Fast and Furious 7 production has stopped for now and the release date is uncertain, but Cody Walker, Paul’s brother, has been asked to join the cast and replace Paul in the scenes that still need to be shot for the film.
The seventh installment of the popular series doesn’t yet have a trailer or definitive release date (other than 2014). The plot and story released so far says that Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his team help Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) take down Owen Shaw, Ian Shaw’s brother who is seeking revenge.
Paul Walker died in a car crash on November 30, during a break from filming. Universal Pictures officially shut down production on December 4.
The producers had a series of meetings about what to do right after Paul’s death, a source close to production told the Daily Mail.
“They soon realized they needed someone who looked like Paul to finish the movie and that’s when they approached his nearly identical brother, Cody,” the source said. “They can shoot Cody from behind and at distance and if it’s a shot they need Paul’s face in close up they can CGI it later on. If Cody agrees it’s because he wants to honor his brother’s memory. There are many details that still need to be worked out, but right now the family and cast and crew are all still grieving.”
Cody has done stunt work in some films before.
The producers and Universal are planning on working with the Walker family to create an exit for Paul’s character, Brian O’Conner. The terming of it as an exit points to O’Conner retiring, not getting killed off.
Universal said in a statement while announcing that shooting had been put on hold: “Right now, all of us at Universal are dedicated to providing support to Paul’s immediate family and our extended ‘Fast & Furious’ family of cast, crew, and filmmakers.”
Previously, the company was planning on trying to fast-track the film for a July 7 release date. The release date is expected to be later in 2014 now.
Sources told the Hollywood Reporter that script writer Chris Morgan is working on revising the script to retire Paul’s character using scenes that have already been shot. “Almost exactly half of his role was done,” one source said.
Filming could re-start by late January, provided the revised script is ready. Universal has already spent about $150 million on the film, which its insurance firm, Fireman’s Fund, might have to pay if Universal executives end up deciding to start filming from scratch.
The sudden death of Walker on November 30 prompted Universal executives to call a conference call the following morning, discussing supporting the shocked family–as well as the cast and crew of the “Fast & Furious” films–but also how to proceed with “Fast & Furious 7.”
Paul starred in five of the six films that have been released since the series debuted in 2001, and is considered one of the main stars alongside Vin Diesel and Tyrese Gibson.
(Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Universal Pictures)
Vin Diesel has appeared in five of the films as well, but only appeared in the final minutes in “Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift,” in a cameo role. Gibson has appeared in three of the films.
Another dilemma facing producers is the number of actors and actresses involved in the film, including those already in multiple films in the series, such as Vin Diese, Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jordana Brewer (as well as Lucas Black and Nathalie Kelley, who are returning as Sean Boswell and Neela from “Tokyo Drift”); but also several high-profile newcomers on board–Jason Statham as Ian Shaw, and Kurt Russell in an unspecified role. The cast and crew have varying deals about how long they can be kept on hold and for how long.
Insurance broker Brian Kingman of Gallagher Entertainment said that Universal executives could determine that the footage that was already shot cannot be salvaged. If it determines that the abandonment of the film is “reasonable, practical, and necessary,” then the insurance firm would have to prove otherwise or pay the $150 million.
“If I were the broker, I would [calculate] how many days had already been captured, how many were left,” Kingman told Hollywood Reporter. “I would look at the original arc of the story and get input from the director, the producers and the studio as to why, notwithstanding the financial impact, the story doesn’t make sense to complete. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. The studio should not have to make a movie it doesn’t want to make to accommodate an insurance company.”
On the other hand, a Universal source told the entertainment media outlet that there is support from fans to complete the movie, even though it contains several car crashes and high speed racing, much like the other films.
The source said there “is not really a road map” for this type of situation, adding “What will drive everything is, is there an honorable and sensible way to do this?”
And if the seventh installment does move forward, then an eighth installment would likely be planned. “I actually believe [the tragedy] will add to returns,” an unnamed studio executive from a rival company told the Reporter. A Universal insider agreed, saying: “Sadly, it will probably make people more interested.”
Meanwhile, it’s still not clear what caused Roger Rodas, a friend and business partner of Paul’s who was driving the vehicle when it crashed, to crash. No official reports from law enforcement have come out for some time, but sources told TMZ that stunt experts that visited the crash site for the Walker family told them that they believe that small plastic markers called Botts’ Dots caused the wreck.
(AP Photo/The Santa Clarita Valley Signal, Dan Watson)
The theory is that the markers caused the vehicle to hydroplane, causing Rodas, who was considered an apt driver just below the level of professional race car driver, to lose control. Law enforcement sources said that they’re looking at the markers as a possible cause of the crash.
Porsche sent out a memo concerning the Carrera GT that Rodas was driving back in 2004, telling dealers that “This vehicle cannot drive over a Foster Beer can that is lying on its side.”
“It will crush the can and damage the carbon fiber under panels,” the memo said. “You need to be aware of what type of road surface you are on (dips, pot holes, seam heights, etc.).”
Paul’s funeral was held on Saturday, with family and some close friends attending. A memorial held afterward was attended by several hundred people, including Ludacris, Rodriguez, and Gibson.
“Today in a room full of your loved ones I wish today was your wedding instead,” said Gibson via Facebook after the memorial. “For selfish reasons we all wanted you to stay, another laugh, another take, another talk, another moment….. I guess you can’t get all you ask for in life …. But our hearts are FULL from all the moments we DID have, 13 years of laughter and grace, humility and love.”