×

‘Furious 7’ Premieres at SXSW to Cheers for Paul Walker

Furious 7” premiered at a secret midnight screening at SXSW on Sunday night to a packed crowd that broke into spontaneous applause throughout the movie.

Fans had started lining up outside fours hours before “Furious 7” was scheduled to start, but that didn’t mute their enthusiasm. The audience response was unanimously positive. The loudest cheers were during a climatic action sequence set in Abu Dhabi, and the first time Paul Walker appears on screen about five minute into the film, driving a van to pick up his son from school.

“I know Paul Walker would be smiling down on us,” said the film’s producer Neal Moritz as he introduced the film. “We lost a dear friend, brother and comrade when we were making this movie. When we decided to continue this movie, we were determined to honor his legacy.”

Walker, who plays Brian O’Conner in the “Fast and Furious” series, died in the middle of the shoot in November 2013 in a car crash, forcing Universal Pictures to shut down production as it figured out how to finish the movie without one of its stars. But his passing has also increased interest in the seventh film in Universal’s most successful franchise to date.

Before the movie began, Moritz invited some of the creative team onstage — including the film’s director James Wan, screenwriter Chris Morgan and actor Tyrese Gibson. Vin Diesel, who plays Dominic Toretto, didn’t make the trek to Austin.

“I finished the movie last week,” Wan said. “It’s hot off the presses.”

Gibson thanked the audience for their continued devotion to the franchise. “We don’t look at y’all as fans of the movie,” Gibson said. “Most of you grew up with us. The reason we kept the movie going is on behalf of our brother Paul Walker.”

The film closes with a touching tribute to Walker, which left many in the theater holding back tears. “I would have cried if I didn’t have my friends around,” said A.J. Johnson, 23, a collection agent from San Antonio. He gave the film a glowing review. “It was awesome. They were driving cars off things without a care. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Stan Ross, 28, who works for a liquor company in Austin, said it was the best film in the franchise. “It was dope, man,” he said. “It is my favorite on so far. I’m glad they dedicated it to him [Walker] at the end.”

“Furious 7” was a last-minute addition to this year’s SXSW lineup. Moritz said that over the weekend, he recalled how warmly SXSW fans responded to another movie he had produced — “21 Jump Street” — and so he asked Universal if “Furious 7” could also open there. “Are you kidding?” execs told him. “These things are planned months in advance.” A day later, he got a text from the studio saying: “It’s happening.”

The arrival of “Furious 7” momentarily gave Austin the kind of star power normally reserved for the Oscars (or at least the MTV Movie Awards). Before “Furious 7,” the Paramount Theater screened the new Judd Apatow comedy “Trainwreck,” starring Amy Schumer, followed by the Paul Feig comedy “Spy,” starring Melissa McCarthy. Audiences who managed to see all three films were treated to a double feature with Jason Stratham, who appears in both “Spy” (as the good guy) and “Furious 7” (as the bad guy).

After “Furious 7” was over, around 2:30 a.m., director Wan took to Twitter to say: “What an incredible and emotional experience. Paul would be proud.”

More Film

  • Themba Ntuli and Ashley Lazarus

    Ashley Lazarus, Director of Apartheid-Era Cult Classic, Returns to Screen

    DURBAN–Director Ashley Lazarus, whose film about the interracial friendship between two young boys during the apartheid era became a South African cult classic in the 1970s, is set to return to the big screen with a film that builds on his life-long passion for early-childhood education. “Teacher Wanted” is the inspirational story of a teacher [...]

  • Channing Tatum

    Channing Tatum's Free Association Partners With Atwater Capital for Film Development Fund

    Free Association, a production company led by Channing Tatum, Peter Kiernan and Reid Carolin, has entered into a film development fund with Atwater Capital. The four-year $2 million revolving fund stipulates that Atwater will finance a minimum of five films with Free Association. Michael Parets, VP of production, will oversee the deal. Free Association will [...]

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    Box Office: Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Takes on 'Lion King'

    Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” will have to take on much more than a changing showbiz landscape. This weekend, the washed-up actor and his majordomo are battling Disney’s juggernaut “The Lion King” at the domestic box office. Tarantino’s R-rated auteur [...]

  • Margot Robbie Once Upon a Time

    Margot Robbie Says 'Barbie' Movie Will Put 'Positivity' Into the World

    Over the last 10 years, Margot Robbie has stepped into the skates of Tonya Harding, taken up the mantle of Harley Quinn and, next up, she’s playing the world’s most famous doll, Barbie. The live-action film is due out in 2020 and set to be written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, while Robbie serves [...]

  • 2018 NALIP Gala

    National Association of Latino Independent Producers Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary

    Ben Lopez has seen the future of the entertainment industry, and says it is the Latinx community. “In the next 20 years, we’re going to be prioritized — because not only will we have the numbers demographic-wise, we’ll have the spending power,” says Lopez, the executive director of the National Assn. of Latino Independent Producers, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content