Producer and star Vin Diesel introduced the film by attributing its success to “the decades of work that my brother Pablo put into this franchise,” he said to loud applause from the audience. “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: how to bring him into the movie, how to represent him, and how to make something that he would be proud of. Pablo, I hope you are proud tonight.” Diesel also added that Walker’s mother Cheryl and daughter Meadow were present for the screening.
Walker, one of the Universal franchise’s original stars, died in 2013 at age 40. The Fate of the Furious — also featuring Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron and Scott Eastwood, all of whom also hit the premiere — is the first film of the franchise after Walker’s death.
“We like to say the last one is for Paul and this one is from Paul,” Ludacris also told reporters before the screening. “We wanted to make the best movie possible.”
— Ashley Lee (@cashleelee) April 9, 2017
Diesel also paid tribute to his hometown of New York City. “You were believing in this franchise before anybody else, before the whole world caught on,” he said. “I can’t even tell you how proud I am to be a kid in New York, to be riding the subways. There’s probably a lot of you that I bounced out of nightclubs! There’s a lot of you that used to give me a dollar when I was break-dancing in the street!. … Family, code, loyalty — those are themes that I was able to bring to the saga from growing up in these streets.” He also thanked the franchise’s new addition, director F. Gary Gray: “Gary, you a bad motherf—er!”
Following reports of on-set feuding and separation throughout the press tour, Diesel and Johnson remained apart at the world premiere. Johnson was the first star to arrive on the graphite-colored carpet for a handful of swift press interviews and fan greetings, and Diesel was the last to enter the scene an hour later. Johnson was also absent from the film’s Pier 90 afterparty, where Diesel spent time with family and friends until well past midnight.
The Fate of the Furious hits theaters April 14.