'Furious 7' Director James Wan Expected Oscar Nomination for Keeping Paul Walker Alive

Kevin Polowy
·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
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Vin Diesel thought Furious 7 deserved to win Best Picture at the Oscars, a statement that was largely laughed off despite the sequel’s monster box-office haul. Still, the film was in the awards conversation last year: Many pundits (including yours truly) thought it would get a nomination (and even win) in the Best Original Song category for the Wiz Khalifa-Charlie Puth infectious hit track “See You Again,” which helped Diesel and the filmmakers pay touching tribute to late co-star Paul Walker.

Director James Wan agreed that “See You Again” was snubbed by the Academy, but he took larger issue with the film being left out of the Best Visual Effects category, particularly for what VFX house Weta Digital was able to accomplish in seamlessly keeping Walker’s character Brian O'Connor “alive” until the film’s poignant end.

“I thought we were guaranteed to get a nomination,” Wan told Yahoo Movies while appearing at CinemaCon in Las Vegas to promote his new horror sequel, The Conjuring 2. “One was for the song, and the other one was for the visual effects. Furious 7 would not have been able to be completed if it wasn’t for the amazing team that got behind it and finished all the visual effects.

"There were all these other great movies, but the movies that were nominated, I’ve seen all that stuff before. But we have never seen a movie where we took someone who was no longer around and kept him alive. Literally. So that was one that I felt cheated on.”

The Best Visual Effects nominations instead went to Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and eventual winner Ex Machina.

Weta recreated images of Walker using effects that had never been implemented before. Technicians motion-captured Walker’s brothers, Cody and Caleb, as well as actor John Brotherton, then synced their performances with “digital models” of Paul that they created.

“We had to complete a performance — what Paul Walker would have done if he’d been able to continue,” Weta’s Joe Letteri explained. “And it had to be his performance.”

Watch Fast 7 cast discuss honoring Paul Walker’s legacy: