[WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for Furious 7]
Furious 7 was supposed to come out in summer 2014, but when star Paul Walker tragically passed away in the middle of filming, director James Wan and his team had to retool several aspects of the movie (delaying its release date) - in order for it to be not just another thrilling installment in the series, but also a fitting tribute to the actor. Many would agree that Walker's farewell (in which his Brian O'Connor and Dom Toretto share one last ride down an open highway) was handled very well - and emotional to the point that even casual fans got swept up in the moment.
There was, however, a version of Furious 7 that called for Walker to continue to be a part of Dom's "family" for future installments down the road. Now that the film has been released and is breaking box office records, some may be wondering how everything would have played out if Walker was still alive today. Wan has now revealed the original ending, which would have hinted at how the franchise's universe could expand in an eighth movie.
While speaking with Collider, Wan broke down the initial conclusion and how Walker's death impacted their decision to cut it from the script:
"The original ending of 'Furious 7' was setting up, you know, the bigger world of where the 'Fast and Furious' franchise could go into. And that’s obviously very smart of them to think so. But when the tragedy happened, all of that became irrelevant. So it did not matter anymore, all of that stuff. And to the studio’s credit, they did not push for that. They realized how important it was to make a movie that finishes and that just outright is a tribute to Paul Walker. So I give them a lot of credit for being bigger than that and going along with this ending that is the right ending to go with."
It's becoming standard fare in Hollywood for tentpoles to tease sequels in the final moments of the film audiences are currently watching (see: Marvel Studios), and it sounds like that was the initial plan here. While Wan doesn't come out and say what the final scene would have been, it's easy to envision it being similar to the mid-credits scene from Fast & Furious 6, which gave viewers their first look at Jason Statham's Furious 7 villain (and started the hype train for that movie in the early going).
However, Wan is correct in saying that Walker's passing rendered all that followup planning irrelevant. Fans are no doubt excited about where Fast and Furious 8 might go, but the cloud of the Furious 7 situation overshadowed the development of any sequels. If the movie didn't end with a heartfelt tribute to its late lead, it may have been construed as a disingenuous move that arguably undercuts the "family" theme that's long defined the series. It's nice to see that all parties were in full agreement that honoring Walker was a top priority.
Even though fans may look at the upcoming sequels and wonder how Walker (who starred in all but one of the seven films to date) would have fit in to the proceedings, they can take solace in the fact that Wan was able to craft a touching end to Brian O'Connor's story in a manner that was sincere and natural. While Dom and his team are trying to take down international criminals and going on heists, we'll know Brian is out there somewhere watching over his own family and two kids - as he should be. Given the circumstances, it's hard to think of a more perfect finale than that.
Furious 7 is now playing in theaters.