Universal’s “Furious 7” is expected to set box office records when it opens on April 3, with fans eager to flock to multiplexes to bid farewell to Paul Walker. But the film’s star and producer, Vin Diesel, predicts that “Furious 7’s” success won’t be limited to the number of tickets it sells. He says the film will also sweep a certain 2016 awards ceremony.
“Universal is going to have the biggest movie in history with this movie,” Diesel said in a lengthy interview with Variety for this week’s cover story. “It will probably win best picture at the Oscars, unless the Oscars don’t want to be relevant ever.”
Diesel took a breath, before offering his prediction for a second time. “This will win best picture,” Diesel said. “There is nothing that will ever come close to the power of this thing.”
Diesel said he was very pleased with the final movie, which pays tribute to Walker, who died as a passenger in a sports car accident in November 2013 in the middle of production. The studio then had to scramble to rewrite the film’s ending, and used special effects to finish Walker’s performance with the help of stand ins. “We were successful in one-upping the action sequences, and adding an interesting dynamic to the world,” Diesel said. “But what the world won’t anticipate is how emotionally powerful the movie is. The head of the studio, Ron Meyer, often said when ‘Fast 5’ or ‘Fast 6’ came out, ‘If there was no number attached to these movies, they would be contenders for best picture.’ And when people see ‘Furious 7,’ they are going to agree.”
“Furious 7,” the latest chapter in the most successful franchise in the history of Universal Pictures (at $2.4 billion), debuted at SXSW last week, where it earned glowing reviews. The film currently stands at a 85 fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. But “Furious 7” would be an unusual Oscars winner, as the Academy has yet to bestow a single best picture nomination on franchise events like “The Hunger Games,” “Harry Potter,” “The Dark Knight” or the previous six “Fast and Furious” films. In recent years, more often than not, the best picture prize has gone to smaller indies like “Birdman,” “12 Years a Slave,” “The Artist” and “The Hurt Locker.”
Then again, “Furious 7” opens at a time where the Academy is under scrutiny after this year’s disastrous telecast, which saw viewership decline by 16 percent with host Neil Patrick Harris. Board members are expected to meet in the coming days to talk about whether to narrow the best picture field back to only five nominees, instead of the current structure (which allows for up to 10). Maybe Diesel is on to something, after all. Or maybe not: when told about the prediction, a Universal executive chuckled and then asked to go off the record.