Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift’s Shibuya Scene Landed a Crew Member in Jail

No movie magic here, just a truly illegal drift that sent a man to jail.
Universal Studios, via Movieclips on YouTube

One of the most memorable shots of the entire Fast & Furious saga was when Han and Sean pitched themselves sideways through the iconic Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo Drift. You might think that took one hell of a filming permit to get the place shut down, but you’d be wrong. Universal Studios never had one. Instead, the film crew just sent it and had one of their number jailed on purpose just to get the shot.

Director Justin Lin recounted the incident in a 2009 interview with Digital Spy explaining why the filmmakers—like their characters—overstepped the law for the film. As Lin tells it, Japan simply doesn’t issue film permits that let movie studios shut down public places. Bystanders would regularly invade the set, and Lin recalled one case of a guy following him around and insisting he was the director. (This’ll be important in a moment.)

“I had this one guy, I thought he said he was me,” Lin told Digital Spy. “I didn’t know what that meant.”

Han drifts his Veilside Mazda RX-7 in "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift"
Han drifts his Veilside Mazda RX-7 in “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”. Universal Studios, via Movieclips on YouTube

These both posed a problem for the ambitious drift shot at Shibuya—which is considered the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. It’s estimated to see over a million people regularly, and pedestrian traffic doesn’t drop off significantly at any time of night. It’s often likened to New York City’s Times Square for how crowded it is, and yet, traffic jams are apparently rare. Still, you can see why it’d be almost impossible to get a shot of cars drifting the intersection.

But Universal Studios had a sneaky plan that Lin wasn’t privy to. After shooting the scene illicitly, the police showed up to shut everything down. That’s when the tagalong pretend director assumed his real role: Fall guy.

“They shut us down, I’d gotten all my shots, but I didn’t know they were going to arrest me. Another guy stepped up and said, ‘I’m the director.’ I found out that it was his job to take the fall for me. He went to jail for the night and I’m forever grateful.”

Japan’s carceral system isn’t one Lin (or anyone) would want to end up in. According to Human Rights Watch, the country has a 99.8 percent conviction rate and treats suspects poorly, denying them access to lawyers and coercing confessions of guilt. The fall guy might not’ve seen the worst of it once authorities realized he was a decoy, but there are some encounters you’re just better off avoiding. That said, maybe being a footnote in what was arguably the best F&F movie would make it worth your while.

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