The promotional material for The Fate of the Furious has been positioning Dwayne Johnson as the new face of the franchise. That makes sense; he’s a giant movie star. But at Saturday’s New York premiere of the film Vin Diesel reminded us that there wouldn’t be a franchise without Paul Walker, who died in a 2013 car accident during production on Furious 7.
“We have a lot of great talent in this movie,” Diesel told the Radio City Music Hall audience. “But there would be no Dwayne Johnson, who we love; there would be no Jason Statham, who we love; there would be no Charlize, who we love; there would be no Scott Eastwood, who we love; there would be no Kurt Russell, who we love, if it wasn’t for the decades of work that my brother Pablo put into this franchise.”
Diesel said that Walker’s presence was deeply felt throughout filming.
“I just want you to know, there wasn’t a second we made this movie, not a minute … not a day that went by that we weren’t thinking about our brother, Pablo, and how to bring him into the movie and how to represent him and to make something that he will be proud of,” Diesel explained. “Pablo, I hope you are proud tonight.”
No one from the core cast was as affected by Walker’s death as Diesel, who continues to celebrate the actor’s memory every chance he gets. And, as the franchise pushes forward with Johnson’s name at the top of the marquee instead of Walker’s, Diesel — who had a very public feud with Johnson during filming — seems hell bent on reminding everyone that the franchise will always belong to Walker.
The Fate and The Furious hits theaters on April 14.