“We can carry on,” Wayland Smithers once said on The Simpsons. “Michael Eisner’s been dead for five years. Ted Turner’s just a hologram.” That kind of never-give-up spirit was certainly in evidence in Furious 7, the action sequel that was one of the biggest hits of summer 2015 despite the fact that one of its stars, Paul Walker, died before filming had been completed. Walker’s final performance as Brian O’Conner was cobbled together from existing footage of the actor, augmented with shots of body doubles with CG “Paul Walker” faces superimposed over their own, and a handful of eerily-realistic VFX shots that summon the late actor out of the digital ether so that he can seemingly appear in scenes in which he was not actually present. An Imgur gallery now collects these VFX moments, and the effect of seeing them all at once is uncanny. Here, in shot after shot, Paul Walker is seemingly resurrected in order to give one last screen performance. Viewers must remind themselves that the actor was absent for all of these scenes.
For those interested of the nuts-and-bolts behind all this, the Imgur gallery links to an article in Variety that explains how it was accomplished. Variety’s Tim Gray interviews some of the digital artists behind this unprecedented performance, including Joe Letteri of a New Zealand-based VFX firm called Weta Digital, which was originally founded by Peter Jackson to handle the visual effects in Heavenly Creatures. At the behest of Universal, Weta set about to creating an ersatz Paul Walker, which was as realistic and lifelike as possible. This involved cultivating a “reference library” of Walker footage as well as doing full body scans of the actor’s brothers. In the end, according to the article, the results pleased everyone involved with the production. Visual effects supervisor Martin Hill even called it “the high point of my career.”