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The Big Questions: What's Next After Paul Walker's Passing?

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(Photo from Universal)

Less than a week after the tragic accident that killed Paul Walker and his financial planner Roger Rodas, many questions remain about what happened on the road that day, and what will happen to the actor's beloved "Fast & Furious" franchise (Universal announced yesterday that it is shutting down production on the seventh installment for an unspecified "period of time"). Here's a roundup of what we know so far.

Could the film's insurers end up deciding the fate of the film?

Absolutely.

Most major film productions have something called completion insurance; if a movie suffers a major loss — say, its star, or a key location or set piece — that's when the insurer is supposed to step in. Producers and insurers meet to decide whether a production can survive. If it can’t, the insurance company is supposed to kick in for production costs already spent.

However, it's generally believed that all parties want this film to go forward. (It's likely that the film's insurers, the Firemen's Fund, prefer this option, which is generally seen as cheaper than scrapping the film at this point.) In that case, the Firemen's Fund will likely negotiate to help out with new completion costs, such as a script rewrite, recasting, or extended housing for talent and crew.

How much could it cost to keep the movie going, given production delays and other expenses?

Think millions, not thousands.

Let's look at the script alone. According to Yahoo’s reporting team, there’s a chance that most, if not all, of the story may have to be rewritten. To get a sense of that expense, consider this: The current budget for this movie is estimated around $150 million, before marketing. For the $200 million Spider-Man 2, filmmakers reportedly spent roughly $10 million just on the screenplay — the same amount they spent on the director!

[Related: Picking Up the Pieces: 7 Actors Who Died Before Finishing Their Films]

Could the car manufacturer or driver be held liable for Walker's death?

Porsche? Probably not. The deceased driver, Roger Rodas? Even less likely.

Yes, the Porsche Carerra GT does have three times the horsepower of the average car. Autoweek magazine has called the car "scary."

But still, "you can't sue a manufacturer for just building a very fast car," Bryan Sullivan of the law firm Early Sullivan tells me. "It's up to the driver to handle it ... before you get in a car like that you have to be trained on how to drive it."

"Anyone can file a lawsuit over anything," litigation attorney Irwin Feinberg adds, "but the defense is going to be very strong: You assumed the risk of a high performance automobile knowing what you were driving. ... It's not like your 16-year-old borrows Dad's car and drives into a tree not knowing what he's gotten into."

[Related: Paul Walker Autopsy Results: Actor Died From 'Traumatic and Thermal Injuries']

As for Rodas, yes, technically, Walker's family could try to sue Rodas's estate on allegations of negligence, but don't count on it. Walker and Rodas were friends, and, "in most of these situations, people don't want to do that, because the families are close," Sullivan tells me.

The only possible toehold for a lawsuit may come from an eyewitness who says he heard an explosion before the crash.

"What the first explosion was — I don't know if their tire blew up, because it sounded like a tire blew on the car," Jim Torp told CNN on Monday.

If that was the case, and if there was some sort of faulty part on the Porsche, that could trigger a lawsuit from the families of Walker or Rodas, Sullivan and Feinberg say. But it's way too soon to predict such a development.

[Related: Vin Diesel's Touching Tributes to 'Brother' Paul Walker]

Could Walker's racing background have had a part in his death?

Unlikely, according to the latest from investigators. Yes, speed was a factor in Walker's tragic death, but police insist that no street racing was taking place; in fact, no other car had anything to do with the accident, investigators have said.

[Related: What Happens to 'Fast 7' Following Paul Walker's Death?]

Now that production on "Fast and Furious 7" has been halted, will the rest of the cast be available if filming is resumed?

Juggling an ensemble cast can be a nightmare for a producer in the best of circumstances. But reports from our Yahoo news team indicate that the film’s remaining cast, including Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez, are keeping their schedules open, at least, for the next two months, during which time shooting is expected to resume.

Watch Universal's touching tribute to its "Fast and Furious" star:

Got a Burning Question? Tweet it to us @YahooBurningQs.


Leslie Gornstein is an entertainment writer and the host of the weekly Hollywood gossip podcast The Fame Fatale.

 

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