The death Saturday of actor Paul Walker, known for his work in the "Fast and Furious" franchise as well as earlier roles in "Varsity Blues," "Pleasantville" and other films, left the world stunned. While fans process the tragedy and police unravel the Santa Clarita, Calif. car accident that took the life of the 40-year-old Walker, studio executives at Universal have the unhappy decision of what to do with the car-centric franchise Walker was so widely recognized for.
As is the case with any death, there are obligations and entanglements to be sorted through on behalf of the deceased. Walker was in the midst of filming "Fast & the Furious 7," due to be released July 11, 2014. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the cast and crew had taken a Thanksgiving hiatus, and were scheduled to resume filming in Atlanta on Sunday, Dec. 1. Instead, director James Wan (a newcomer to the franchise) and Universal execs held a conference call to discuss the future of the movie and how to work around Walker's untimely death.
No announcements have been made about a rewrite, change in release date, recasting, digital face replacement or any of the other possible workarounds used in the past when an actor died mid-production. In the very early hours of Sunday morning, Wan tweeted that he was "beyond heartbroken."
I am so beyond heartbroken right now. I can't process anything.— James Wan (@creepypuppet) December 1, 2013
Universal released a statement Saturday night: "All of us at Universal are heartbroken," it said. "Paul was truly one of the most beloved and respected members of our studio family for 14 years, and this loss is devastating to us, to everyone involved with the Fast and Furious films, and to countless fans. We send our deepest and most sincere condolences to Paul's family."
The official "Fast and Furious" Facebook page posted an image of Walker leaning against a car, captioned "always in our hearts."
Walker has been involved in the franchise from the very beginning; 2001's "The Fast and the Furious" revolved around his undercover cop character, Brian O'Conner, attempting to worm in with a ring of fast-driving, law-bending criminals.
The earliest that production on "Fast 7" would resume is Tuesday, sources told Buzzfeed Entertainment. The cast, including Walker, was reportedly also scheduled to meet in Abu Dhabi in January to film additional scenes.