Now that Paul Walker has been laid to rest minds are drifting back to the issue of Fast & Furious 7 and the problems faced by the filmmakers; one bit of good news is that Justin Bieber is not replacing Paul Walker. Earlier in the week, rumors were filling up the internet at roughly the same speed as conspiracy theories on how Walker and his friend Roger Rodas died in their Nov. 30 accident.
Fans, friends and colleagues of Walker have all paid their respects to the man who helped to make the lives of those he touched better. Not by money alone, although he was a philanthropist, but by his presence. Walker was well liked and respected. This came across on screen and was one of the reasons that the Fast & Furious franchise was so popular.
When the news that Justin Bieber was being approached to fill in the space left by the 40 year-old star’s death it would not be an understatement to say that Walker fans were furious. They were, perhaps, a bit too fast to be so out of sorts at the news. It seems that there never really was a motion to bring the 19 year-old pop star on board as a younger member of Walker’s character’s clan.
The confusion was caused by several factors that came together to make the decision make sense. Trade papers were filled with stories about the studios working quickly to rewrite the film’s script. A move that was necessary and difficult as Walker had filmed many scenes since production started back in September this year.
All while shooting the film was stopped dead in its tracks as the studio, Paul’s costars and the world attempted to get through the shock of this talented and popular actor’s death. As conspiracy theories ran the gamut from the ridiculous to the tragic, theories sprang up about how Universal would handle the death of one its vital Fast and Furious ingredients.
There could be several ways the film might be completed after the death of Walker. It is not as though there is no precedent of an actor dying before finishing the film he or she was working on when death called.
As long ago as 1956 Dracula star Bela Lugosi died while working on an Ed Wood Jr film Plan 9 From Outer Space . Although technically Lugosi passed away before actual filming had started, his scenes had been shot prior to main work on the feature known as “the worst film in history.” To keep Lugosi in his film Wood Jr had chiropractor Tom Mason stand in for the late actor, while wearing a cape over his face.
Funnyman actor John Candy died during the filming of his last movie, Wagons East in 1994. More recently movie tough-guy and villain Oliver Reed died while working on his last film the 2000 Gladiator. In the cases of these three actors, age and health played a big part in their sudden deaths. While surprising and saddening none of the death’s were as shocking a Paul Walkers.
The only other actor whose death came so unexpectedly before finishing a film was Giant star James Dean. The young heartthrob was only 24 years-old when the Porsche Spyder he was driving crashed while he was driving. Giant still had some scenes that needed to be reshot and some voice dubbing was needed, but, it was not to be. Dean, a rising star who looked set to dominate the box office for years to come was tragically and suddenly gone. His death caused widespread shock that ran through his young fans that is still felt to this day.
Unlike James Dean, who was at the beginning of his career, Paul Walker was already established and it was the Fast & Furious franchise that helped to put him there. He was also considerably older than young Dean. Walker’s sudden and tragic death was no less shocking and his fans are also having to deal with the end of their generation’s idol.
The Fast & Furious 7 producers and the studio no doubt tried several angles to keep their footage of Walker. Not only a homage to one of the actors that made the films so popular, but, as a cost savings exercise, they must have made keeping his existing work in his final film paramount. Hence the supposition that the 19 year-old Canadian pop star could have been used as another younger family member.
On first look it did have a little logic to it. Bieber loves fast cars, as did Walker, and he does have that tweenie appeal going. However, there was never really a move to pull Justin into the Fast and Furious franchise. The news came about after a “fake” fan trailer hit the net and Ludacris was heard to promise Bieber a part in the film franchise.
The latest news has Universal approaching Paul Walker’s stuntman brother Cody as a possible replacement. The brothers have been declared by many to be “nearly identical” and there is a resemblance. Whether the studios decide to use Cody in long shots or to be brought in as another family member, based on the rumor that Paul’s death will be written into the latest instalment in the franchise, it is apparent the the film will be finished in time for its 2014 release.
So Fast & Furious 7 will not be using Justin Bieber as a replacement for Paul Walker despite the rumors. On the day that one of the stars of the franchise has been laid to rest, fans can breath easy knowing that Walker will, hopefully, be remembered by the studios with style and not with box office cynicism.
By Michael Smith