By Jay Ramey, Crain News Service
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (Dec. 27, 2013) — Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker will headline the seventh "The Fast & the Furious" film, Universal Studios announced recently, in an apparent confirmation that the late star's footage shot prior to the Thanksgiving break will be saved.
Shortly following the deaths of Paul Walker and his friend Roger Rodas in a car crash, production of the seventh installment in the franchise shut down. A little over a week later, reports had surfaced that the studio was studying ways to incorporate the already filmed footage with Mr. Walker into a rewritten screenplay for the film. Despite Mr. Walker's death, Universal Studios has decided not to abandon "The Fast & the Furious" franchise.
"Continuing the global exploits in the franchise built on speed, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker lead the returning cast of 'Fast & Furious 7,' which will be released by Universal Pictures on April 10, 2015. James Wan directs this chapter of the hugely successful series, and Neal H. Moritz and Vin Diesel return as producers," Universal Studios said in a statement.
At the time of Mr. Walker's death, approximately half of his scenes had been filmed, though the studio decided that production could not be completed based on the original script without Mr. Walker.
Two weeks ago, the studio was faced with a choice of abandoning production entirely and starting anew, an option that would have likely resulted in a $150 million insurance claim—the amount the studio had expended up to the point of Mr. Walker's death—or rewriting the script and salvaging his scenes into a storyline that would allow an exit for his character. It is not yet known whether Mr. Walker's character, Brian O'Conner, is scripted to die in the seventh installment of the film, or whether the writers have planned a different exit for his character.
Messrs. Walker and Rodas died on Nov. 30 of this year when the Porsche Carrera GT Mr. Rodas was driving struck a light pole and a tree while the two were coming back from a charity event just outside of Los Angeles. Authorities are still investigating the crash, but the official cause is not expected to be known for another few weeks.
Universal Studios previously said that production of the seventh film was set to resume in January 2014. The latest reports indicate that the shooting schedule will continue at that time.
This report appeared in Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.