Back in November of 2013, Hollywood was hit with a bombshell when they found out that Paul Walker, the star of the increasingly successful Fast and Furious films, had died in a car crash. What’s more, the actor was in the middle of a production for Furious 7, which was set to hit theaters in the summer of 2014. Following news of his death, Universal put the film’s production on hold, giving time for those involved to grieve and decide how best to move forward.
Ultimately, the production continued, and the filmmakers worked hard to work around the scenes they’d already shot with Walker — they even shot scenes with his brothers Caleb and Cody acting as stand-ins. What resulted was a solid action flick that many felt was not only a good entry in the franchise, but a loving tribute to Walker. The film went on to break records, exceeding all kinds of expectations.
But it almost didn’t happen. Speaking on the Bill Simmons Podcast, the film’s producer, Neal Moritz stated that they’d almost decided to pack it in.
“Paul was the greatest guy I've ever met. He was a real guy's guy. Girls loved him. Guys loved him. He was so full of life, a surfer, outdoorsman, more than an actor, even though he was really good at what he did. He was just the greatest guy in the world. Honestly, when that happened, when his passing happened, when that accident happened, we were like, 'We're not gonna finish the movie'. We'd done over half the movie. We were like 'We can't finish the movie. We just can't do it.' And Universal said take some time. Think about it. See what you guys want to do. We didn't know what to do. We didn't know what we could do or what we should do.”
Of course, no one would have blamed them if they HAD decided to call it after Walker’s death. It’s not every day that you lose one of your main leads only halfway through shooting, and given the enormous amount of resources required, this certainly would have felt like a no-win situation, even to the most optimistic of people. The film’s director, James Wan, later shared after the fact just how exhausting the reworking process was. They moved forward in Walker’s honor, and did one heck of a job, paving the way for the franchise to continue.
It was an admirable job, to say the least, and had they not moved forward with it, audiences would have forever been left to wonder, “What if?”
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SOURCE: Bill Simmons Podcast (via CinemaBlend)