December 1 2013

The Death of Paul Walker and the Fate of the Fast & Furious Franchise

Paul-Walker-Fast-andåPaul Walker - Fast & Furious 6

Paul Walker, one of the main stars of the Fast and the Furious franchise passed away on Saturday while riding in a friend’s car. The tragedy is horrific for his friends and family, and there is no denying that. However, there is also a multi-billion dollar film franchise that is now in serious trouble.

Let me be clear before I get into the nitty gritty here: I am in no way trying to belittle Walker’s death. It was a tragedy, and his family and friends deserve a lot of sympathy at this time. I gave this post a lot of thought today as I was walking around the city of Edinburgh on my vacation and whether or not I should even write it. I finally landed on the side of tackling it, but I do not want anyone to think that I am taking his passing lightly.

That being said, Universal is now in a real pickle.

To date the Fast & Furious franchise has earned $2.38 billion globally and it has become the top earner for the studio. Fast & Furious 7 is currently in production, Fast & Furious 8 was already locked and Fast & Furious 9 was in the planning stages. Walker is in 7 for sure, and he was signed to 8. As 7 is the beginning of a new sub-trilogy, – 4, 5 and 6 were also a sub-trilogy – there are a lot of moving parts at work that will now need to be re-worked. We also don’t know how many scenes Walker had left to film on the current one, if any.

This is a time where you really have to look at how many people are involved with the production of a film. The tragic death of one man now has an impact on the finances of everyone from a studio down to the caterers working on the set. Literally hundreds of people could feel the direct impact of this event. While studios always take out insurance on their actors, it is highly unlikely that Universal will just want to take the payout and shut this film down. They will rework the script and try to make this work, but it isn’t going to be easy.

My guess, and this is only a guess, is they will now kill Walker’s character off through the use of a double or old footage. It’s unfortunate, but it will be the only real option Universal will have available to it. It will also probably need to pull the July 11, 2014 release date as it attempts to rework all of this.

I finally sat down and watched all six films, and while they are stupid with gaping plot holes, they are – and I hate to admit this – entertaining. There are millions of fans around the world eagerly awaiting the next installment, and they are just going to have to understand that a lot of things are going to need to be juggled to make this work.

It is amazing how one unexpected, and sad, death can impact so many people. I do not envy the executives at Universal at the moment as they attempt to figure this out.

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