Fast 7 Writer: No Decision Made Yet on Fate of Paul Walker Character
I had a one on one interview with Chris Morgan, creator of the new Fox series “Gang Related,” after his panel for the Television Critics Association Tuesday.
That show isn’t on until May, but of course I asked him for an update on Fast & Furious 7. I was actually disappointed he said that reports of Universal “retiring” Paul Walker's character Brian O’Conner, rather than killing him off, were false. He said discussions about how to handle the incomplete footage Walker shot for the film before his death last November are just beginning.
I was also curious about the preview scene included on the Fast & Furious 6 Blu-ray. If you’ve seen the Blu-ray by now, you may have watched the scene of Han’s funeral, a scene we’ve probably been waiting for since Tokyo Drift. However, when Roman (Tyrese) turns to Brian and asks him to promise “no more funerals,” it seemed unfortunately on the nose. I asked Morgan if the filmmakers would consider at least cutting that line out of the scene in the ultimate movie. That, he suspected, would remain as shot.
“I think it was already out there and I know people had discussions about it,” Morgan said. “I think at the end of the day, look, Paul gives a good performance there. I’m jumping into his head for a second, if I’m looking at that, having spent time with him, I don’t want to presume, but he would be like, ‘It’s a good scene.’ I think he’d be for it.”
Having had a few intimate conversations with Walker myself, I realized perhaps he might think I was taking it too seriously. “I can almost guarantee it," Morgan said. "I don’t want to say that because I don’t have that kind of authority, but just having spent time with him, you know how it is. He was just a good, solid human being who cared about everybody around him. He’s no bullshit.”
As for the reports about decisions regarding Walker’s footage, Morgan was a little confused.
“I’ve got to say, that article came out and I was kind of wondering where that came from because nothing's been decided,” Morgan told me, just as I'd heard him tell another reporter the same thing right before our interview. “All I know is that right now, everyone is just focusing on what specifically is going to happen, what those things are going to be, what we’ve got and nothing’s in stone.”
I tried to find out if Walker had in fact filmed the movie’s final scenes. Because films are shot out of order, he could very well have shot Brian’s last scene in the movie at some point earlier in the shooting schedule. That would mean it could be possible to write around some middle sections Walker had yet to film, but end the movie with Brian alive. Morgan either didn’t know or couldn’t tell me if the completed footage included the film’s final shots.
“I think that’s the thing. Everyone’s still discussing so we’ll see where that goes. Right now, I think everyone’s looking at the footage that we’ve got. I can’t really speak to that. I wish I could, but I can’t,” Morgan said.
That could mean that killing Brian off could still be on the table, but whatever decision is made will be made with sensitivity. “I think whatever version we end up going with, I think everyone will be happy with," Morgan said. "Right now, it’s just a matter of really locking in and having those creative discussions and nailing it down.”
For a few happier news tidbits about Fast & Furious 7, I asked if there was a clever name that would follow in the Fast Five and Furious 6 tradition. “That is a good question,” Morgan dodged. “It is, again, conversations are ongoing?”
Bringing Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) back made Morgan feel complete. “I was there that night when we were shooting some of that stuff. It felt awesome. It felt great. To see him again, to me it was a really nice circle of a journey to start something and then to be able to come back to it in a meaningful, good way.”
He didn’t have anything specific to say about Kurt Russell’s character, except geeking out over watching him work. However, he said Tony Jaa surprised even him, and he wrote the damn script!
“Tony Jaa, I’ll tell you this, there’s a fight in this movie that is so good, so incredible, I know everything that’s going to happen in the movie and I’m watching it and I am sitting on the edge of my seat because I cannot believe it. Audiences are going to love it,” Morgan said.
Of course, it is still too early to think about Fast 8. “There’s no 8 or 9 just yet. We’re always talking about down the road, interesting story things, interesting character stuff, but right now, there’s no plan. We’re just focused all hands on deck on this,” Morgan said.
Morgan is also writing and producing The Legend of Conan, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a barbarian that launched his movie career in 1982. John Milius was developing a sequel about Conan as king at one time. Morgan hasn’t had contact with Milius, but values the original Milius film.
“I am the biggest Milius fan. I think what he did with that original movie, it’s one of my very, very favorite movies. It’s funny, a lot of people look at it and go, ‘Eh, it’s a big guy with a sword and cutting people down.’ I look at that and I see a brilliant story about what it means to be a man, what it means to be a warrior. The Riddle of Steel, now I’m going to get too geeky, I think it’s genius.”
Conan the Barbarian was rated R, but Dino De Laurentiis produced a PG sequel Conan the Destroyer. Morgan could not confirm the rating The Legend of Conan is going for. “That’s something that we’re discussing right now, so we’re kind of up in the air with it. Look, it’s got to have that level of grittiness and violence and I think that we’re definitely going to satiate the audience,” Morgan said.
He was appropriately dismissive when I brought up the counterexample of Conan the Destroyer.
“Which movie? Which movie is that again?" Morgan said. "By the way, the thing about that is I love all those movies and I’m the first guy who’s in line for those. The last Conan, and I respect it, and I know where they went with it, Jason [Momoa]’s great. That guy is crazy talented. I’ll say this though. We’re drawing off the first Conan movie. Milius injected something into that that felt truthful. It felt epic and it felt real and tortured on some level for Conan’s character and very deep. We’re really focusing on that Conan that is in the minds of people. That journey and where would that character be now towards the end of his life.”
“The model for us really is Unforgiven. It is and I think it’s an important thing because something about that to me says grounded, real. This isn’t going to be your run of the mill CG fest, throw millions of armies and that’s just what it is. It’s not. It is a character story and it’s a good one. It’s a really good one.”
We’ll have more on The Legend of Conan after we crush our enemies, see them driven before us, etc.