F. Gary Gray, the man behind the 4/20 classic Friday, is reportedly the first black director with a billion-dollar film, based on the international success of none other than Fate of the Furious.
Impressively, Gray made history predominantly through the international box office. According to IndieWire, “the eighth entry in the ‘Furious’ franchise currently stands at about $1.2 billion, with more than 80% of that business outside North America—making this the unusual (and welcome) case of a black director’s film making the bulk of its money outside the U.S.”
If you’re counting, Gray’s is the latest long-overdue “first” for black people in Hollywood, following Jordan Peele’s record-breakers for Get Out and Ava DuVernay becoming the first woman of color to direct a $100 million movie (A Wrinkle in Time). Ryan Coogler will probably get another first once Black Panther arrives.
So rarely do black directors get a chance to take on blockbuster films that Gray is in exclusive company. The short list of top-grossing black directors includes names like Keenen Ivory Wayans (Scary Movie), Spike Lee (Inside Man), John Singleton (2 Fast 2 Furious) and Tim Story (Fantastic Four), though still no black women directors. For Gray, it all started with Friday, a movie that’s endlessly watchable; he also directed the great heist film Set It Off, The Italian Job and the well-executed (if flawed) NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton.