Following Paul Walker's untimely death in 2013, Furious 7 was almost canceled by the filmmakers. The Fast and the Furious films started as a humble car racing movie which would gross a couple hundred million dollars per entry to a bonafide smash franchise that grossed over a billion and a half dollars with Furious 7. It established itself as a fun tentpole series with ridiculous car stunts and an ever-growing cast of likable characters.
On November 30th, 2013, however, star Walker tragically passed away in the middle of shooting Furious 7. He was one of the original cast members, along with Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto, that had been the heart of the series since the beginning. His death put the production of that film on hold for a few months in order to rework the actor's part.
In an interview with The Bill Simmons Podcast, producer Neal Moritz revealed that the actor's death didn't just delay the film but it almost canceled the entire project altogether. Here's what he said:
"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 key to making Furious 7 work was the now iconic franchise scene where Dom and Brian forked off on different roads to Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again". Mortiz continued:
"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."
Furious 7 went on to garner mostly positive reviews and critics praised the tribute the send off to the late Paul Walker. The film grossed twice as much as its predecessor, Fast & Furious 6, and is currently the 6th highest grossing film of all time.
It's hard to imagine Furious 7 being canceled outright now when you take into account how much it made worldwide. The next sequel, Fate of the Furious, is currently projected to open somewhere between $375 and $440 million which means it could possibly blow past the $397.7 million of its predecessor. Walker will always be remembered for his part in the Furious franchise and it seems that continuing to make the films is a way to honor his memory.