Paul Walker’s passing late last year famously posed a gargantuan challenge to Universal and its seasoned FAST AND THE FURIOUS team: how to address the death of a lead actor while production was in mid-stream.
There’s an interesting article over in THR which sheds some light on the matter (to date we’ve heard scant indications about how The Powers That Be were going to tackle the matter). The piece provides some insight into the amount money required to suspend production while new plans were laid and old plans were re-worked ($50 million) - but we now have a clearer sense of exactly how director James Wan and scripture Chris Morgan are going about creating a film in which Walker played a significant role, without the actor himself.
Pera a THR source:
"They are finishing the film more or less as scripted, replacing Paul with [computer-generated] face replacement," says this person. "They have two of Paul's brothers as well as an actor to 'play' Paul when needed." (The Walker brothers, 25-year-old Cody and 36-year-old Caleb, both are helping fill in for their brother physically -- Caleb primarily for body size and mannerisms and Cody for the eyes. But the filmmakers need to create a character that not only looks like Paul but also performs like him. That's the actor's job.) Peter Jackson's Weta is tackling the effects work using three cameras (in addition to the main-unit cameras) to capture Walker's stand-ins for face replacement. "There is a massive amount of gear," reports the source. "Everything they want with Paul gets done three times over. Three [actors] times seven cameras per shot is a clusterf--- of money being spent."
Director James Wan also will come up with new scenes from unused footage Walker had shot for the previous two Fast & Furious films.
…says THIS piece at THR.
So there you have it. A great deal of movie magic is being brought to bear in to confront a truly incomprehensible tragedy - and to realize a FAST AND THE FURIOUS film purported to cost upwards of $250 million, all included.
Replacing actors digitally is nothing new: I seem to recall Oliver Reed being briefly digitized for GLADIATOR when he died during filming. Marlon Brando was brought back via technology for SUPERMAN RETURNS (video), Laurence Olivier for SKY CAPTAIN, etc. Although, I don’t recall any effort of this magnitude being previously attempted.
We’ll see how it all plays out when FF7 releases April 2015.