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After Walker’s Death, Cast Insurance May Save ‘Fast & Furious 7’

Paul Walker (center) and cast at the World Premiere of 'Fast & Furious 6' in London on May 7th, 2013. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)
Paul Walker (center) and cast at the World Premiere of 'Fast & Furious 6' in London on May 7th, 2013. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

Paul Walker, 40-year old star of the “Fast & Furious” film franchise, perished this month by the side of his best friend, Roger Rodas, in a car crash moments after leaving a fundraiser for Walker’s charity organization, Reach Out Worldwide.

Walker’s death in the high-octane crash of Rodas’ 2005 Porsche Carrera GT is mesmerizing, both for its tragedy and terrible irony.

It also halted the popular film franchise in which Walker starred.

"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,” stated a press release from Universal Studios.

That is the difference between our fantasies on the screen and us in the actual driver’s seat: we have no guaranteed happy ending.Life is no show, but it goes on. Universal told entertainment news sources that editors have begun reviewing footage shot with Walker to re-work it into a finalized script.

Universal told entertainment news sources that editors have begun reviewing footage shot with Walker to re-work it into a finalized script.

Insurance, of course, comes into play when considering the costs for such tasks. “When an artist in a film is injured, dies or becomes ill, cast insurance, in conjunction with general liability, reimburses the filmmaker for having to re-film parts that have to be replaced or continued with a new actor,” says Donna Mescall, underwriting manager at Philadelphia Insurance Companies, which offers film production insurance for smaller-budget films and documentaries.

“Rarely will an entire project be scrapped because of the loss of a cast member, but the film may have to be reshot to work around them.”

Cast insurance, which is nearly always included in a film’s budget based on production costs, covers a production company for expenses incurred to finish making a movie if a cast member dies, becomes too ill to work or is kidnapped.

Several films have been continued after the death of an actor, such as “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” after Heath Ledger’s overdose in 2008, and “Brainstorm” with Natalie Wood who died in a boating accident in 1981, using script re-writes, body doubles or clever editing.

“The hard thing is that, seeing the situation from afar, Paul Walker looked like a good person and an actor with a good loss history. He died in an accident in which he wasn’t even driving the car,” says Tim Ehrhart, vice president at Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, which offers coverage for film producers.

“An insurance company may stipulate that any death or injury occurring outside of film production may not be covered, depending on the individual’s hobbies, such as car racing, without their written consent.”

Though both Walker and Rodas were known and experienced racers—Rodas, a financial planner, owned his own car shop—they may have been no match for the purported unreliability of the Porsche they were joyriding.  The L.A. Times reported about the 2005 Carrera GT’s dark record, and found that it was involved in the deaths of two sports drivers in 2005.

Ehrhart says that cast insurance will likely come into play in allowing the film studio to proceed with bringing the next “Fast & Furious” film to life.

A studio can continue filming, but what about the unquantifiable risks such as backlash from the franchise’s fans?  

Says Ehrhart, “As a fan of a series, would you as a consumer not go see the movie if an actor you like is no longer in it? It’s possible, but not likely.”

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