Losing a loved one is hard. Losing a loved one and then having to pretend to be him is even harder. That's the situation Cody Walker found himself in when he was asked to be a stand-in for his recently deceased brother Paul during the filming of Furious 7. Cody's presence helped ensure the film would be completed and could also serve as an emotional farewell to both the actor and his character, Brian O'Conner.
Although the O'Conner character was "retired" in Furious 7, there were rumors that Cody would return in Fast 8 to once again play the role of his brother playing the role of O'Conner. However, it now appears that the producers were being sincere when they said that the series would move ahead without its former co-star or his immediate family.
Polygon is reporting that a representative from Universal Pictures has told them definitively that Cody Walker will not return for Fast 8, saying of rumors to the contrary, "There's no truth behind it." The rumors came after Cody's name appeared on the IMDB page for Fast 8 -- which has since been removed. A statement from Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBC Universal, that Paul Walker would be "represented in some form or another" in future movies also led to fan speculation about Walker's return, but with that statement being as vague as it was, it could easily have referred to something as simple as Vin Diesel's character Dominic Toretto mentioning O'Conner's absence.
Of course, Fast 8 will still features many of the things that made the previous movies box office hits, such as massive explosions and massive action-movie stars like Vin Diesel, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and Jason Statham. With that many big names on the marquee, the movie's box office draw is unlikely to be too adversely affected by the absence of either Walker brother.
The newest movie in the Furious franchise will also have a new director thrown into the mix, with Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray taking over the reins from Furious 7 director James Wan. While Wan proved himself more than capable of delivering a solid entry in the franchise, bringing in a new director provides an opportunity for Fast 8 to be a slightly different take on cars driving fast and blowing up, while people punch and shoot at each other. It also promises to have plenty of new locations for those cars to blow up in, with filming reportedly taking place in New York, Iceland, and possibly even Cuba.
Will all that add up to a movie that manages to be fresh enough to draw in audiences who have already seen the previous seven movies in the series? If James Bond can do it, there's no reason Vin Diesel and company can't do it, too (Diesel's other attempt at being the next James Bond notwithstanding). Paul Walker may be gone, but the franchise he helped make a success will likely live on for quite some time.
Fast 8 will hit U.S. theaters on April 17th, 2017.