Warning: Spoilers for “Fast X” will follow.
Finally, The Rock has come back to the “Fast & Furious” franchise … despite vowing he never would.
The latest “Fast & Furious“ film, “Fast X,” features a shock cameo by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who fans thought they wouldn’t ever see in the series again due to some messy off-screen drama. Johnson played Luke Hobbs beginning with 2011’s “Fast Five,” but he seemingly exited the action franchise for good after a feud with co-star Vin Diesel. So as “Fast X” seems to suggest they may have buried the hatchet, here’s a look back at the nearly seven years of drama.
August 8, 2016: Johnson calls out his male co-stars
The trouble begins when Johnson drops a cryptic, since-deleted Instagram post in August 2016 during his last week of shooting “The Fate of the Furious,” putting his unnamed male co-stars on blast.
“My female co-stars are always amazing and I love ’em,” Johnson writes. “My male co-stars however are a different story. Some conduct themselves as stand up men and true professionals, while others don’t. The ones that don’t are too chicken s–t to do anything about it anyway. Candy a–es.”
Johnson continues that “when you watch this movie next April and it seems like I’m not acting in some of these scenes and my blood is legit boiling — you’re right.”
August 9-10, 2016: Reports reveal tension between Johnson and Diesel
Johnson’s post sets off a frenzy of speculation about who he has an issue with, and TMZ reports the rant was specifically targeted at Vin Diesel. Johnson, the outlet says, “butted heads” with his co-star during production, partially because Diesel, in his role as producer, “made decisions that didn’t sit well” with Johnson. The two had a secret meeting on set in an effort to hash things out, TMZ adds.
But a source close to the production tells People “tension has been building up for months,” and Diesel “has been having problems with The Rock because The Rock keep showing up late for production.” A source tells Page Six, though, that Johnson “lost his patience” with Diesel, who “has a reputation for being difficult — he shows up late, keeps people waiting, holds up production and is disrespectful to people on the set.” Another TMZ report says Johnson isn’t the only one on set who’s “upset with Vin’s work ethic,” as Diesel was allegedly often late because he “was simply in his trailer and wouldn’t come out,” and he also “wouldn’t listen to anyone and would goad people, including The Rock, by criticizing their acting.” Yet another report from TMZ later claims one of the issues was a dispute over which one of them gets to shine more in the film.
November 2016: Johnson stands by his comments
Johnson refuses to back down from his rant in November 2016 when he tells the Los Angeles Times, “I was very clear with what I said.” He adds that the studio, Universal, would “have preferred that didn’t happen,” though he notes their tracking indicates interest in the franchise “shot through the roof to a whole other level” as a result.
April 2017: Diesel claims feud was ‘blown out of proportion’
Diesel insists in an April 2017 interview with USA Today that he and Johnson are “close” and that “some things may be blown out of proportion,” adding, “I don’t think that was his intention. I know he appreciates how much I work this franchise. In my house, he’s Uncle Dwayne.” Diesel goes on to declare he “protected Dwayne more than he’ll ever know,” adding, “Dwayne Johnson only has one big brother in this film world and that’s me.”
Later this month, TMZ claims Johnson and Diesel have buried the hatchet and are both “1000% in” to return for the next “Fast & Furious” film. The reported ceasefire, though, doesn’t last.
April 2018: Johnson cites ‘difference in philosophies’ with Diesel
A year later, Johnson tells Rolling Stone his beef with Diesel stemmed from a “fundamental difference in philosophies on how we approach moviemaking and collaborating.” He also confirms “The Fate of the Furious” was shot in a way that he and Diesel were never on set at the same time. (Johnson later reveals he only agreed to return for the film if he didn’t share scenes with Diesel.) But Johnson tells Rolling Stone he achieved “clarity” on the situation after he and Diesel “had a few discussions,” including an “important face-to-face” in his trailer.
“But I wish him all the best, and I harbor no ill will there, just because of the clarity we have,” he adds. “Actually, you can erase that last part about ‘no ill will.’ We’ll just keep it with the clarity.”
January 2019: Johnson confirms he’s not returning for ‘F9’
By January 2019, Johnson confirms he won’t be back for the ninth “Fast & Furious” film, “F9.” This, he says, is because he has been focused on his own spinoff movie, “Hobbs & Shaw,” which he leads opposite Jason Statham. But he leaves the door open for an eventual return. “At the end of the day, there’s unfinished business between Hobbs and Dom,” he tells MTV, referring to his and Diesel’s characters.
With “Hobbs & Shaw,” the hope seems to be to set up Johnson to anchor his own sub-franchise within the “Fast & Furious” universe while also separating him from Diesel. Released in August 2019, “Hobbs & Shaw” grosses a solid $760 million. On Instagram, Johnson thanks “brother Vin” for his support of the film and seems to hint at a return to the main series, teasing, “I’ll be seeing you soon, Toretto.”
June 2021: Diesel suggests he used ‘tough love’ to improve Johnson’s performance
But things start going south again in 2021 beginning with a Men’s Health profile where Diesel claims he used “a lot of tough love to assist in getting” Johnson’s “performance where it needed to be” and suggests this is one of the reasons for their bad blood. “Not Felliniesque, but I would do anything I’d have to do in order to get performances in anything I’m producing,” Diesel adds.
July 2021: Johnson rules out a return to the series
A few weeks later, Johnson confirms to The Hollywood Reporter he doesn’t plan to return to the main “Fast & Furious” series at all. “I wish them well on ‘Fast 9,'” he says. “And I wish them the best of luck on ‘Fast 10’ and ‘Fast 11’ and the rest of the ‘Fast & Furious’ movies they do that will be without me.” Johnson also says he “laughed hard” at Diesel’s claims about trying to get a better performance out of him, mocking his “Felliniesque” quote.
October 2021: Johnson calls out Diesel’s ‘bulls–t’
Johnson provides further thoughts on Diesel’s Men’s Health comments in a Vanity Fair interview.
“One part of me feels like there’s no way I would dignify any of that bulls–t with an answer,” he says. But Johnson continues that he’s “been around the block a lot of times,” and “when I read that, just like everybody else, I laughed. I laughed hard. We all laughed. And somewhere I’m sure Fellini is laughing too.”
Johnson shoots down Diesel’s “big brother” comment, stressing that he has “one big brother and it’s my half brother. And that’s it.” He also again emphasizes that he and Diesel “approach the business of moviemaking in two very different ways.” In describing his filmmaking philosophy as “looking at everybody as equal partners” and “treating everyone with respect and with humility,” he seems to imply this stands in contrast to Diesel’s behavior.
November 2021: Diesel publicly begs Johnson to be in ‘Fast X’
In an Instagram post in November 2021, Diesel urges Johnson to return to the franchise in “Fast X.” Noting that “my children refer to you as Uncle Dwayne in my house,” he writes that he “told you years ago that I was going to fulfill my promise to Pablo,” referring to late actor Paul Walker, by creating the “best ‘Fast’ in the finale that is 10.”
“I say this out of love … but you must show up, do not leave the franchise idle you have a very important role to play. Hobbs can’t be played by no other,” Diesel adds. “I hope that you rise to the occasion and fulfill your destiny.”
December 2021: Johnson declares there is ‘no chance’ he will return
Johnson tells CNN the following month he was “very surprised” by Diesel’s Instagram post.
“This past June, when Vin and I actually connected not over social media, I told him directly — and privately — that I would not be returning to the franchise,” Johnson says. “I was firm yet cordial with my words and said that I would always be supportive of the cast and always root for the franchise to be successful, but that there was no chance I would return.”
Johnson also blasts Diesel’s Instagram post as “an example of his manipulation,” adding, “I didn’t like that he brought up his children in the post, as well as Paul Walker’s death. Leave them out of it. We had spoken months ago about this and came to a clear understanding.”
May 2023: Johnson returns in ‘Fast X’
Despite definitively ruling out a return, Johnson makes a surprise appearance in the credits scene of “Fast X,” setting up Hobbs to rejoin the main series for the supposed final film (or possibly final films).
So what’s with Johnson’s reversal? The story behind his return will likely be revealed in the coming days, and it isn’t immediately clear when it was filmed. But the fact that Johnson’s DC movie “Black Adam” was a box office disappointment last year could be a potential factor. That was meant to set him up for an important role in the DC franchise. Instead, Johnson confirmed just two months after “Black Adam” debuted that DC doesn’t plan to bring him back anytime soon, if ever. Could that failure have inspired Johnson to put aside his differences with Diesel and go home again to a franchise that can deliver him another big hit?
Either way, no series about family would be complete without a good old-fashioned family feud.