With talk of the late Paul Walker returning via CGI and doubles in Fast X, we look at movies that were finished after their star died.
With the new Fast X trailer showcasing scenes starring Paul Walker and the 7th entry in the series having been finished after his untimely passing, fans are reminded of how some films needed to be finished even though the star passed on. While Furious 7 did so with taste and tact, some pushed the envelope maybe a bit too far. Here are some of the good ones, and some of the (very) bad ones.
Game of Death (1978)
Possibly the first title that comes to mind for film aficionados when the subject of films finished after their stars passed comes up is Robert Clouse’s Game of Death. Bruce Lee passed away on July 20th, 1973, and Game of Death was finished in 1978. That is quite the gap, and this may be explained by multiple reasons of course, including the fact that a decision needed to be taken on how to proceed or if they should just scrap the film altogether. Some would say that the latter would have been the better decision here. Why is that? Well, the finished Game of Death has a total of 12 minutes featuring Bruce Lee, the rest of the film uses unconvincing ruses, subterfuge, and framing to avoid showing that the actual star of the film was not available to shoot his scenes. It should also be noted that the film uses archival footage of other actors who were alive and still active, something that comes off a bit off. The footage of Chuck Norris and that of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, for example, was all archival footage. Should the film have been cancelled or did they do the right thing here?
Trail of the Pink Panther (1982)
This one is pretty similar to what happened with Game of Death, but Peter Sellers never actually filmed scenes, or agreed to star is this one as he was dead long before it went into pre-production. Trail of the Pink Panther was made using previously unseen footage of its star Peter Sellers as Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau, a character he had made famous in the previous films of the franchise. Sellers passed on July 24th, 1980, and the film was finished and released in 1982. The footage used of Sellers is credited as archival footage cut from previous films. One would think Blade Edwards, one of the biggest directors of the era, would have had more sense considering the same year he made the excellent Victor/Victoria. Did he need the paycheck that badly? Sellers’ family sued the production and his widow won $1 million in damages, positing that the film insulted his memory.
The Crow (1994)
A more recent case, The Crow made headlines at the time of filming for Brandon Lee’s on set accident that led to his death on March 31st, 1993. The film was not finished, but was pretty close, so the number of scenes missing were limited, especially compared with the above titles. From interviews with Lee and others involved in the film, this was a passion project for Lee and he would have wanted it finished. So, director Alex Proyas took his time to decide whether or not to finish the film, ultimately deciding to not leave one of Lee’s best and favorite performances in a vault somewhere. The film was finished using a mix of footage already shot for it and body doubles, including now John Wick director Chad Stahelski. The film was released just a little over a year after Lee’s passing on May 11th, 1994, and is now a beloved and fitting tribute to Brandon Lee. The film absolutely gained press and publicity over Lee’s passing; however, its staying power is due to much more than that, having achieved cult film status, getting 3 sequels, a television series (where Mark Dacascos replaced Lee as Eric Draven), and now a remake which is polarizing fans and the curious.
Queen of the Damned (2002)
Mostly disliked or hated by fans of the source material by Anne Rice, Queen of the Damned did one thing right and it was the casting of Aaliyah as Akasha, the titular character. Her performance here is captivating and fascinating, this was only Aaliyah’s second part in a film, with only one feature film (Romeo Must Die) under her belt. Sadly, on August 25th, 2001, Aaliyah along with seven other passengers died when a small plane crashed at take-off as the plane was overloaded and too heavy. She was there to shoot a music video and was scheduled to continue work on Queen of the Damned after this short hiatus. As she was not available, her brother Rashad Haughton was called in by director Michael Rymer to come do some of the voice dubbing as they sounded somewhat similar. His work paired with technology to change it a little created something that sounded enough like her to be able to dub what she had not been able to. Aaliyah had been the first person cast for this film and she was very interested in the part due to her fascination with Egyptian mythology and vampires, something that could easily be connected into her character of Akasha.
Furious 7 (2015)
As most know these days, Paul Walker passed away in a single-vehicle collision on November 30th, 2013, an accident that led to 2 lawsuits on the civil side, both resulting in settlements from Porsche, one to his father and one to his daughter. That being said, the film Furious 7 was quite far into its filming when this happened, and it was decided to finish the film after a break to allow everyone to deal with his passing. To finish his unfilmed scenes, his brothers Caleb and Cody were brought in as stand-ins and used in certain scenes including the end on the beach where the characters are saying goodbye to Brian, Mia and their child. Stuntmen was also used for some scenes, but those are more difficult to pick out as they were also used while Walker was still alive. The film used 350 CGI shots of Paul Walker, thus delaying its release.
The newest Fast and Furious, Fast X, is seemingly bringing back Brian O’Connor with director Louis Leterrier discussing his presence and the trailer showing him. However, as of now, the IMDB page for the film does not credit Paul Walker or his brothers with screen presence. Do you think Brian should come back? Let us know in the comments.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/5-films-finished-after-their-star-died/