Paul Walker, one of the stars of Universal’s The Fast and the Furious film franchise, died Saturday in a car wreck in Santa Clarita, California, according to a statement on the actor’s Facebook page.
The news, first reported by TMZ and later confirmed by multiple media outlets, comes during production of Fast and Furious 7, next summer’s sequel in the action film franchise.
Walker’s death will no doubt throw the status of the film’s July 11 release date into question. It’s unknown how much filming he had completed before Sunday’s accident.
The first film in the franchise, 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, earned more than $200 million at the box office. It was followed by two sequels, 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious and 2006’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, although Walker only appeared in the former.
Tepid reviews and Tokyo Drift’s unimpressive box office take left the series on life support until Walker and co-star Vin Diesel reunited for 2009’s Fast & Furious. The film exceeded expectations and shifted the franchise’s direction away from street racing into a worldwide heist action series.
Walker and Diesel would return for 2011’s Fast Five and last summer’s Fast & Furious 6. Combined grosses for both sequels totaled more than $1 billion, making The Fast and the Furious Universal’s biggest franchise of all time.
In a recent interview with Collider, Walker, 40, confirmed that Universal had immediate plans for an eighth film in the franchise, with a ninth and tenth installment also likely, although he joked that by the time the films were made, “I’ll be 50.”