When Fast Five marked a critical and commercial high point for the Fast & Furious franchise, the series was reinvigorated. Fast 6 was even more successful at the box office, and all involved began plotting out a bright future for the franchise spanning many more films to come. Unfortunately, in the midst of filming Furious 7, the series lost a friend and star due to Paul Walker’s untimely passing. Production shut down, as making a movie was the least important thing facing those involved at that point.
After reconvening, the producers, stars, and director James Wan agreed to finish Furious 7 as a tribute to Walker, but it would involve a massive amount of restructuring, rewriting, and reshooting. In effect, the entire third act of the film was changed, and instead of setting up future sequels, Furious 7 goes off on an emotional note as Walker’s character rides off into the sunset.
As the franchise is about to release its eighth installment, The Fate of the Furious, with no signs of slowing down, Collider’s Steve Weintraub recently spoke with screenwriter Chris Morgan for an extended conversation about the series as a whole. Morgan has been with the franchise since Tokyo Drift and is one of the key architects of this series, so during the course of the conversation, Steve asked about the original ending that was planned for Furious 7 and Morgan opened up about the intended story arc for Walker’s character.
“Well, the original ending, if I remember correctly, was our guys end up solving the problem and then kind of becoming—again, going more outlaw, it was sort of a happier ending that kind of ends with the insinuation that they were gonna go off onto this heist or this job. But the core issue for Brian, Paul’s character, was this kind of ‘Who am I?’ sort of question. He’s a guy who used to be a cop and in the thick of the action and a racer, and all this stuff, and now he has an amazing wife, a kid and another one on the way. Then he starts to look at his life and it’s not a midlife crisis but to say—we said it in the movie, ‘I miss the bullets, I miss the action’ and the point of the adventure was to show by the end of it that the thing that’s truly important to him is his family and being there. It wouldn’t mean that he has to stop those adventures or those things, but the context is just a little bit different, he has a different understanding of who he is at his core and what’s most important in life.”
But when Walker passed unexpectedly, Morgan says they considered just shutting the movie down permanently—until inspiration struck:
“Then the tragedy with Paul happened halfway through our shooting. We had him in a lot of the action stuff and not a lot of the dramatic sequences, and so those were gonna be impossible to get. Then we had the question of like—there was a real moment where not only were we all just emotionally devastated, but there was a real question of is it even possible to finish. There was a beat where we were actually all just thinking about just shutting it down and not going on with it, but we took a little time and everyone had a chance to grieve. Then we all started thinking about it and I started specifically thinking about, ‘How do we build that story? What do we have with Paul?’ and really for me it was about, ‘Can we give the audience a cathartic experience to say goodbye? Can we do something that is worthy of Paul that he would appreciate?’ So it really kind of came down to that last sequence, so I just ended up writing it out and I took it into the studio and I was like, ‘This is what I think the end of the movie is’ and they loved it and the studio loved it. That was the moment when we all agreed, ‘We need to do this.’”
As for how this altered Brian and Mia’s arcs going forward, Morgan says there wasn’t a crazy adjustment to be made:
“In regards to the story, the story actually kind of was the same. The only difference is that whereas we let Brian and Mia and their family kind of go off to just be a family and drop the action-y elements of their lives and stop risking everything when family is so important to them, otherwise we would’ve just kind of continued with Brian learning and adjusting his character a little bit.”