After actor's death, 'Furious 7' director drives film to finish

Thu Mar 26, 2015 8:13am EDT
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By Mary Milliken

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When his lead actor died suddenly, James Wan knew there was not another director who could give him advice on how to finish the film.

Wan was in the midst of the punishing production of "Furious 7" - his first big-budget movie in Universal Pictures' most lucrative and longest-running franchise "Fast & Furious" - when Paul Walker was killed in a car crash in Southern California during a break in November 2013.

"We were just emotionally stricken by it all and it took me a long time after the initial shock even to think about whether or not I could complete the film," Wan told Reuters ahead of the release of "Furious 7" next week.

How the 38-year-old director and his cast and crew handled Walker's demise promises to be one of the most talked about features in one of the year's biggest films. The $190 million movie opens in U.S. theaters April 3 and is expected to break April box office records with a $115 million debut weekend.

After a halt in production, the crew began sifting through thousands of hours of shots of the 40-year-old Walker, not only from "Furious 7," but also previous films in the car-studded saga.

"There were many sleepless nights poring over hours of footage trying to cull, not just for visuals, but also audio stuff Paul had done," Wan said.

In addition to technological sleight of hand, they brought in Walker's two younger brothers as stand-ins.

"I think the biggest compliment I have taken away from all the screenings so far is that people say the movie plays pretty seamlessly," the Australian director said.   Continued...

The cast members of "Fast and Furious 5" (L-R) Tyrese Gibson, Vin Diesel, Elsa Pataky, Paul Walker, Gal Gadot and Dwayne Johnson pose during a photocall at the premiere of the film in Marseille in this April 28, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier