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Louis Leterrier initially thought offer to direct ‘Fast X’ was an accidental butt dial

"I thought I was primed and ready  I thought."

By Josh Weiss
L to R: Vin Diesel and Director Louis Leterrier on the set of FAST X

Last May, the Fast & Furious franchise found itself in a tight spot when Justin Lin decided to step back as director on the penultimate chapter in the long-running blockbuster series (in other words, the proverbial engine had stalled out).

With principal photography already underway in the United Kingdom, Universal Pictures moved quickly to locate a highly qualified replacement. The studio ended up choosing Louis Leterrier, a veteran of large-scale action filmmaking, whose resume included a number of successful summertime releases: Transporter 2, The Incredible Hulk, and Now You See Me. And so, they reached out with the offer of a lifetime, not anticipating that Leterrier would send them directly to voicemail in the middle of the night.

RELATED: How is 'Fast & Furious' like 'Lord of the Rings'? Vin Diesel digs into challenge of building a mythology

"I thought it was a butt dial," he admitted while in conversation with Esquire Middle East. "I was like, 'I’ll call you tomorrow.' He was like, ‘No, call us now, this is not a mistake. Can you read a script by 5:00 a.m.?’ I read the script, and the script was incredible. It was Justin’s script, and it was wonderful. Without knowing too much about it, I instantly said yes. It’s been a franchise I’ve admired for years, a franchise I’ve flirted with — almost directing other episodes before, and I thought I was primed and ready  I thought."

The director then experienced a brief "moment of panic" before his wife talked him down. "I was literally white as a sheet," he remembered. "She asked, 'What, are you hesitating? No! You’ve been dreaming of this! Go do it!’"

Leterrier was behind the camera a mere four days later and filming continued without another roadblock. In the time that he accepted the job and flew to England, however, the entire script (penned by Lin and Dan Mazeau) was essentially rewritten.

"I read the script four times on the plane, and I said I had some ideas, and they said, 'Great, because the whole third act is changing. Can you rewrite it tonight?' I was literally on no sleep. I’d been on no sleep for days ... And obviously, since the third act was changing, I needed to change the first act. And when you rewrite the third act, and the first act, the second act has to go. So basically I had to on the fly rebuild the airplane."

Fast X arrives in theaters everywhere Friday, May 19.

Relive a portion of the Fast Saga with Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7 — both of which are streaming on Peacock. If you want even more Vin Diesel action, then be sure to check out xXxPitch BlackThe Chronicles of Riddick, and Riddick.