Fast and Furious fans have lived through some tremendous ups and downs. After losing Paul Walker in 2013, they were able to grieve him along with the movie’s cast and crew, who managed to give his character a nearly perfect goodbye. If you ask Vin Diesel, Paul Walker’s “last ride” in Furious 7 wasn’t just a powerful movie moment. He thinks it was the best scene in cinematic history.
Paul Walker died while Furious 7 was in production. The tragedy of his loss was not only difficult for the franchise’s cast and crew on a personal level. It created a uniquely horrible situation in which they had to decide if and how they could finish Furious 7 without him. Eventually, the filmmakers decided to honor Paul Walker by completing the film and giving his character, Brian O’Conner, a proper send-off. At the end of the movie, he retires with Mia (Jordana Brewster) and their son, Jack -- but not before enjoying one last ride alongside Dom (Vin Diesel). The last shot of Furious 7 shows their two cars diverging at a fork in the road and Brian riding off on his own for a new adventure.
It’s the kind of movie moment that’s emotional regardless of how invested you are in the film or its characters. For actors like Vin Diesel, it was really the only way they could have sent Paul Walker off (via NME):
I was so reluctant to go back to filming. I just felt like the studio was asking me to go back to a funeral. I was so broken by it. I didn’t want anyone to use the tragedy as a story plot. It was so important to me…It was a very, very tough moment. But there was some solace in the fact that we were able to protect from the natural whim of a producer or anyone to say, ‘Well now you’re going to go avenge the character,’ and use it as a plot and we were able to do something so beautiful and so classy.
To make it possible for fans to bid goodbye to Brian (and Paul), the filmmakers pulled out all the stops. They hired Paul Walkers’ brothers to act as stand-ins and employed Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital effects to recreate his likeness. Though it was a challenging endeavor, Vin Diesel thinks the results were more than worth the effort:
It might be the best moment in cinematic history. Not just in my career but in cinematic history. Men around the world — everyone was able to cry — but men around the planet for the first time in history were able to cry together.
Re-watch that scene now, whether it was the best moment in cinematic history or just very touching:
Vin Diesel has been open about the fact that he and the entire Fast and Furious crew were uncertain how to proceed with subsequent movies. He’s made it a priority to keep Paul Walker’s memory alive -- and now he’s even hinting that we may see Brian return, in some way, in F9. Though it will now take a bit longer than we expected to see if another bit of movie magic transpires, F9 will be worth the wait.