- After Paul Walker’s death, Furious 7 had to be rewritten to explain why Brian O’Conner wouldn’t be in future sequels, leading to scenes with Walker’s brother as a stand-in.
- Visual effects company Weta Digital created CGI shots with Brian at the center, using footage and outtakes from Walker’s previous performances and his brothers as body doubles.
- Fast 11 and possibly Fast 12 are in the works, leaving open the possibility of Brian O’Conner returning in future movies through CGI scenes or nods to the character.
Warning! Contains spoilers for Fast X!After Paul Walker died in 2013 during the filming of Furious 7, director James Wan faced the difficult task of giving Walker’s character, Brian O’Conner, a proper send-off from the franchise. Indeed, Paul Walker’s Fast and Furious scenes have come to define the vast majority of the action, crime, and street racing movie saga. Producer Neal Moritz said that in the immediate aftermath of Paul Walker’s death, they were so lost that they thought they would have to cancel the movie, but instead its ending had to be changed.
Walker’s death came as a shock to everyone. While in Santa Clarita, CA for a fundraiser, the Fast & Furious star met up with his business partner, race car driver Roger Rodas. Walker and Rodas went for a drive in a Porsche Carrera GT, but the ride ended in tragedy with Walker losing his life. Although he had finished most of his on-camera work for Furious 7, Paul Walker’s death meant that the film ultimately had to be rewritten and explain why Brian O’Conner wouldn’t be in future sequels. This led to scenes where Paul Walker’s brother came in to complete Brian’s story in Furious 7.
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A Combination Of Visual Effects And Stand-Ins Were Used To Complete Brian’s Role
Visual effects company Weta Digital was brought in to help with rounding out the performance that Walker had already given. It was no small task, as the effects company had to create 350 digital shots with Brian at the center. The scenes ranged from action-packed to more subtle, meaning a range of techniques would be necessary. To pull it off, Weta relied on an archive of footage and outtakes from Walker’s previous Fast Saga performances — and his brothers.
Combined with the actor’s work from the entirety of Fast and Furious, Paul Walker’s brother role-played scenes as Brian to provide templates for Weta. With Walker’s two brothers, Caleb and Cody, and actor John Brotherton serving as body doubles, Weta CGI artists were able to digitally overlay Walker’s face and create a convincing performance. These are some of the scenes that pay tribute to Paul Walker/Brian O’Conner’s Fast Saga legacy:
- Brian puts his son in the back seat of a minivan.
- Brian is looking at a computer, with Mia (Jordana Brewster) comforting him.
- Brian shares an embrace with Mia.
- The family, including Brian, looking out over Los Angeles, pondering their next move
- Driving a car while Dom (Vin Diesel) tends to a wounded Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell)
- Sitting at the pool with Dom, Brian smiles.
- Being rocked around as a passenger in a car chase with Dom driving. After being tossed from a car and shot at, Walker holds up what looks to be a computer hard drive
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The Results Of The CGI Recreations Were Mixed Yet Necessary
Brian standing with the rest of the crew was particularly hard to render digitally, because it involved a close-up of his face as he turns to Dom. However, the shot works well enough that it was later used for marketing materials, including the poster for Furious 7. Another challenging scene for the Furious 7 VFX team was the one where Walker’s Brian holds up a hard drive. Brian was tangling with the idea of leaving the fast life behind for his family, and the digital rendering of the late actor had to showcase that in his facial performance.
All told, the company’s employees did the best they could with CGI Paul Walker, digitally rendering him in a way that honored the actor’s legacy in the Fast and Furious franchise and the arc of Brian. The final sequence, though, carries the most emotional weight as it serves as Walker’s goodbye as Brian. Dom and the family are looking on as Brian, Mia and their son are frolicking near the beach water.
Dom gets up to leave without saying goodbye, but Brian follows him in his own car, catching up at a stop sign. The two share a look one last time, and the film ends with Brian and Dom going their separate ways as the road takes them to their next destination. In the end, the results of creating a CGI Paul Walker for finishing the film were met with varying degrees of success. Consequently, Wan refused to comment on which of Walker’s performances were real and which weren’t. He commented (via SlashFilm):
“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.”
While that final digital shot may flirt with the uncanny valley, Furious 7 does give Walker’s character a worthy send-off in 2015.
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Brian’s Famous Car Signals His Role In The Sequel
F9 cleverly avoided all the problems associated with CGI by putting a different spin on Paul Walker’s Fast and Furious return. Walker’s character, Brian, does not appear at all in the movie, but it’s clear that he’s driving the blue 1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R that shows up at Dom’s house in the final scene. Prior to this, Dom notices an empty chair at their table during a barbecue, and Mia tells Dom that the last guest will be arriving shortly. Considering Brian’s love of Nissans — and the context of the situation before his car appeared – it was undoubtedly Brian O’Connor behind the wheel.
This was a much less risky way of bringing Paul Walker’s Brian back. Moreover, in a franchise that has grown more over-the-top as time goes on, this was a highly refreshing and surprising dose of subtlety, which served as an emotional tribute to Walker’s character as well. Indeed, Brian was such a powerful and foundational force in The Fast Saga, that he didn’t even really need to appear in F9 in order to make a convincing return.
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Will Brian Return Before The End Of The Franchise?
In Fast X, Brian O’Connor returns to the franchise, but only in glimpses of the past. The movie opens in a flashback to the moments just before Dom and Brian’s infamous vault heist from Fast Five, with Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) introducing his son and new franchise villain, Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa). This time, Paul Walker’s Fast and Furious character is once again rendered in CGI — but only in brief moments of action, allowing Fast X to avoid the uncanny valley effect entirely. As the flashback heist from F5 commences, it’s revealed that Dom and Brian actually made their worst enemy on that day, with Dante seeking revenge for his father’s death throughout Fast X.
Vin Diesel has confirmed that Fast 11 is in the cards and that they’re considering turning Fast X into a full trilogy, meaning that the last movie in the franchise could actually be Fast 12. It will be interesting to see how the franchise can give Brian a proper send-off if he is to appear again in the next one or two movies. Whether through more CGI scenes or increasingly clever nods to the character, Paul Walker’s Fast and Furious legacy lives on.
- Release Date:
- James Wan
- Tyrese Gibson, Jason Statham, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Luke Hobbs, Dwayne Johnson, Dominic Toretto
- 2h 20m
- Crime, Action, Thriller
- Chris Morgan
- Deckard Shaw (Statham) is out for revenge against Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and his crew, following what happened to his brother in ‘Fast & Furious 6.’
- 190–250 million
- Universal Pictures
- Universal Pictures
- F9: The Fast Saga1, The Fate of the Furious
- Fast 5, The Fast And The Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious 6
- Fast and Furious