How do you continue production on a film after your lead actor has died? The news of actor Paul Walker's premature death on Nov. 30 came as a shock to his friends, family, fellow actors, and masses of fans who perhaps best knew him as Brian O'Conner of the wildly popular and unquestionably awesome The Fast and Furious film franchise. Today there is news that the franchise's final installment is getting a rewrite.
Along with his work in a number of other films, Walker starred in all but one of the F&F films — the first establishing him as a bonafide film star and leading man. With the latest installment of the series, Fast & Furious 7, halfway through production, Universal Studios and screenwriter Chris Morgan are reportedly working to adapt the story so that Walker's character can make a graceful exit using the footage of Walker they had already shot for the film.
Though principle photography was put on hold following the tragic news, studio execs have already spent $150 million on the project and quickly went to work on a solution to both continue filming the movie while respectably honoring Walker's memory and contributions to the series.
But that's the hard part. How do you re-write a script for a fast-paced action movie that uses half of an actor's scenes and writes him off gracefully and still makes sense for the story? It's not as if Walker and the studio didn't see eye to eye on the project and Walker left. Walker's death means that the filmmakers will want to handle the situation as delicately as possible to honor the fallen actor. But "delicately handling" and "fast and furious" aren't generally phrases that readily go together.
Forgetting for a moment the tragic irony of Walker's death, one has to wonder if this is a task that can really be completed for this kind of movie. Fast & Furious is a franchise about fast cars and dangerous driving. Surely, the screenwriters will need to find a way to write-out O'Conner that's devoid of these characteristics. Is there really a way to honorably remember Paul Walker in Fast & Furious 7, or is this just a misguided effort that will ultimately stain his otherwise exceptional contributions to the franchise?