While America tucked into bounties of turkey and stuffing and celebrated Thanksgiving with their families, this holiday weekend also brought the death of Fast and Furious franchise star Paul Walker. While not a celebrated star outside of the Fast and Furious world, Walker was the focal point of the F&F series and the lead character in a cast that includes Vin Diesel, Ludacris, Jordana Brewster, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, amongst many others. In a feat of super sad irony, Walker was driving with a friend in a limited edition 2005 Porsche Carrera GT, the stuff straight from the pages of Fast and Furious, when his vehicle spun out and hit a tree, causing it to burst into flames, killing Walker and the driver. Mirroring the events of the franchise, police are now tossing around the idea that the crash might have been the result of a drag race (CNN). And while many people bowed their head in respectful solace for Walker’s passing, fans of the franchise raced to Twitter to ponder the future of the franchise and whether the next film would go up in flames as well. The short answer: no.
The seventh installment of the massively popular franchise launched into production earlier this fall on a rushed production timeline. Horror auteur James Wan (The Conjuring) stepped in for long time franchise helmer Justin Lin, who directed Fast films since the third film, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift. Lin apparently departed the series because he believed Universal was rushing production to hit a July 11, 2014 release date. Now, it seems inevitable that that date will mosey even further into the future as “massive rewrites” will need to take place to account for Walker’s passing.
As for Fast 7, Wan has already shot many of the expensive action sequences with Walker but his role in the film was far from over. Taking into account the fact that few films shoot scenes chronologically, Walker now has scenes all over the film with gaping holes where some much needed plot exposition should go.
Productions have lost major players before. Take for example Heath Ledger who died after completing his work on The Dark Knight but was in the midst of Terry Gilliam‘s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. In order to band-aid the missing scenes, friends of Ledger, Jude Law, Johnny Depp, and Colin Farrell, stepped in to fill in his missing part. But obviously something that “worked” in a wacky Gilliam movie won’t fly for mainstream audiences in a summer tentpole film. Oliver Reed also famously passed away while filming Gladiator and his missing bits were filled in with CGI composites of his face but that’s an expensive project that cost ballpark two million dollars for mere moments in the film. We can also assume this isn’t the best tactic for F&F 7.
It seems the only option for the franchise at this point is to off Walker’s character. This however raises an issue of good taste. Is it respectful to his legacy and fair to his family to have to relive Walker’s death in a fun, family-friendly movie? Maybe not. But then again, Fast has always been about family. Maybe they’ll let Walker’s character walk into the sunset with his family. For now, production has been halted so the cast and crew can grieve while the writers try and hack out a solution to the whole Walker’s missing problem. Fast 7 will certainly go on, but it might be the last we see of the Toretto family.