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Fast & Furious 7 director uses CGI, late actor’s brothers to continue filming

When actor Paul Walker died during the filming of Fast & Furious 7, there was no shortage of questions surrounding the future of both the film and the franchise. While many of those questions have been answered — the film is continuing more or less as planned, with body doubles and CGI to fill in Walker’s role — one lingering question remains: how exactly will Walker’s role in the film be “completed”?

Clarity comes from an unnamed source “with ties to the project,” speaking to The Hollywood Reporter. “They are finishing the film more or less as scripted, replacing Paul with [computer-generated] face replacement,” the source said. “They have two of Paul’s brothers as well as an actor to ‘play’ Paul when needed.”

The 36-year-old Caleb Walker fills in for his departed brother’s body and mannerisms and the 25-year-old Cody Walker supplies the eyes. The third piece of this puzzle — the unnamed actor — handles the performance, working to replicate Paul’s work as closely as possible. The production team is working with Weta Digital to work its movie magic on this conglomeration of performances, with three cameras being used specifically for the face replacement process.

“Everything they want with Paul gets done three times over. Three [actors] times seven cameras per shot is a clusterf— of money being spent,” the source said. Director James Wan is also incorporating unused Walker footage from the previous two Fast & Furious films.

Already budgeted as a $200 million production, Fast & Furious 7 could end up costing more than $250 million, with the studio’s insurer covering around $50 million of that price tag . The $50 million insurance claim would cover the cost of shooting each of Walker’s scenes multiple times with body doubles, the CGI process used to put Walker’s face on the stand-ins, and all of the necessary script edits resulting from the actor’s death. It would also be an industry record for insurance claims.

Taking out insurance on big-budget films is standard operating procedure for most Hollywood films these days, with studios hoping to protect their projects in the event of unexpected events that affect production time and completion of the film. Prior to Fast & Furious 7, the largest recorded insurance settlements were $10-15 million paid out when Robert Downey Jr. broke his ankle while filming Iron Man 3 in 2012 and an earlier settlement for $20 million when John Candy died during the filming of Wagons East! in 1994. 

The final tally of how much Walker’s death will cost the studio and its insurer won’t be known until well after Fast & Furious 7 completes its shooting schedule in July, and with two more films planned after this installment, it will be interesting to see how the studio adjusts its plans for the subsequent films in the franchise.

Fast & Furious 7 is currently scheduled to hit theaters April 10, 2015.

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