Actor Tyrese Gibson wasn’t going to let Fate of the Furious — the eighth instalment of the Fast and the Furious franchise — release without a UAE premiere.
The actor, who has been a frequent visitor and champion of the UAE, said at a Wednesday night red-carpet screening that he had to make several phone calls and send Universal Studios “40 emails” to pull off the event at Mall of the Emirates.
The previous night he held an unofficial screening in Abu Dhabi’s Yas Mall as part of a ‘fan event’.
“A lot of people don’t know how hard it was to pull this all together,” said Gibson, who plays Roman Pearce in the franchise. “I want to be the beacon of positive light coming into the Middle East.”
Emirati director Ali Mostafa (City of Life, From A to B, The Worthy) was in attendance, returning Gibson’s favour; in December, Gibson flew from LA to the UAE to attend the premiere of The Worthy at Dubai International Film Festival before hopping on a plane to New York for a Fast 8 trailer launch.
“He’s not just a star on the big screen, he’s a star in [his heart],” said Mostafa, calling Gibson a “goodwill ambassador of compassion”.
“I’m ashamed to say he probably dresses in kandoura more than I do,” added Mostafa, who was clad in a white dress shirt and black dress pants, while Gibson was in a beige kandoura.
The 2013 death of franchise star Paul Walker left Gibson and his co-stars reeling from shock and trauma. The UAE provided Gibson some relief in the aftermath.
“I was at home for almost a month and never left the house. That was our brother [of] 14 years. And the first flight I got on after I travelled finally was to the UAE,” said Gibson.
“The first time I smiled, the first time I felt the genuine love and energy [was when I first came here], and I committed my life to shedding light and bringing the love back to the UAE and to the Middle East because of what you guys did for me,” he added.
Fate of the Furious follows the adventures of the usual suspects — played by Gibson, Ludacris, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Nathalie Emmanuel — in New York. But this time, Vin Diesel’s character, Dom Toretto, goes rogue for mysterious reasons.
The film screened in four cinemas on Wednesday night to select media and fans. Gibson, who had been running an hour behind schedule, entered the halls to thank viewers. He called the film ‘emotional’ and told the men in the audience they would be the ones weeping for Vin Diesel’s fate.
The movie opens across UAE cinemas on Thursday night.