How The Fast and the Furious Handled the Death of Paul Walker

By: Thomas Horvath

The Fast and the Furious was released on June 22, 2001. The movie starred Paul Walker, who played an undercover cop who tried to bust a gang of illegal street racers and semi-truck hijackers, lead by Dominic Torreto, played by Vin Diesel. The movie did well at the box office and was received well by general audiences. The franchise would make a sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious in 2003, and a semi-spinoff The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Tokyo Drift would end up bombing at the box office, likely due to the two main stars of the first movie being nowhere to be seen for the majority of the run. This would cause the studio to bring back the original cast for the fourth installment, confusingly titled Fast and Furious. This movie would get the series back on track, and Fast Five would explode the series, making over 600 million dollars in 2011, almost triple what the first movie made. The spike could be attributed to bringing on Dwayne Johnson as Agent Luke Hobbs, or the fact that the movie was not about street racing, but about a money heist and them being on the run from the government. The sixth movie Fast and Furious 6 would follow the same trajectory as the previous installment, and made nearly 800 million worldwide in 2013. 

Of course, with this much profit, a sequel was in the works later that year, but the franchise would be struck with tragedy. On November 30, 2013, Paul Walker would get into a fatal car accident, resulting in his death. The news devastated fans worldwide, and of course cast members, such as Tyrese Gibson, who has been playing Roman Pearce since the second film, was seen crying on set, or Vin Diesel, who was too emotional when asked in an interview that he had to leave prematurely. The crew on the film were left clueless about what to do, as the script for the movie had already been made and they had already started filming, including scenes with Walker. They ended up deciding that the movie was too far along to start over, and decided to let Paul’s brothers Caleb and Cody Walker be his body double in the rest of the movie. The effects team would then have to create a CGI replica of Paul’s face and put it over the bodies of his brothers. The movie plays out the same as it would have until the last 10 minutes or so, where Brian O’Conner, Paul’s character, decides to retire and take care of his family. Dom then drives away, with Brian meeting him at the stop. They then take different paths at a split in the road, and they play a montage of scenes from the movie. Dom monologues in his head about how Brian will always be his brother, no matter where he is.

Critics and audiences alike were very moved by the ending, and surprised that a series like The Fast and Furious would be able to make such a well made and respectful send off to the former star of the series. Furious 7 would go on to make over 1.5 billion dollars globally and also be the most critically acclaimed movie of the series. While the movies are not everyone’s cup of tea, most will agree that the way they handled Paul’s death was respectful and well done.

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