R.I.P. Paul Walker

It’s all over the internet by now, so you’ve no doubt heard the news that actor Paul Walker has passed away at the age of 40, in a tragic car accident. My thoughts are with Walker’s family and friends, particularly his 15-year-old daughter, who should not have to go endure the agony of losing her father at such a young age.

And no, your joke about the irony of the Fast & Furious star dying in a car wreck is absolutely not funny and completely inappropriate, so you can quit while you’re ahead.

Walker is a unique case. I hated the first Fast and the Furious movie, and was not fond of its immediate sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious. I was also not fond of his acting in either movie, and his performances are still unimpressive to this day. He’s dry and wooden in those initial movies, a generic pretty-boy who was chosen for his looks more than anything else.

But then something really strange happened. After sitting out for Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Walker returned to the franchise with a vengeance in 2009’s Fast & Furious. And from that point on, Walker transformed into a genuinely good performer, with great work in Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6. I never considered myself a fan of Walker or the franchise until Fast Five – now I look forward to each new instalment, and I no longer find his acting risible.

Which makes the news all the more heartbreaking. Walker finally found his groove as an actor, and was no doubt on track for a bright future. And now we’re faced with this sad reality, which reminds us yet again about the fragility of our existence. Now he will join the likes of James Dean and Heath Ledger, whose attractive, youthful looks will forever be immortalised due to passing too soon.

It’s perhaps a little bit insensitive to be discussing it at this point, but the future of Fast & Furious 7 is an enormous question mark right now. On IMDb the movie is still listed as being in the filming phase, with James Wan making his big-budget blockbuster debut. Oftentimes the big set-pieces are lensed first, so it’s probably safe to assume that the movie’s trademark climax is in the can…featuring Walker.

One can only speculate at this point, but what if crucial bridging scenes for Fast 7 are yet to be filmed, and Walker would be required to feature in such yet-to-be-shot scenes? Moreover, Walker would still be needed for ADR in post-production, representing a huge hurdle for the creative team to overcome. It’s a major blow to the young Wan in particular, who aspired to use Fast 7 as a way to move out of the horror genre and be recognised as a big-budget filmmaker at last.

What will this mean for Fast 7? Will Wan be forced to halt production indefinitely while the picture undergoes extensive rewrites? Will Walker’s death be worked into the series, leading to the demise of his character? Will the movie be delayed, and if so, by how long?

As this story develops, let’s all agree that Walker’s passing is a genuine tragedy and he will be missed.

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