November 30th, 2013 is, tragically, a day that will always have a place in The Fast and Furious history. Paul Walker, Hollywood actor and one of the popular cornerstones of Universal’s street-racing series, died alongside friend Roger Rodas in a single-vehicle collision.
Still filming James Wan’s Furious 7 at the time, Walker’s sudden, untimely death brought production to a standstill, and though we’ve already caught wind of the creative changes and VFX involved in delivering a fitting send-off to his Brian O’Connor, producer Neal Moritz has shed some light on how the sequel was almost scrapped altogether.
Appearing on The Bill Simmons Podcast (via Screen Rant), here Moritz touches on the difficulty of dealing with Walker’s death, which occurred around the midway point of production. At a loss, the producer remembers the moment that all involved mulled over the possibility of pulling the plug on Furious 7.
“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.”
The saving grace? A reworked script by franchise stalwart Chris Morgan which, coupled with the Wiz Khalifa song “See You Again,” created the near-perfect goodbye to Brian O’Connor and, by effect, the late Paul Walker.
“It wasn’t until Chris Morgan came up with the idea at the end of the road splitting that we knew we had a way, a path to the end of this movie. Then we had to work our way backwards and figure out with the footage we already had existing and with the special effects things we were able to do, that we could make that story work. That scene, in combination with that song, it was perfect.”
Morgan himself echoed those comments in a separate interview with Collider. In fact, the screenwriter also offered up some insight into the original ending of Furious 7, which seemingly would have played up Brian’s impending mid-life crisis. As Jordana Brewster’s Mia tells Brian in Fast and Furious – that’s the fourth movie in the series, for those of you keeping track – perhaps Paul Walker’s character was really the bad guy pretending to be the good guy, rather than the other way around.
“Well, the original ending, if I remember correctly, was our guys end up solving the problem and then kind of becoming—again, going more outlaw, it was sort of a happier ending that kind of ends with the insinuation that they were gonna go off onto this heist or this job. But the core issue for Brian, Paul’s character, was this kind of ‘Who am I?’ sort of question. He’s a guy who used to be a cop and in the thick of the action and a racer, and all this stuff, and now he has an amazing wife, a kid and another one on the way. Then he starts to look at his life and it’s not a midlife crisis but to say—we said it in the movie, ‘I miss the bullets, I miss the action’ and the point of the adventure was to show by the end of it that the thing that’s truly important to him is his family and being there. It wouldn’t mean that he has to stop those adventures or those things, but the context is just a little bit different, he has a different understanding of who he is at his core and what’s most important in life.”
The life and legacy of Paul Walker courses through the veins of Universal’s action flagship, and it’ll be back on the big screen this coming weekend thanks to the release of The Fate of the Furious. Speaking of which, IGN has rolled out a new featurette for F. Gary Gray’s divisive sequel, which shines the spotlight on one of the film’s more impressive action sequences. Give it a watch below!