The Fate of the Furious is breaking all sorts of box office records this Easter weekend, taking the title for biggest opening weekend of all time and instantly proving that there is life in the franchise yet – despite this being franchise's eighth installment. With an all-star cast that includes Vin Diesel, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez, and newcomers Charlize Theron and Scott Eastwood, it’s no surprise that the movie has been such a success.
Somebody missing from proceedings this time around, however, is former series staple, Paul Walker. The actor tragically passed away in November 2013 after being caught up in a single vehicle collision, and his final scenes in Furious 7 were created using a mixture of real-life footage and special effects. It was a tragic event that rocked Hollywood, and his absence in the latest Fast & Furious outing is certainly felt.
Despite not being in the movie physically, Walker’s Brian O’Conner is, of course, alluded to. Writers made the decision to write Brian out of the movies by saying he had retired from the game rather than killing off the character, and in The Fate of the Furious the gang even talk about potentially bringing him back into the action. Speaking with Collider, screenwriter Chris Morgan talked about the Brian reference:
“It’s so dramatic for the characters that at some point they would definitely turn to each other and say, ‘Oh my God, we gotta tell Brian, we gotta tell Mia. Something is going on with Dom, we don’t know what it is’. So I think from a practical point of view for the characters you needed to address it. For the audience, and just as a fan as the writer on it, I also wanted to have one moment where we were able to – specifically at the beat at the end of the film – say to the audience, ‘We’re thinking of him too’ in a respectful sort of way.”
While we wouldn’t want to spoil the ‘beat at the end of the film’ for those who haven’t yet managed to catch the movie in theaters, we will say it’s an incredible, poignant and emotional moment that was clearly very well thought out.
Keeping Walker a part of this property is hugely important not only to those working on it, but those watching, and it’s something that was done masterfully here with both grace and respect. Though there had been rumors before production started on The Fate of the Furious that Walker’s brother would be stepping in to fill the role of O’Conner, surely the best decision was made to leave that character behind and move forward with tributes instead of a continuation.
Many thought this was a franchise that couldn’t move on following Walker’s death, but if the past few days have proved anything it’s that it can go above and beyond expectations regardless. Part of that is because bosses have made the decision to keep Walker around in spirit and for the majority, they couldn’t be happier with the results.