You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Producer Calls ‘Furious 7’ Most Challenging Film of His Career

Amid a stunning box office performance for “Furious 7,” producer Neal Moritz told an industry conference Friday that dealing with the death of Paul Walker presented the toughest task of his career.

“He would have wanted us to do the movie,” Moritz said at Variety’s Massive Entertainment Marketing Summit keynote event at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. “It was by far the most challenging thing — physically and emotionally — that I’ve ever done.”

Walker died in late 2013 in a fiery car crash while “Furious 7” was in mid-production, forcing Moritz and Universal to figure out how to deal with fan expectations — which led to a simple mantra, the producer revealed. “We had one goal in the making of the movie, which was to honor Paul,” he said in a far-ranging half-hour discussion with Variety editor-in-chief Claudia Eller.

Moritz also explored the intricacies of marketing “Furious 7,” which looks likely to lead the U.S. box office this weekend with an estimated $60 million — enough to propel the domestic cume to $250 million in its first 10 days. International gross has hit $316 million with China and Russia launching this weekend.

He recalled that one of the early challenges in 2000 was finding the right title for the first film, with such possibilities as “Racer X” deemed unacceptable. Moritz explained he discovered a Roger Corman “Fast and Furious” film, was struck by the resonance of the title and swapped stock footage with Corman for the rights.

“I like to think of my movies as elevated Roger Corman movies,” Moritz said, eliciting laughs from the audience.

The producer also said that the multiethnic cast for the franchise — a key factor in the strong box office — was not driven by marketing. “We could not have made ‘Fast and Furious’ without a multiethnic cast because it would not have felt authentic,” he added.

Moritz, who has produced every film in the franchise, became coy when asked about Vin Diesel’s pledge that there will be three more “Fast and Furious” films. “Of course, I’d like to make more, but it’s got to be great,” he noted.

That discussion was followed by a dissection of marketing strategies with seven studio heads of marketing — often with analysis of movies released by rivals. Disney’s Ricky Strauss spoke admiringly of Paramount’s “World War Z” dealing with negativity, then grossing $540 million worldwide.

“‘World War Z’ was a movie that overcame bad social buzz — a very hard thing to do,” he noted. “In the next 10 years, it’s going to be unrecognizable…it is a remarkable time to be doing what we do.”

Universal’s Josh Goldstine complimented a Fox hit, saying, “‘The Fault in Our Stars’ spoke to teenage girls in a really authentic way.”

Fox’s Mark Weinstock noted that the trailer premiere of a movie has emerged as one of the biggest components on any campaign. “Television is the most effective buy, but it’s going down,” he added. “We pick events for ads that people aren’t going to TiVo.'”

The execs all admitted the titles are key to box office. “We had a movie, ‘Let’s Be Cops,’ with the perfect title,” said Weinstock of the comedy that grossed $137 million worldwide.

The biggest laugh of the event came from Michelle Hooper of Fox Searchlight, which released Best Picture Oscar winner “Birdman.” “‘We rely a lot on a film being really good,” she said.

“Our jobs are harder than ever because of the fragmentation of media,” noted Relativity’s Angela Courtin.

And Paramount’s Megan Colligan said the instant feedback on upcoming fims can be unnerving. “You can go to a cocktail party and get totally freaked out,” she added.

More Film

  • The Fault in Our Stars

    Disney Retiring Fox 2000 Label

    Disney will stop making films under the Fox 2000 label, a move that could mean that its head Elizabeth Gabler will not be making the move to the Magic Kingdom, Variety has learned. The decision is surprising because Disney had previously stated that Gabler would stay on board at the studio even after it was [...]

  • Macon Blair27th Annual Gotham Independent Film

    Macon Blair to Direct and Write 'Toxic Avenger' Reboot for Legendary (EXCLUSIVE)

    Macon Blair has been tapped to write and direct Legendary’s reboot of the cult classic “The Toxic Avenger,” sources tell Variety. Legendary acquired the feature film rights in December and have quickly made the project a high priority at the studio. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma Entertainment will serve as producers with Alex [...]

  • Danny Boyle Bond 25

    Danny Boyle Calls His Exit From 'Bond 25' a 'Great Shame'

    Director Danny Boyle has finally spoken out after leaving the upcoming 25th James Bond movie over creative differences. After splitting from the new 007 flick last August, Boyle told Empire in a story published on Thursday that the script he penned with his “Trainspotting” co-writer John Hodge “wasn’t finished, but it could have been really [...]

  • Film Review: 'Everybody's Everything'

    Film Review: 'Everybody's Everything'

    An elegiac documentary exploring the brief life of rapper Lil Peep, “Everybody’s Everything” certainly doesn’t lack for perspectives. Interviewing virtually everyone who knew the musician (born Gustav Ahr), directors Sebastian Jones and Ramez Silyan cover the waterfront, from Peep’s family to his girlfriends, his innumerable collaborators, his managers and his fans, trying to distill exactly [...]

  • A Brinks armored truck pulls into

    Fox Layoffs: Distribution and Marketing Leaders Out

    Layoffs have hit Fox following the entertainment company’s sale to Disney. The staff cuts are hitting employees at the SVP, EVP, and president level. Senior staff is expected to be among the first to be impacted. However, the cuts will be deep, with the ax falling hardest of Fox’s film team. There could be as [...]

  • Emily Blunt in Talks for Inspirational

    Emily Blunt in Talks to Star in Annapurna Drama 'Not Fade Away'

    Emily Blunt is in negotiations to star in Annapurna’s inspirational drama “Not Fade Away” with David O. Russell and John Krasinski producing. The project is based on Rebecca Alexander’s 2015 memoir “Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found.” Alexander was born with a rare genetic mutation called Usher syndrome type III and [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    Alfonso Cuaron's 'Roma' Nabs Nine Nominations for 6th Premios Platino

    As was widely anticipated, Alfonso Cuaron’s triple Oscar-winning “Roma” dominated the 6th Premios Platino nominations, unveiled Thursday at Hollywood’s legendary Roosevelt Hotel, the site of the very first Oscars. It snagged a total of nine nominations, including best film, director, art direction, cinematography, and acting for its two Oscar-nominated actresses, Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content