Tokyo Drift: Fast & Furious Crew’s Arrested Sacrifice for Iconic Shibuya Crossing Scene

Tokyo, Japan – One of the most unforgettable scenes in the Fast & Furious franchise involved a daring drift through Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing in the film Tokyo Drift. Surprisingly, Universal Studios didn’t obtain the necessary filming permit to shut down the bustling location. Instead, the film crew decided to take a risk and purposely had one of their own members arrested for the opportunity to capture the shot.

Director Justin Lin revealed this behind-the-scenes story in a 2009 interview, explaining the filmmakers’ decision to disregard the law for the sake of the film. Lin shared that Japan does not issue permits allowing movie studios to close down public spaces for filming. This absence of permits resulted in bystanders continuously intruding on the set. Lin even encountered an individual who claimed to be the director, complicating matters further.

“I had this one guy, I thought he said he was me,” Lin told Digital Spy, admitting his confusion and highlighting the challenges faced during production.

For the Shibuya Crossing drift scene, the busiest pedestrian intersection globally, it would have been nearly impossible to obtain the necessary permissions. With approximately a million people regularly passing through and pedestrian traffic remaining consistent day and night, the location mirrors the crowded nature of New York City’s Times Square. However, traffic jams are relatively infrequent. Given these circumstances, capturing a drift shot with cars at the intersection appeared to be an insurmountable task.

But Universal Studios had a cunning plan that Lin was unaware of. After filming the scene without authorization, the police arrived to shut down the set. It was at this moment that the self-proclaimed director stepped up, accepting the role Lin couldn’t play: the 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,” Lin recounted gratefully.

Japan’s criminal justice system is not one anyone would wish to experience. With an incredibly high conviction rate of 99.8 percent and reports of mistreatment of suspects, including limited access to legal representation and coerced confessions, it is a system best avoided. While the fall guy may have escaped the worst of it once authorities realized his true role, some encounters are better left uncharted. Nevertheless, being a footnote in what many consider to be the best Fast & Furious movie, Tokyo Drift, may have made the risk worthwhile.

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