When Paul Walker died in the middle of production on Furious 7, a heavy pall fell over the cast and crew, but no one was more profoundly affected than Vin Diesel. The two actors had become close friends while working on the Fast & Furious franchise and the loss cut Diesel deeply. Though the film was nearly completed, the XXX actor seriously considered walking away from it all.
Paul Walker’s untimely death struck Vin Diesel hard
Walker died after the car he was riding in as a passenger was involved in a single car collision in 2013. His sudden passing came as a shock to his Furious 7 costars, but Diesel was especially heartbroken. In an interview with Variety, Diesel revealed that he couldn’t leave his house for weeks after hearing of his friend and co-star’s death. “I got on a plane, and told the production I couldn’t shoot, just to cancel everything,” Diesel said. The idea of returning to the set to finish the movie gave him pause. “There was fear,” he recalled. “Could I finish playing Dom with such a broken heart?”
The vice chairman of NBC Universal tried to convince Diesel to complete the movie. In the end, it was ultimately Walker who got Diesel to return to set. “I thought what Paul would really want me to do was finish it. So that’s what I did.” Just because he’d returned to set didn’t mean that his grieving was over, however. The hardest part was yet to come.
The actor had an emotional return to set
On the first day of his return to set, Diesel was shooting a scene where he was sitting in his 1970 Dodge Charger and challenging Jason Statham’s character to a street race. This was supposed to be a real tough guy moment for Diesel’s character, but the actor behind the character was falling apart.
“I went through three boxes of tissues, and I felt so bad. I felt so embarrassed. I had always been the kind of actor that other actors respect. I was just failing so hard.” When Diesel realized he couldn’t stop his nose and eyes from dripping, he had to walk off the set in order to “try to get all the fluids out.” He described that experience as “the toughest film I ever had to shoot.” There were still difficult scenes left for the actor to face, however.
Diesel still needed to finish the shots that included Walker’s character, Brian O’Conner. Luckily, Walker’s two brothers, Caleb and Cody, stepped in to act as body doubles for their brother. Another actor, John Brotherton, also stood in for the late actor. With the help of computer technology, spearheaded by Peter Jackson’s Weta Studio that is best known for creating The Lord Of The Rings‘ Gollum, Walker’s face was imposed over the stand-in actors’ faces. “It was endearing that his brothers were there to assist with his legacy,” Diesel said, but the experience took a heavy toll on Diesel’s already strained emotions.
The movie was more than just a farewell
“No one in the world could teach you how to act across from someone your heart is mourning for. That’s like asking someone who has lost a parent to replay it again and again, and pretend there’s not a void there.” Still, Diesel persevered and the end result was a touching in memoriam for Walker. Of all his projects to that date, Diesel was most proud of this movie. “It doesn’t feel like a movie in some ways,” he said. “It feels like something more.” After all, these guys weren’t just castmates, they’re family.
Tabloids often make up stories about behind-the-scenes drama happening on set in order to sell issues. The Globe claimed Diesel and Statham were feuding in late 2019. Diesel was allegedly unhappy with Statham for appearing in Hobbs & Shaw, which he had no creative control over. Statham in turn was supposedly furious that Diesel cut his character from Fast & Furious 9. Gossip Cop checked in with a source close to the situation who confirmed our suspicion that the story was totally false.