After weeks of questions and production delays, Universal Pictures has decided to move forward with "Fast & Furious 7" with Paul Walker included in the finished film.
The late star will feature prominently in the sequel, the studio suggested in an announcement late Sunday. "Vin Diesel and Paul Walker lead the returning cast of 'Fast & Furious 7,'" it said in a statement, also announcing that the movie will now hit theaters on April 10, 2015, nine months after the original July date.
It is not clear how the script will be reworked to accommodate the absence of Walker, who died in a car crash on Nov. 30. Universal executives and lead producer Neal Moritz suspended production for the past three weeks as they convened to determine how to proceed without the actor, who is believed to have shot only about half his scenes before his death. There is no word yet on the resumption of production.
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The announcement puts to rest rumors that filmmakers would start again from scratch with Walker's scenes removed; industry experts believed that, for a variety of reasons, filmmakers wanted Walker in the new film and would find a way to make that happen.
While the release delay could somewhat dim Walker in the public consciousness, April has historically been a good month for the franchise. "Fast & Furious 5" and "Fast & Furious" each came out in April and went on to become the second- and third-highest grossing movies in the series.