According to The Hollywood Reporter, Universal Pictures is attempting to salvage the footage already shot for Fast & Furious 7 instead of starting over after the death of Paul Walker. Chris Morgan is making revisions to the script which they hope can retire Walker's character from the series using scenes already shot. If it works out, cast and crew will come back to work by late January.
The morning after Walker's death on November 30, Universal executives held a conference call to go over what they should do. The priority was supporting the grieving family, cast and crew. NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer called everyone on that list to give his condolences. Studio chairman Donna Langley (who was promoted in September) and production co-president Keffrey Kirschenbaum (the lead executive on the movies) had to find a creative solution for the sequel. The studio has already spent $150 million on the film. Universal's insurance firm, Fireman's Fund, may have to pay for the lost money if Universal decides to start over. The accident happened when the film was in the middle of production and was not close to being completed. Walker was scheduled for a fair amount of work the week after his death. A source said: "Almost exactly half of his role was done."
Universal filmed entertainment chairman Jeff Shell has taken a "a 90,000-foot approach," leaving the business and creative issues to Langley and the team, including Kirschenbaum, director James Wan, producer Neal Moritz and Morgan. Filming has been postponed indefinitely, which saves some money but is creating issues. The cast and crew, along with their respective guilds, have deals controlling if they can be kept on hold and for how long. SAF-AFTRA requires the studio to pay half of the actors' salaries during postponment, but stars might have deals with other conditions. Sorting out these issues is studio president Jimmy Horowitz. After the meeting, marketing co-president Michael Moses rushed to change the ad campaign for the Fast & Furious 6 DVD, which was released yesterday. They were changed to include the studio's plan to donate some of the proceeds to Walker's nonprofit Reach Out Worldwide and to include more iconic images from the series.
Insurance broker Brian Kingman of Gallagher Entertainment has said that Universal could decide the footage cannot be saved, in which case starting over must be "reasonable, practical and necessary." He said: "If I were the broker, I would [calculate] how many days had already been captured, how many were left. I would look at the original arc of the story and get input from the director, the producers and the studio as to why, notwithstanding the financial impact, the story doesn't make sense to complete. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. The studio should not have to make a movie it doesn't want to make to accommodate an insurance company."
A source added: "What will drive everything is, is there an honorable and sensible way to do this? There's not really a road map."
While starting up again in January is the goal, it's not set in stone. The film's July 11 release has been canceled, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was given that day by Fox. Universal will release the seventh film and more than likely an eighth as well. A rival studio executive said that Walker's death will "add to returns". A source at Universal added: "Sadly, it will probably make people more interested."