Vin Diesel’s Fast and the Furious saga was in jeopardy following Paul Walker’s tragic demise. His unexpected passing on November 30th of 2013 sent shockwaves around the world, leaving his fans and colleagues in a state of shock. The actor had died in a car accident along with his friend Roger Rodas at around 3:30 p.m. on a Saturday in Valencia, Calif. Since the actor was shooting the seventh installment of the Fast and the Furious saga at that point in time, his death meant the production had to be put on hold indefinitely.
James Wan, the director, and Vin Diesel, the star and producer of the film were presented with the difficult task of filling the irreplaceable void that was created in the movie in order to release the million-dollar film. Thus, it led them to spiral into thinking the only doable solution was to chuck the movie altogether.
How did Paul Walker’s death affect the Furious 7?
The death of Paul Walker although tragic in itself, also proved nearly fatal for the seven billion dollar Fast and the Furious franchise. The technology back in 2013 wasn’t as nearly as advanced as it is right now. Since there were a lot of important scenes left to be filmed, Vin Diesel and James Wan had to contemplate what it meant for the franchise moving forward. Reshooting the whole movie or recasting the part wasn’t a viable option, and thus they had to go the digital route. But could not find the right way to do it. During a Hollywood Reporter interview, Wan revealed,
“It definitely was the hardest movie of my career. I’ve done technically challenging movies since then, but Furious 7 just hit on so many different levels, especially an emotional one.”
The director then continued his thought and explained what challenges the difficult time threw at them. He said,
“When the passing of Paul Walker happened, we were like, ‘Do we just shut the movie down for good?’ But we collectively felt like this movie needed to be Paul’s legacy. So we wiped our tears away and sat around in editorial, going, ‘All right, how do we do this?'”
Thus, when no way seemed viable, the Walker brothers stepped in to save their late brother’s legacy. He said,
“Thankfully, I had shot certain stuff with Paul, like his ending action stuff, but there were still many bits missing in the film that needed Paul. —- But we did not have that kind of technology at our disposal. So we had to really dig deep into our bag of tricks to make it work, and one of them was having Paul’s brothers [Caleb and Cody Walker] step in and shoot the other half of the movie. We then pulled different words that Paul had spoken all through the franchise to create sentences for us.”
Therefore, although it had an emotional and tragic ending and was on the verge of collapse when finally released it went on to gather $1.7 billion worldwide and won everybody’s heart in the process. The movie is still hailed as one of the greats because of its sentimental value.
How did they bring Paul Walker back to life on the silver screen for the last time?
VFX supervisor Joe Letteri, from Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital, was involved in the process of bringing Paul Walker back to life for the Vin Diesel film. He revealed to the Hollywood Reporter,
“we didn’t have everything you would have wanted from a reference and research perspective, when Universal and the filmmakers regrouped and decided they did want to finish the film and the Paul Walker story, we thought at most we could get one scene of a digital Paul that maybe had some dialogue in it, and we’d have to find other ways to finish the story,”
The Walker brother’s stepping in really helped them to work their magic, he continued,
“ We didn’t do CG costumes and bodies because the brothers were close enough,–Then we used Paul’s footage for the final touch up to his model” to capture details like skin textures,– we used a lot of Paul’s footage as reference, because as close as the brothers were in style and mannerisms, they just weren’t Paul when Paul played his character. —Most of the CG shots had some kind of dialogue—The sound editors had to craft the vocal performance out of [existing] dialog from Paul, and we had to animate to that.”
All in all, it took roughly 260 shots of the two Walker brothers and a lot of CGI to bring the actor back to life one last time to bid him a proper farewell. The film is now available on Peacock TV to stream.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter