The big news this weekend was that of Paul Walker’s passing. Walker, who clung to fame with the Fast & Furious franchise, died in a car accident alongside his friend Roger Rodas Saturday night. It was very untimely as the actor had wrapped what seemed to be a DTV action film in Brick Mansions earlier this year before going to work on a seventh Fast & Furious film.
Oddly enough he had just been the victim of yet another celebrity death hoax. It’s why his actual death on Saturday night seemed like a hoax again.
Universal is devastated and the film, which is in production, will go on. It’s claimed that they’ve already filmed a large portion of it, with production halted for the holiday, and that some additional scenes were to be shot in the Middle East. Everyone on set is devastated but the film will go on, it seems, and most likely be decorated in his memory. No one would blame Universal for cancelling the film, especially considering Walker was a headlining actor in it, but they arguably have enough footage shot to make a film without considerable rewrites and Fast 7 is a tentpole for the studio next summer.
Since this represents his last work, as well, the financial investment probably made sense for Universal to carry on. While it’s a tragedy that he died, and by all accounts he seemed like a genuinely decent human being, sometimes the show has to go on. And in this case, with a good chunk of the film already done, it made sense to continue on. Now the question remains: how do you handle his real life death with his character on screen?
Brian O’Conner, easily his best known role, isn’t something you can write out of the series easily. With a large chunk of the film already in the can one imagines that some substantial rewrites and new footage will have to be shot. That’s for certain of all the scenarios. The film won’t have to be reworked from the ground up but the key will be this: how do you finish up his character’s arc?
That’s the key now. Brian O’Connor is a huge chunk of the film franchise, and Paul Walker a reason why the films were popular. Yeah he was a blonde Keanu Reeves but this was his role. It’s not like you can just write him out of the script with a couple lines of dialogue and leave it at that. He’s a substantial part of the marketing campaign, and the film, and thus you have to account for him at the end.
There are a couple of options they could go. Call this:
1. Kill the character off and use it as a basis for the next two films
Possibility: Highly unlikely
It would be in insanely poor taste, especially considering he just died, but that has to be a possibility. It all depends on whether or not they were writing his death into the film in the first place. I don’t think they would go through even if they had written it in the first place, of course, but it has to be a possibility. It could become a good story-telling device as they’ve already killed off Han in the film and Jason Statham killing Vin Diesel’s best buddy would be par for the course in the film.
Nothing says an action film is getting down to business, and that its evildoer should be taken seriously, when you kill off a longtime character and one of your leads. Apollo Creed was sacrificed on the altar of Ivan Drago in Rocky 4, after all, but in this case Carl Weathers didn’t die at any point. He’s still alive, too.
The franchise has been willing to kill off characters, especially main ones, and they could CGI his character’s death during an action sequence. Trying to kill off a character whose actor has died, of course, is in insanely poor taste and you can’t do it off screen either. They can’t do it in a car crash, as well, as that would break the internet at some point. It would have to be clever but it’s possible.
The distinct possibility is that they manage to write him out of the final act of this film and do it in the next film. Vin Diesel’s Xander Cage was killed off in XXX off screen, with a small scene written to showcase it starring Not Vin Diesel, and it’s highly possible they could pull this off. Again it’s in poor taste … but it’s possible.
2. Re-cast the character in the next film
It’s been done before, replacing actors who’ve departed franchises, and there are plenty of actors who could step in and do what Paul Walker did in that film. There are plenty who could get close in terms of looks and voice that there wouldn’t be a drop off. Liam McIntyre replaced Andy Whitfield in the Spartacus television show and didn’t miss a beat and one imagines that someone like Liam Hemsworth, et al, could step in for Fast 8 and not miss a beat. One imagines there are enough guys who look just enough like Paul Walker who would take the job in a heartbeat as well.
Will they? I’m not sure if Universal would. Walker has played the actor in so many films that asking someone to step in could be seen by many as poor taste. Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law stood in for Heath Ledger on The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and one imagines they could do something similar for this film. Walker was loved in Hollywood and one imagines that there are a number of actors he worked with in the past who would be honored to step in for him.
3. Set up a storyline where Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster exist the franchise
On the set of Gladiator it seemed like Oliver Reed was in for a career resurgence … and then he died on set at the same point that Walker died. They managed to use footage, CGI and a stand in to complete his story arc and give the film a completeness it wouldn’t have had without him in it. It’s possible, with the sheer volume of footage they have of him over seven films, to be able to quickly write out Walker and Jordana Brewster from the franchise. They could walk away to raise their son, away from their life of crime, and in future installments Brewster makes some excuse about Walker being out on the race track or whatnot.
Brewster would have to go with him, of course, as their characters are married and you can’t give one a happy ending without the other in it. It would be easy as at the conclusion of Fast 7 you have Brewster telling Vin Diesel they’re walking away and CGI Walker over a stand-in at a distance, using archival footage and CGI to give him a semblance of a good bye. If they’re going to spend a ton of cash anyway, as they have to rewrite a good chunk of the film’s finale at a minimum, they could write the two of them out and give them a happy ending as a celebration of his life.
From elsewhere in the Inside Pulse Network:
My post fight column on this season’s The Ultimate Fighter can be viewed here.
Travis tackled Frozen, so read that.
Mike Noyes hates poetry, I guess.
And now on MMC … we DANCE!
If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….
Trying to find a good sex comedy with women as the primary characters is hard. Most times it’s because they want women to act like men; it’s annoying because it seems like a lot of male writers (and a number of female writers) don’t know how to write a woman in a comedy without making her take on all the worst representations of male comic characters.
For a Good Time Call… bucks this trend by writing good female characters in a good film.
It’s a simple premise. Ari Graynor and Lauren Anne Miller are both about to lose their apartments. So their gay friend (Justin Long) pairs them together despite a hilarious introduction 10 years earlier in college. When both are hard up for cash they pool their brains together to start their own phone sex line. The film follows them as they develop a friendship from their working relationship.
It came and went in theatres, not finding much of an audience, which is a shame because this is the kind of film that made Judd Apatow famous: a good story punctuated with some good jokes.
That’s the key to the film. It’s a great character film about two very different people finding common ground. It just happens to be a raunchy sex comedy involving two people running a phone sex line. It’s genuinely funny but there’s a great story about two people finding a friendship when by all rights they should never find common ground.
Miller and Graynor have terrific chemistry together, as well, which is why the film genuinely works. It reminded me an awful lot of I Love You Man in that it takes the basic romantic comedy formula and makes it into a bromance. Obviously it’s with women instead, of course, but that’s the best description I can think. There’s no real female equivalent to “bromance” that I can find that doesn’t sound just awful.
What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club
Out of the Furnace – Christian Bale goes all the hillbilly to save Casey Affleck.
See it – Bale is getting substantial Oscar buzz for this film already and that usually is a good sign.
Inside Llewyn Davis – The Coens do folk music.
See it – The Coen Brothers are never dull. They may misfire but at least it’s an interesting one.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .
Tags: Monday Morning Critic