A few days have not dulled the shocking news that actor Paul Walker, best known from the Fast & Furious movie franchise died when his car crashed last weekend. Walker had just attended an event for Reach Out Worldwide, a charity he founded to aid victims of natural disasters.
As tributes mounted, others had to weave mourning with business. Specifically, Pantelion Films, the company set to release Walker’s last film, Hours, and Universal, which had scheduled the seventh Fast & Furious movie for next summer.
Hours is set during Hurricane Katrina, a disaster Walker’s foundation would have benefitted. The film company’s statement that Walker would have wanted them to carry on with the release date of December 13 seems more believable than pat. The more difficult road lies ahead for Universal which has yet to announce how it will deal with Walker’s absence in Fast and Furious 7.
THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Pantelion Films for staying on course to release Paul Walker’s final film, in keeping with his charitable endeavors.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: The show must go on – in a sensitive way. When Heath Ledger died before the release of Batman: The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan spoke of Ledger’s intense performance as a way of saying, well, Ledger would have wanted the film to come out. Homage must be paid to the departed for a film company to avoid looking as though they’re cashing in on a star’s demise. A donation to the actor’s favorite charities helps. Ultimately the matter is one of sounding a respectful grace note. The show will go on, but it must do so in a way that allows the viewers to watch comfortably.