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It’s always hard on a film when one of its stars dies mid-production, but it seems like James Wan’s Fast & Furious 7 is having an even tougher time than most, given Paul Walker’s recent death. It throws into jeopardy a role that fans have been following and cheering on for six movies over the course of 12 years. While there have been all manner of rumors surrounding how Wan and Universal Studios would handle the Brian O’Conner character, it appears as if they’ve decided to officially "retire" him from the franchise. This is probably the best way to go about it, but I will scream like a girl if they choose to show him driving off in the sunset at some point instead of something more poignant.
The news comes from sources of THR, as Universal has declined to comment. In the temporary production hiatus following Walker’s death in November, Wan got together with screenwriter Chris Morgan and Universal executive Jeffrey Kirschenbaum and laboriously sifted through all of the footage Walker had already shot for the film. The decision was then made to tweak some elements of the script that would allow for Brian to get respectfully written out of the story, rather than removing him completely or killing the character off. I don’t think anyone in their right mind could have really considered the character’s death would be the right way to go about it.
The script changes mean that some scenes will need to be reshot once the film goes back into production later this year, and some additional scenes will be added to make Brian’s absence more relevant to the story. The end goal, beyond giving fans some form of closure, is of course to allow for the continuation of the expanding franchise. There’s no doubt that Vin Diesel’s character Dom is the one this series hinges on, but it’s impossible to think about these movies without Walker in them.
It’ll be very interesting to see how it’s done. Perhaps they will indeed use Walker’s brother as a stand-in for scenes where the character isn’t fully seen, in the same way that The Crow was filmed following the accidental death of star Brandon Lee. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they figured out a way to loop some of Walker’s previously recorded dialogue to use for voiceovers. Any way you look at it, Walker’s death will be what defines this film when it comes out, but a proper handling will ensure the longevity of the film years from now when the tragedy isn’t so fresh in everyone’s minds. I’m guessing a lot of fast cars and explosions will work to draw everyone’s attention away from time to time.
We have well over a year to wait to see how it goes, as Fast & Furious 7 is set for a release date of April 10, 2015. How do you guys think they should retire Brian? A gold watch, perhaps?