Behind The Scenes Of How ‘Fate Of The Furious’ Keeps The Memory Of Paul Walker Alive

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“That was a serious conversation that took place, that we were not going to finish [Furious 7] because we just didn’t feel right about it,” says Neal Moritz – who has produced all eight Fast and Furious movies to date – about the immediate aftermath of Paul Walker’s death.

It’s been three and a half years since the tragic death of Paul Walker. And, to its credit, Furious 7 ends with a touching homage to Walker as he drives one last time into the sunset – an ending that left many, many people in tears (myself included).

“You’re in good company,” says Moritz. “Because every time I saw 7, I cried at the end of that. It’s weird because when that happened, Paul’s unfortunate passing, we really considered stopping the movie – like not finishing the movie.” Motitz continues, “But once we got a tiny bit of distance from it, we knew that Paul would have wanted us to finish. And we needed to do it for him. And most importantly, as much as we were grieving, the audience was grieving as well and they needed the closure of 7. They needed the closure of his character.”

Chris Morgan, who has written every Fast movie since Tokyo Drift, remembers how hard it was to complete Furious 7.

“After 7, after the tragedy with Paul – and kind of everyone linking arms and pulling off – there was every reason not to complete that movie. But everyone just kind of did a superhuman effort and everybody just put their hearts on the line and we just did it – and we’re all really proud of it. It’s probably the hardest moviemaking any of us will ever do, and it was also the most rewarding because I think at the end it gave the audience something – and I think Paul would have been happy with it.”

Furious 7 ends with Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner pulling up next to Dominic Toretto one last time. The two accelerate together, but eventually O’Conner takes an exit and drives off into a sunset. It’s about as perfect as an ending as there could be under the circumstances.

“There was a question, how are we going to end this movie?,” remembers Morgan. “And so I just wrote that sequence and brought it into the studio. And I’m like, ‘I think this is how it ends.’ And everyone read it and we just all kind of looked at each other and we’re like, ‘We’re doing it. Now we’ll do it.’ So that was good.”

But here we are at The Fate of the Furious and the question persisted as how to address Paul Walker going forward. It might seem morbid to mention Walker’s character too often, but it might also seem callous to just ignore him completely.

“We had done a couple cuts of the film where we had a little less, and we had a couple cuts of the film where we had done a little more,” Moritz explans. “And I think we found the happy medium of where it should be. Where he’s acknowledged.”

“Look, that was always a sensitive thing,’ says Morgan. “And there are a lot of people around the production who had a lot of difference of opinions: We should never mention it; we should mention it more. I always kind of fell into and fought for where it is now. Because, otherwise, I think there’s this thing nagging at the back of your brain – which is, why aren’t these characters even mentioning Brian? This is a giant adventure. They’re all fucked. Why isn’t anyone mentioning Brian? And so, we touch it. ‘No Brian, we gave him his out.’ Like, ‘No, we made an agreement, we do not go to him with this stuff.’”

Brian O’Conner started as the main protagonist of these films, but as the series evolved, his character became more part of an ensemble. But Brian remained the glue that kept the team together. He was always the heart of these movies and now that element is missing.

“On some level, there was a question there not asked in the film, but for the audience and for me, what happens when you lose someone who was so important, like Paul?,” says Morgan, about the plot point of Dominic turning against the team. “And so this movie is good in that it kind of gives you a cathartic, troublesome hurdle for them to have to overcome and they get stronger at the end of it.”

Morgan admits he didn’t even try to fill Brian’s shoes in The Fate of the Furious.

“I didn’t fill the gap,” says Morgan. “So I didn’t say, ‘Hey, this is something Brian would say. Let’s just give it to somebody else.’ I just left those lines out. And maybe you feel it, maybe you don’t. But the truth is, I think it makes kind of the dark journey feel just a shade darker – resonate maybe a little bit more.”

And for fans of Walker, there’s a touching scene near the end of the film we wouldn’t dare spoil.

“It just told the audience, again, we are you,” says Morgan about that scene we won’t reveal. “We’re thinking the same things you are right now, and we love Brian and we love Paul just as much as you do.”

Mortiz still gets emotional when talking about Paul Walker. “He was a dear, not only associate and colleague of ours, but a dear, dear friend of all of ours. So we would never do anything that would do anything more than acknowledge and try and keep his legacy alive, but nothing more than that.”

You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.