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After the tragic death of Paul Walker, the future of the Fast and Furious franchise seemed up in the air — at least, in the minds of the fans. Although, the official announcement of a Fast and Furious 8 release date put that one to rest pretty quickly. After all, Furious 7 has made some serious moolah. According to Universal, the franchise can continue to thrive, even in light of Walker’s passing.

Donna Langley, Universal Picture’s chairman, recently spoke during a Q&A at The Hollywood Reporter’s ninth annual Power Lawyer’s breakfast. While discussing the future of the studio and the upcoming films, she addressed the initial concern over the F&F continuation and Walker’s death.

He brought something very unique and very special to the franchise, but we've always tried to up the ante both with the casting and what the movies are about.

The Furious 7 tribute to Walker at the end of the film gave his character, Brian O’Conner, a touching sendoff. He left behind his fast and furious lifestyle to focus on his family with Mia. It’s unclear if actress Jordana Brewster will return for Fast and Furious 8, though, harkening back to Langley’s words, new faces are always popping in and out of these films.

Though Fast and Furious 6 performed extremely well at the box office, the fate of Furious 7 seemed in doubt in light of Walker. The actor tragically died in a car accident in November of 2013, which halted production on the fast-tracked sequel as his family, friends, co-workers and fans mourned his passing. Afterwards, Universal and director James Wan met to discuss the movie's next steps. With the help of Walker’s brothers, Cody and Caleb, they were able to finish the film and make it the highest-grossing installment of the franchise.

When Furious 7 dominated the box office during its three-day opening weekend, the numbers were hard to ignore. And when it stayed as the #1 movie in America for a few weeks, a sequel seemed all but assured. Then came the $1 billion crossing at the box office, a feat which less than 20 movies to date can brag about. Franchise star Vin Diesel also began teasing where the world of F&F might take the audience next. Actually, he name-dropped New York in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel. Diesel has become such a cash cow for studio that he can essentially star in whatever he damn well pleases (e.g. The Last Witch Hunter, that other Riddick sequel, and the rumored Hannibal movie). So with his name already attached to a potential Fast and Furious 8, on top of the franchise-high success of Furious 7, there was no question about it.

Fast and Furious 8 is scheduled to open in theaters on April 14, 2017.
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