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ATLANTA -- A statement from Universal Pictures on Wednesday says production of Fast & Furious 7 would be shut down "for a time" while the studio examines its options in the wake of the death of star Paul Walker.
"Right now, all of us at Universal are dedicated to providing support to Paul's immediate family and our extended Fast & Furious family of cast, crew and filmmakers. At this time we feel it is our responsibility to shut down production on Fast & Furious 7 for a period of time so we can assess all options available to move forward with the franchise. We are committed to keeping Fast & Furious fans informed, and we will provide further information to them when we have it. Until then, we know they join us in mourning the passing of our dear friend Paul Walker," the statement said.
The death of actor Paul Walker midway through the filming of Fast & Furious 7 has left Universal Pictures unsure how to move forward, and left the fate of one of the studio's most important franchises hanging in the balance.
"Though premature deaths have jeopardized previous film productions, the size of the franchise and the circumstances of Walker's death leave Universal without a precedent for how to proceed," entertainment website The Wrap said.
Walker, 40, was killed in a car crash on Saturday in California. The "Furious" crew was on Thanksgiving holiday break from production.
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Walker was a passenger in a car driven by his friend Roger Rodas. The Porsche slammed into a tree and burst into flames. Walker and Rodas has been at a charity event their car-tuning company, Always Evolving, was hosting in Santa Clarita.
The Wrap reported late Monday that it spoke with several executives and producers about how studios should respond to such a tragedy. Given the sensitive nature of Walker's death and the tight-knit business relationships that characterize Hollywood, many of these executives declined to be identified by name.
"This is uncharted territory for everyone involved," one veteran studio executive told The Wrap. "Studios are so programmed and producers are so programmed to just keep going on a project, to just find a way to make it work, that they need to figure out if that approach in in their best interest in this case. They're going to benefit from being able to take a beat and assess their own feelings and the fan community's feelings before deciding how to proceed."
Meanwhile, Walker's co-star in the series and friend, Vin Diesel, spoke out on Facebook about the tragedy.
Diesel wrote, "Pablo, I wish you could see the world right now ... and the profound impact, your full life has had on it, on Us ... on me ...
"I will always love you Brian, as the brother you were ... on and off screen."
Walker played Brian O'Conner in the Fast & Furious series.
Diesel's comments have received more than 2 million "likes" as of early Tuesday.
Variety reports that investigators have not found evidence of drag racing. CNN reported Monday that officials were looking into a phone tip suggesting that drag racing may have been involved in the crash. Variety says the L.A. County Sheriff's Department is focusing on the speed of the Porsche GT.
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(Atlanta Business Chronicle)