Furious 7 turned out to be the best of the franchise for me. Getting to the point of delivering a great action flick is a tough road, and for Furious 7 it was an even tougher road. The sudden death of Paul Walker in the middle of production presented a daunting task for the cast and crew. Director James Wan talks about the process of finishing the film and also the original ending. (Wan’s comments are from his interview w/ Collider. The responses in between are my own)
Furious 7 has a run time of 2 hours and 20 minutes. I certainly didn’t notice because I was having too much fun. Director Wan talks about finding balance with cuts and reshoots, along with the importance of time management in order to complete the film.
WAN: I have a tendency to overcut my movies. Like this one, I actually cut it a lot shorter than what the producers wanted. They were like “oh my god, James, you went too far!” Because you know I tend to kind of go “oh, well, this is what they want”. The studio mentality or people generally want shorter movies, and these films tend to be very long. So I kind of overcompensated and cut it really short. And luckily, we all kind of go “oh, you know what? Okay, it’s great”, so we saw that as a foundation and we sort of went back and started adding in a bit more stuff here and a bit more stuff there to make up to what it finally is. It’s stuff that I had already shot. Believe it or not, just about every movie that they make has reshoots and pick-ups and stuff like that, and on this film, we basically only had one or two days of pick-ups of shoots to do, and that’s nothing on a movie this size. But that’s only because when the incident happened, and that was halfway through the film, we took time off to re-assess what we have and to kind of go through it and, you know, see what we needed moving forward. And that time off was what we really, really truly needed to know how to push forward with the ending.
The film ended on such an emotional note and was a perfect way to retire the Brian O’Connor character. Wan talks about his hope in fans loving the end result, and everyone’s motivation to completing the film.
WAN: Yeah, I really hope so, because you know when I first heard the news, I was shell-shocked like everyone, and it took me days to come to terms with it. And then after that, heartbreaks started sinking in and we realized that Paul [Walker] wasn’t going to be around with us anymore moving forward. And it was a really hard one. And finishing the movie was the last thing on my mind at that point. It was more the idea of you know, picking up the pieces, going back on set, you know rallying the team, the cast, and the crew, and as the director having to put on the brave face and sort of like champion and push everyone along, the idea of that was very daunting for me. But it became very apparent to all of us that we needed to finish this movie to honor Paul’s legacy and to basically honor his memories, and moving forward that became our number one goal. Like nothing else mattered, it was about making this movie for Paul.
Many people feel the franchise should end on a high note with Furious 7, however, we are in fact getting a number 8 film. Wan reveals that the original ending would set up the future of the franchise.
WAN: Yeah, listen, the original ending served a very different purpose. The original ending of Furious 7 was setting up, you know, the bigger world of where the Fast and Furious franchise could go into. And that’s obviously very smart of them to think so. But when the tragedy happened, all of that became irrelevant. So it did not matter anymore, all of that stuff. And to the studio’s credit, they did not push for that. They realized how important it was to make a movie that finishes and that just outright is a tribute to Paul Walker. So I give them a lot of credit for being bigger than that and going along with this ending that is the right ending to go with.
Finally, when Wan took over for Justin Lin (who directed films 3-6) as director, he was stepping into a franchise that was hot as ever. Although the director is the one who dictates and calls the shots on set, Wan felt very humbled and understood what he was given.
WAN: I came into this with no disillusion that—I wasn’t delusional in any way in thinking that this was my franchise. It wasn’t. This belongs to Neil Moritz, this belongs to Universal Studios, this belongs to Vin [Diesel] and all the cast, but they were very cool as well. They wanted my voice, and so I came into this knowing that it is a number 7 for goodness sake, it’s such a well-established machine, and of course they have it down to a great degree of how these films are made. And so I came into this knowing that the sandbox was very well constructed already. This is the analogy I use: the sandbox is there already, you come into it and I say, ‘Okay I know I need to play within the sandbox, but hopefully the sandcastle that I get to build is mine.’
If you’re interested in more, you can read the entire interview in the link below.