By Ryan Velez
Many in the Black community were happy to hear that director F. Gary Gray was being handed the reigns of the Fast and the Furious franchise with its latest entry, The Fate of the Furious. This is not only due to Gray’s merits, but the fact that a studio would be willing to put a Black director at the head of a film they clearly had high expectations for performance wise. Atlanta Black Star reports that this move has been a success, and The Fate of the Furious’s take, including a $100 million opening weekend, has made Gray the highest-earning Black director in history.
The role of the film’s success in getting Gray to this milestone cannot be understated. The eighth installment of the franchise was not only #1 at the box office for Easter weekend, but broke several records. These include becoming the highest opening film worldwide with $532 million, ahead of the $529-million opening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Notably, it also had highest Chinese advance ticket pre-sales in history, resulting in a $190 million gross. The Fast and Furious series has become a major foreign favorite in recent years, something that studios are looking at as they see countries like China as markets to pay attention to.
This sum puts Gray ahead of the previous record-holder, Tim Story, the director of 2005’s Fantastic Four and both Ride Along movies, having made $1.2 billion worldwide with his films. Gray now has made $1.24 billion. Notably, he also had another recent success with 2015’s Straight Outta Compton, the NWA biopic that led him to have the highest-grossing film from a black director. This comes on the heels of Jordan Peele making history as the first black director to make over $100 million for a debut movie with Get Out, making this a good year for African-Americans in a film so far.
F. Gary Gray’s career started out as a director for Ice Cube’s music video “It Was a Good Day.” He would then go to produce music videos for many top rap artists including Cypress Hill, Outkast, Dr. Dre, and Queen Latifah, before making his film debut with the comedy Friday in 1995. Having also directed films including The Italian Job, Set It Off and Law Abiding Citizen, his recent crop of films represents both a peak of critical and financial success for Gray.