Fans of the Fast and the Furious series are, by and large, very much anticipating next year’s installment, Fast & Furious 7 – despite the knowledge that it will be Paul Walker’s final bow as the charismatic bro, Brian O’Connor, following the actor’s death in 2013. Director James Wan (Insidious, The Conjuring) has taken multiple steps to help finish Walker’s role in a respectful fashion, including bringing his brothers onboard as body-doubles for the O’Connor character. However, the extra time and effort that is being devoted to this task has contributed to the film’s already-huge budget having grown even larger.
As reported by THR, the Fast & Furious 7 budget – originally expected to fall somewhere within the range of $200 million – is now approaching $250 million and beyond, in part because of a potential $50 million claim by Universal Pictures’ insurer, Fireman’s Fund (in response to the 13 weeks of effects-heavy shooting that the film is currently undergoing). Also contributing to the price inflation is the approach Wan has taken to finishing Walker’s scenes. Said approach includes using three separate cameras (plus the main-unit cameras) to capture either body and/or facial footage of Walker’s brothers, Caleb and Cody, that will later be altered digitally – by no less a CGI authority than Peter Jackson’s Weta – so to better resemble the late actor, during the film’s post-production.
According to one of THR’s insiders, “They are finishing the film more or less as scripted,” which explains the more elaborate measures being taken to finish Walker’s role – as opposed to, altering the script to reduce his presence or taking the even more questionable route of killing his character. Wan is also supposedly looking to use footage that Walker shot for previous Fast & Furious movies, but which ended up on the cutting room floor (well, figuratively-speaking, anyway) – in order to complete “new scenes” that round out the O’Connor character’s arc in Fast & Furious 7.
That the budget of Fast & Furious 7 has swelled beyond the initial predicted cost, is to be expected following Walker’s death. Seeing how this is Wan’s first time working on a set piece and action-heavy tentpole of this scale, it was probably inevitable – even had Walker not died – that Wan would go over budget to some degree, anyway – simply because he doesn’t have the experience of other directors (like his predecessor on the franchise, Justin Lin), who would’ve known how to better keep the production chugging along in a more cost-efficient manner from the get-go
Still, while Fast & Furious 7 is essentially guaranteed to make backs its financial expenditures and then some at the box office, one can’t help but raise an eyebrow at the proposal of a $250 million price tag – even in this current age of blockbusters, where a $150-200 million cost is practically the norm for all the big, splashy, summer popcorn features. Then again, Fast & Furious 7‘s spiraling costs stem from circumstances beyond the filmmakers’ control – unlike on other recent blockbusters where the budget reached similar heights, contrary to studio wishes (see: the one-two punch of Disney’s John Carter and The Lone Ranger). It’s a tough situation, no matter how you look at it.