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'Fast & Furious 7' pushed back to 2015, will include late actor

NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The release of "Fast & Furious 7," the big-budget action film that was shut down in November after the death of actor Paul Walker in a car crash, has been pushed back nine months to April 2015, Universal Pictures said on Monday.

Walker, who died in a fiery one-car crash at the age of 40 on November 30, will appear in the film, Universal said.

The "Fast & Furious" film series, which has grossed more than $2 billion at the global box office and helped turn around the fortunes of Comcast Corp-owned Universal, was originally slated to be released on July 11, 2014, in the summer movie-going season.

The seventh installment of the popular series about illegal street racing, crime and heists will be released on April 10, 2015, Universal said in a statement. It said that series star Vin Diesel and the late Walker would "lead the returning cast."

Diesel, also one of the producers, first announced the new release date on Facebook on Sunday.

Walker, who became a symbol of car racing and car culture in his role as law enforcement officer Brian O'Conner in the "Fast & Furious" series, was a passenger in a red Porsche Carrera GT sports car that crashed on November 30 in Santa Clarita, Calif. about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

The car careened off of a street, struck a utility pole and burst into flames, also killing driver Roger Rodas. Authorities have yet to determine the cause of the accident but have said that speed probably played a role.

Production on "Fast 7" was on a break at the time for the Thanksgiving holiday and it was not clear how many of Walker's scenes had been filmed.

Production was suspended days after the crash and Universal has not said when filming will resume.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud in New York and Eric Kelsey in Los Angeles; Editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool)

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