With a whopping eight films in the can, there’s a reason the Fast and Furious movie franchise has earned the nickname Car Wars – it’s a cinematic saga to rival the one put together a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away.
And like Star Wars, the Fast and Furious universe has it’s very own Jar-Jar Binks of sorts; a character who started out as a key player in the very first chapter before being quickly fazed out.
His name is Leon and, at the beginning of it all, he was a key member of Dominic Toretto’s bad boy crew of street racers.
Back in those days, the twin talents of Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson had yet to grace the franchise, with Dom’s gang consisting of five, largely forgettable, characters.
There was Dom and Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty along with Matt Schulze’s Vince, Jesse played by Chad Lindberg and Johnny Strong’s Leon.
Vince, as we know, would go on to turn against Dom later in the film, before returning to seek redemption in Fast Five and eventually meeting his maker.
Jesse, too, was bumped off in The Fast and the Furious, but Leon? Leon was never mentioned again.
Though not a key player in the gang, Leon did have some involvement in the first film, most notably telling a pizza hut delivery driver to piss off during one street race.
In one other scene Jordana Brewster’s Mia also explains to Paul Walker’s Brian that Leon simply showed up at Dom’s one night and never left.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly ahead of the release of the eighth chapter in the franchise, however, Strong remained philosophical about Leon’s no show in the movies since.
“If you watch the film and you understand the characters, it would be understandable that he would disappear and move on, just as he showed up,” he explains.
Strong elaborates that the film’s final heist and the death of Jesse prompted his character to re-examine his life and pursue a different path. Which is nice.
“As the film progresses, towards the end, there’s a scene where Leon kind of voices his disapproval and he’s shut down by Dom, which showed at this point, Leon is doubting his leader and Dom is losing control over his gang and mission,” he says.
“After that, Jesse is killed, Letty and Vince almost die, so I think it’s understood that Leon had had enough of that situation. The heat had become too risky and he didn’t want anything more to do with the gang.”
Strong went on to appear in Black Hawk Down but these days spends his time away from films working on music.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t appreciate the continued interest in the character.
“I think it’s awesome that fans still talk about a character who was probably in the movie for a total of five minutes,” he tells EW.
Who knows? Maybe they could get Leon involved in that Rock/Jason Statham spin-off everyone wants to see or, better yet, bring him on board for Fast 9 which could yet see the action head to space. Fingers crossed.