The horrific, and tragic, death of 40 year-old Paul Walker has stunned the world; it also threw a wrench into the works of Fast & Furious 7, perhaps this is a sign that it’s time to pull the spark plug from this long running franchise.
As in any Hollywood production the real world passing of a major character leaves a hole in the film. The popular Fast & Furious franchise has stumbled to a halt while the film’s producers attempt to get around the demise of an equally popular actor and the character he played in the series.
There is no doubt that the films are popular. Even with some of the installments “losing their way,” as implied by Vin Diesel, each of the sequels have made the studios serious money. Walker, who has actually been in all the films except for Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift, was a constant. The actor played Brian O’Conner in each one and he was a constant appearing in more of the franchise’s installments than Vin Diesel.
The rise of each new film’s box office take proved, to the studios at least, that this well still had plenty of water in it. A total of seven films with six being “direct” sequels and one, Tokyo Drift as a sort of parallel installment, have been made. To the studios and producers these super car films with their family message equalled easy money; a guaranteed return on an ever increasing investment.
Filming started on the seventh sequel in the franchise September this year. Director James Wan had been brought in to add a new perspective to the film and number eight in the franchise had already been approved by the Hollywood money men. Then Fast & Furious 7 hit a massive stumbling block. A major character’s death meant that Universal Pictures would have to seriously consider pulling the spark plug on this popular money maker.
The studio is scrambling to come up with a solution that will satisfy everyone. Rumors have circulated the world wide web with speculations of just who will step into Brian O’Conner’s driver’s seat. Justin Bieber was the first celebrity name mentioned, but, that turned out to be a misunderstanding. Ludacris had “promised” the Canadian pop star a part in one of the Fast & Furious films and a fan-made trailer starring Bieber completed the mis-information.
While fans of both the franchise and Walker breathed a sigh of relief, statements were released from both James Wan and Universal Pictures that said they would complete the seventh film and do so in a respectful way that would honor Paul Walker. Talks are underway to use Walker’s younger brother Cody, who uncannily resembles his late brother, to fill in the hole left by Paul’s death.
The script for Fast & Furious 7 is being rewritten and talk about Cody’s participation ranges from his literally stepping into the part of Brian O’Conner as Paul and having his brother’s features recreated via CGI or playing Brian’s brother. The latter possibility centers on the studios focus on the character’s film death and moving the story forward that way.
With all the focus on the film centering on losing Walker, the seventh in the franchise is the most talked about 2014 film. The main question that seems to be studiously ignored by the studio and producers of the franchise is whether or not it is time to pull the spark plug on this muscle car series. Just how many sequels are too many? Barring the death of any other actors in the franchise, when will they be too old to “realistically” fit their character’s bios. It seems that Paul Walker’s tragic death may be a sign that the franchise should end after number seven.
By Michael Smith