If you’ve seen the first online reactions for the upcoming Furious 7, then you will know that fans of the rubber-burning franchise are in for an explosive treat. But among all the testimonials gawking at director James Wan’s jaw dropping action scenes, there was a constant mention of the incredibly moving sendoff for Paul Walker’s character Brian. Walker, as you may recall, tragically passed away in a car accident late in 2013, while taking a break from the production of the movie.
With approximately only 2/3 of his scenes shot, Wan and co had to come up with some way to finish the movie and also pay respects to their fallen star and brother-in-arms. After some script rewrites, we heard that Walker’s two brothers Cody and Caleb (who both shared a significant enough resemblance) were brought on board to help finish shooting the missing scenes. But neither brother is an actor, so how did they nail those big emotional moments that several people who have seen the movie already keep referring to?
Up until now Universal Pictures have not divulged the particulars of just how they pulled off this trickery, but a new report from THR says that besides for the body doubling, the studio actually brought in WETA Digital, the acclaimed VFX studio behind Lord of the Rings, King Kong and more, to seamlessly splice unused footage of Walker from previous films into new footage from this film.
This was semi-confirmed by producer Neal Moritz in some press notes (via /Film) about the movie:
“Then it came to how could we actually finish Furious 7. We had shot most of the movie with Paul, but we wondered how we were actually going to make this work. I have to say, he was looking down on us. Because of unused footage that we had from previous movies and the use of new technology, we were able to complete the film inspired by Paul’s spirit and give him and his best-known character a perfect cinematic send-off. This movie is a testament to his legacy.”
When /Film’s Germain Lussier spoke to Wan about this though, while he admitted to the digital composition of real footage of Walker, he declined to talk about the specifics of just where they needed to make use of this technology. And I have to admit that his reasoning behind not divulging the secrets is incredibly valid :
“I’m not gonna say specifically what was what, because I think it’s very important that people go into this movie not fixated on trying to work out which is Paul, which isn’t Paul. I want them to just watch the movie and enjoy the film and be caught up in the emotion of it all. We worked so hard so that they don’t have to do that.
And so I think that’s very important and I don’t wanna kind of fuel that fire so to speak. Maybe years from now, I’ll talk about it or maybe at a later day on the track. But needless to say, yes, I wanted to use as much of real Paul as I could.
And if that meant stealing a look from the previous movies or whatever, that was the way to do it. I think it’s just from a sentimental point of view, I think it wanted to be that.”
And according to reports, Wan and crew succeeded incredibly at that. /Film’s Germain Lussier himself stated that “the way the franchise pays tribute to the tragedy of Paul Walker‘s death is incredible. No spoilers, but watching the film, I cried more than I’ve cried in a movie in years.” Talking about how the various techniques were used to create Walker’s likeness, he also went on to add that “Some scenes in the movie are pretty obviously digital but one isn’t. And I’m frankly stunned. It looked absolutely incredible and crushed me emotionally in the best possible way”.
I’ll be watching Furious 7 this coming Tuesday and really cannot wait to see it. You guys will have to wait for its official release on Thursday, April 2.
Last Updated: March 27, 2015