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It is the ongoing struggle that is plaguing the producers of the next Fast & Furious sequel: How do you attempt to continue what currently is a red-hot action franchise while also honoring the legacy of an actor who put the series on the map in the first place? Universal is in a bind following the death of F&F star Paul Walker. But a solution might be forming as the studio and the Furious team heads into the new year.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that screenwriter Chris Morgan is hard at work on script revisions to James Wan’s F&F 7 with hopes of "retiring" Walker’s character, Brian O’Conner, using footage that was shot before the actor passed away in a car accident in Los Angeles. The trade notes that if Morgan is able to crack the script, the cast could be back to work as early as January on the sequel, but reports "that’s a big if."
As you would imagine, production on the latest Fast & Furious sequel completely stopped in the wake of Walker’s death. Sources tell THR that Universal "already has poured about $150 million into the film, a bill that its insurance firm, Fireman's Fund, might have to pay in full if Universal concludes the picture must be started anew."
For the studio, this is a financial crisis. For fans, however, it is a sensitivity issue. Walker’s death puts the series in a tough spot, obviously, but it’s likely very important to franchise regulars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Tyrese that they do right by their co-star, who has been a driving force behind the series since the series began back in 2001.
THR is the first source I’ve seen so far that admits that the July 11, 2014 release date for Fast & Furious 7 "has been scrapped," noting that Fox already acted proactively by moving its Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to that slot in hopes of filling a scheduling void. But the trade says that once Universal gets its ducks in a row, it likely will be able to keep the Fast franchise on track … likely for the distant future. "I actually believe [the tragedy] will add to returns," a rival studio exec told THR, with a Universal insider agreeing, "Sadly, it will probably make people more interested."
What do you think? How should Universal handle the future of Fast & Furious? Should Walker’s cop character be retired? Should the series go on? Share your thoughts on this difficult process below.