First and foremost I give my condolences to the friends and family of Paul Walker and Roger Rodas, who both tragically passed away in a car crash last weekend. Paul Walker was well known for his roles in the Fast & Furious films and Roger Rodas was a racing driver and a business partner with Walker (They ran a car shop).
With the news breaking out from Universal yesterday of production on Fast & Furious 7 shut down completely for the cast and crew to have to time to grieve, some are wondering now what’s going on with the writing team at this moment. Many people have been voicing their opinion this week over what should happen. The answers that have been suggested have primarily been to remove Paul Walker completely from the film out of respect (retire him as it were) or to recast someone else to reprise the Brian O’Connor role.
The writers are in a very tough situation at the moment with either having to reformat the story a bit to juggle with Walker’s scenes to blend with the film or rip up the script completely and come up with a new story. There are a few angles to support either case.
It’s not the first time that an actor has untimely past away during the middle of a film production and have had to adapt the film. Key example would be Heath Ledger when he past away during The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. Granted it happened to have a bendable route to go to get in a few actors that were friends of Heath’s to take the same role, it still moved on and carried the torch to show the world of the late actor’s final work. Another example was Oliver Reed when he passed away during Gladiator, with most of Reed’s scenes shot, his face was digitally added in for the remaining scenes.
It has been stressed already that there is now plans to digitally add in Paul Walker into his remaining scenes. Depending on how much his scenes were shot, if most of his main scenes (close ups in car crashes, with the team etc) then they could use a stuntman for a few shots, much like they used on The Crow for Brandon Lee’s passing.
In terms of recasting, there is some points people are trying to make here. Mainly that the role shouldn’t retire, but have someone else come in the role to carry on the legacy. After all, the key partnership throughout the Fast & Furious franchise has been the Dom and Brian duo act, why not let that story continue and carry on? Would Walker liked the story to have continued?
It’s not the first time that an actor has past that his role was cut short from film/TV or that a film was cancelled completely (River Phoenix). I think going down the John Spencer route in this instance would be considered too harsh to the audience. For those of you that don’t know, John Spencer was a long key cast member in the TV show The West Wing. With Spencer’s sudden passing during filming either the second last season or the final season, they happened to ‘kill’ his character off and had a funeral scene for him. With the way this franchise is with the fast cars and in which the way Walker passed, I don’t think some members of the audience would take it with his character being killed on (or off) screen. Most of the support seems to be aimed at the idea of writing off Walkers character with a happy ending, such as him leaving this life of crime (since they get immunity and are now free after Fast and Furious 6), along with his family and just go off into the background.
It’s a difficult position that the writer’s have to go through and I don’t envy them one bit. What do you think? Should the role be recast (at least in the next film)? Should the character be killed off? Or should the character be written out and ‘retired’?