“We took a lot of care in crafting that last end sequence,” director James Wan told BuzzFeed News. Warning: SPOILERS ahead!
Warning: The following story contains MAJOR SPOILERS about the final scenes in Furious 7.
Paul Walker in Furious 7.
Scott Garfield / Universal Pictures
Director James Wan faced a lot of challenges finishing Furious 7 after Paul Walker died in an unrelated car accident, but sticking his film's ending was, perhaps, the biggest.
Since Furious 7 is Wan's first film in the franchise, he only really got to know Walker once he'd signed on for the job. But that barely mattered. "When you hear rumors around Hollywood of, like, whether a person is cool, or whether a person is a dick, those are usually true. Paul's reputation is that of a really good human being and a great guy, and just so down to earth," Wan told BuzzFeed News earlier this week. "He was all of that and more when I finally met him."
When it came time to decide Walker's character Brian O'Conner's fate, Wan, the film's producers, and Universal Pictures agreed that killing off Brian would not be the best way to honor him. "If they had gone down the other path, I think I would have refused to finish making this movie," Wan said. The path they went down instead was to "retire Paul's character in the most sincere and elegant way [they] could," Wan said. "We took a lot of care in crafting that last end sequence."
Paul Walker's memorial video released by Universal just after his death.
Step one was to emphasize throughout the film that Brian's family with his longtime romantic interest Mia (Jordana Brewster) was growing. Early on in the film, she reveals to her brother and Brian's best friend Dom (Vin Diesel) that she's pregnant with Brian's second child, before telling Brian in an emotional phone conversation toward the end of the film. The underlying message is that Brian's responsibility to Mia and his children would mean he could not continue his dangerous life of insane stunts like driving a car out of a plane, or crashing a car through two skyscrapers, or leaping out of a car just as a paramilitary drone destroys it on the streets of Los Angeles.
Step two was crafting a way for the other characters to say good-bye to Brian, knowing that it would be nearly impossible for Brian to interact with them in any comprehensive way. (Walker's brothers Cody and Caleb, as well as actor John Brotherton, doubled for Walker in the film, with Walker's face digitally animated on top of theirs; Walker's brothers also occasionally dubbed over small snippets of dialogue.) Screenwriter Chris Morgan found a solution, placing the characters on a sunny beach with Brian (played by a double), Mia, and their first child frolicking in the ocean, as Dom and the rest of his crew look on, thinking about Brian's next chapter. "I thought it was amazing the writing that he came up with by showing it through Vin's point of view," said Wan. "Vin had to carry that and allow us to say good-bye to Paul, along with Vin as well."