good guy in wrestling and in movies, he plays the heel here. 

While the jury’s still out on where F9 ranks with relation to the rest of the series, one thing is for certain: Li’s article changed the face of Hollywood forever.