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Helen Mirren moves into the 'Fast 8' lane

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Fernando Medina/AP/File

(Read caption) Actor Vin Diesel and actress Michelle Rodriguez drive down the streets of Havana, Cuba after a day of filming for Fast 8.

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Yes, you read that headline correctly: Oscar-winning actor and all-around badass Dame Helen Mirren is joining the cast of the next Fast and Furious film, dubbed Furious 8

The news comes a month after we began seeing pics of another Academy Award fave, Charlize Theron, in her role as Fast 8's villain, who is unfortunately named Cipher. (Which is about as ridiculous as calling a character Neo.) Details about Mirren's part haven't been widely discussed.

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Having not just one but two Oscar-winners in Furious 8 is a little curious--maybe even calculated. Could producers be digging for gold?

It's unlikely that a mainstream action film like Fast 8 would take home a statuette next spring--especially this late in the franchise's history--but it's not entirely impossible. After all, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, nabbed five nominations, though it didn't win any of them.

That said, having a couple of Oscar-winners onboard won't hurt Furious 8's chances of at least nabbing a nod. And these aren't Marisa Tomei-caliber winners, either, but well-known, well-loved performers who, as they used to say in gangster flicks, really class up the joint.

But forget awards for a minute, because there's something even more remarkable about the casting of Mirren and Theron. It's the fact that both are women, and that they're featured prominently in a guns-and-gears movie. 

Not that that's a first for either actor. Theron won acclaim for her role as death-dealing desert driver Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. And Mirren has appeared in both Red and Red 2, which fit squarely within the action genre.

However, those sorts of roles for women didn't exist until recently. Sure, there were some nice parts for female villains in film noir and in Bond flicks, and a few heroines showed up in the 1970s, played by actors like Pam Grier, Tamara Dobson, and Angie Dickinson.

That moment was fairly brief, though. Apart from Sigourney Weaver's notable presence in Alien films, seeing women as action leads has been rare. Let's hope Mirren and Theron are part of a trend with some staying power--like Fast and Furious itself.

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This article first appeared at The Car Connection.