The tragic death of Paul Walker this weekend shocked the world and Universal Pictures pushed the pause button on the production of Fast & Furious 7 to give family, friends and everyone time to mourn the loss. The film hadn't come close to finishing its scenes with Walker and now the director James Wan and co. have the challenging task (on several levels) of working around the unfortunate circumstances.
There's no right answer to the question of how to tell the originally planned story of Fast & Furious 7 without Walker, let alone writing him out of the franchise in a way that's appropriate for all parties.
We know the studio, Wan and the producers are meeting to figure out how to proceed with the fast-tracked sequel. According to insiders informing The Wrap, since the big budget production is insured, one of the options in consideration is scrapping most or all of what has been shot - even though they're already over half-way done - and starting from scratch with a new story.
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Their sources also offer conflicting information on the options of whether or not they'd write out Walker's Brian O'Conner character entirely or find some way to use elements of the footage they have and write around it. There's also conflicting word on when Universal will come to a decision but all seem to agree that they're not rushing into anything.
At this point it's becoming increasingly unlikely that FF7 will be able to meet its scheduled release date in July 2014 and if it comes down to re-shooting most or the entirety of the film, it's one of those rare cases where we can expect everyone involved to do whatever it takes to make it work. That means if actors need to rearrange schedules for other projects and the film gets delayed, that may be necessary and there could be a industry ripple effect from the ensemble cast outwards.
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In the meantime, Universal Pictures is donating proceeds from home video sales of Fast & Furious 6 to Walker's Reach Out WorldWide charity group. As for the bigger picture of the series, its once clear and bright future, with additional sequels already confirmed, is now a little cloudy.
[Update as of December 4, 2013 from Universal]
“Right now, all of us at Universal are dedicated to providing support to Paul's immediate family and our extended Fast & Furious family of cast, crew and filmmakers. At this time we feel it is our responsibility to shut down production on Fast & Furious 7 for a period of time so we can assess all options available to move forward with the franchise. We are committed to keeping Fast & Furious fans informed, and we will provide further information to them when we have it. Until then, we know they join us in mourning the passing of our dear friend Paul Walker."
Fast & Furious 7 is currently set for July 11, 2014 release.
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Source: The Wrap