Paul Walker’s knee hurt.
Cold rain was pouring down in sheets on the Canadian set of “Brick Mansions,” and the actor was taking a breather in video village with his manager. A couple of months before the action film began shooting Walker had undergone surgery to repair a torn ligament in his knee. The injury hadn’t fully healed when production began, but he didn’t want the project to be postponed. So there he was last summer, trying to grin and bear it on a movie that required him to learn parkour -- a sport in which participants run, jump and climb around urban obstacles.
Still, Relativity Media, the studio distributing “Brick Mansions,” was extremely cautious when it came to marketing the film in a sensitive fashion. Executives at the company consulted with Luber and with Walker’s family to make sure everyone felt comfortable with the advertising materials -- none of which allude to the fact that the film features one of Walker’s final performances.
“That sounds very macabre,” said Russell Schwartz, Relativity’s president of marketing. “The last thing we wanted to do was exploit anything. There’s an 'in memoriam' at the end of the movie, but nothing on the campaign selling the movie.”
When Walker died, “Brick Mansions” had been completed, but the studio had not yet set a release date for the film. Schwartz said executives “took a beat” before ultimately deciding to open the picture before the crowded summer blockbuster season.
At special screenings of the film this week, moviegoers were given “I [Heart] PW” buttons -- a last-minute move by the filmmakers to honor the actor. (The pins will also be available at 100 theaters showing the film this weekend.)
At a recent New York screening of the film, Walker’s costar RZA said he was heartened by the crowd’s warm reaction to the late star.
“The audience cheered him on,” the musician turned actor said. “I think everybody knows that we’ll not see Paul in the flesh again, but I think we appreciate seeing him on the screen.”
RZA said he was bombarded after the screening by fans asking him questions about Walker, wanting to know what the actor was like.
“Sometimes I feel overburdened with that,” he said. “I only have one chapter. But it was a beautiful chapter. About 75% into the film, we were calling each other ‘brother.’ I know he’s known as an action star, but people who haven’t seen him work don’t know how serious he took acting.”