Movies Paul Walker: 1973-2013 written by John Bierly December 1, 2013 There are movies, and there are mythologies. And then there are the moments when the two intertwine. For the FAST & FURIOUS franchise gang led by streetwise Hercules Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and former cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), it’s the beat in FAST FIVE when Defense Security Service Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) rallies his fellow pursuers with an absolute warning: “And above all else, we don’t ever, EVER, let them get into cars.” Hearing it expressed that way with equal parts admiration and desperation was nothing short of iconic, because it was true. Behind the wheel, these guys were unstoppable. Behind the wheel, they’d fight and ride forever. Paul William Walker IV, 40, lost his life yesterday in a single-car collision along with his friend and business/charity partner, Roger Rodas, 38, who was reportedly driving the vehicle. They were leaving an event for Walker’s charity, Reach Out WorldWide (ROWW), which Walker founded in 2010 to efficiently organize and swiftly mobilize response teams to assist in rescue, relief, and recovery efforts around the globe. The outpouring of grief was immediate and overwhelming as family, friends, and fans remembered a man who gave even more of himself away from cameras than he did in front of them. And what he gave in front of them was a lot. The six current FAST & FURIOUS films have earned nearly $2.4 billion worldwide, with Walker starring in all but one of them. In fact, some critics wondered if the second film, 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS, could succeed without Diesel… until Walker drove it solo to an even higher international gross than the first. The second film was fast and furious but not as serious in a way that wasn’t silly but just plain fun. Walker’s hilarious chemistry with co-star Tyrese Gibson remains a series highlight. Neither Diesel (post-credits cameo aside) nor Walker showed up for the third film (TOKYO DRIFT), and neither did as much of the audience. So Universal put writer Chris Morgan, who approached the material as if he were a scholarly expert on the characters, to work on a screenplay that would reunite Diesel and Walker. With Justin Lin’s energetic direction, the franchise got back on track… and never looked back. Each subsequent installment blasted past its predecessor, with FAST & FURIOUS 6 grossing a whopping $788 million earlier this year. Walker was in the middle of filming the seventh installment. He’s been awesome in all of them, but my favorite showcase for him is that game-changing fourth one that brought the old team back together. Walker’s entrance in the film proves that even a foot-chase can be fast; Brian chases a suspect through a shattering window, down a spiraling flight of stairs, down a street, up and over a black metal fence, and through an obstacle course with Lin’s camera showing us every step of the way that Walker is doing every one of the stunts and steps himself. And then it happens. The moment that made me clap and cheer aloud in the theater, because it was something I’d never seen in an action movie before. The perp hops a chain link fence and is climbing down the other side of it when Brian runs full speed and SLAMS his entire body into the fence, knocking the perp down hard. It’s so visceral and so badass and so… furious. When the perp starts firing into the crowd, Brian hesitates to keep the people safe before rocketing off after him again, chasing him upstairs through an apartment building and stopping again to direct a woman in the hallway to safety. The perp thinks he’s safe on a ledge, staring at the open window he just escaped through… until Brian crashes through the window behind him, tipping them both over the ledge and onto a van in the alley below. I’m out of breath just typing it. It’s amazing. But the feelings are just as thrilling, from Brian’s first encounter with Dom to his diner sit-down with former lover (and Dom’s little sister) Mia (Jordana Brewster) to the emotional (and then very physical) melee when Dom dials the last number in the presumed-dead Letty’s phone… and Brian’s phone rings in the other room. Dom smashes Brian all over the place before Brian gets enough leverage with a scissor-hold to fight back, all culminating in devastating face punches from Dom that only stop when Brian bellows out, “She did it for you, Dom! She did it for YOU!” And, after explaining Letty’s reasons, he plaintively roars, “She just wanted you to come home!” As Dom staggers away, Brian kicks a table and screams in berserker release. It’s so powerful. And why does it work so well? Because by this point we love these characters like friends, and the actors play them as family. Walker was so good at it because that’s reportedly how he lived his life, as a friend to everyone he met. He had a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. His idol was legendary Jacques Cousteau, and he studied marine biology in college. He put that interest to good use in the National Geographic Channel series EXPEDITION GREAT WHITE, in which he joined a team of marine conservationists to tag and study great white sharks. But it was never only the ocean that Walker hoped to save. He selflessly gave his time, his talent, and his treasure to numerous causes, giving hands-on assistance to victims of natural disasters in Chile and Haiti. And, through ROWW, he directed and participated in countless other relief efforts at home and abroad. Most importantly, Walker wielded his heart as ably and as freely as his hands. When the 13-year-old daughter of a friend of a friend of MMM founder Sean Gerber developed a massive brain tumor and told the Make-A-Wish Foundation that she’d like to meet Brian O’Conner, Walker didn’t give her minutes or even an hour. He hung out with her at the hospital for an entire day. Often, when a celebrity passes away, the following weeks are riddled with stories about things they did that no one ever knew. I truly believe we’ll soon be hearing lots of stories like this one about Paul Walker, who never sought attention or accolades for his charitable endeavors. He only wanted results, and he happily put in the time and the effort to achieve them. And though he’s best known for the FAST & FURIOUS films, Walker had a golden reputation in Hollywood as a hard worker and a generous, thoughtful gentleman who treated his colleagues with respect in all of his various projects. He fantastically played frantic in JOY RIDE. He battled more bad guys in THE DEATH AND LIFE OF BOBBY Z, survived the elements in the harrowing family adventure EIGHT BELOW, and got an action-packed history lesson in TIMELINE among many other roles. He plays against type as the leading man in the under-seen crime thriller RUNNING SCARED, and he’s more capable than Aquaman in the equally underrated underwater actioner INTO THE BLUE. (And now all I can think about is how awesome an Aquaman he’d be.) Paul Walker was a ruggedly handsome man’s man whose bright blue eyes and crooked smile revealed a boyish charm that made him so entertaining and so accessible on screen. He had little use for fame and was quick to use his fortune to build better days for those in need. He is survived by his 15-year-old daughter, Meadow, and lived in Santa Barbara, close to the beach and the boundless ocean that beckoned. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Paul, for always giving us your heart and your all. ADDENDUM Many beautiful things have been said by those close to Mr. Walker, and we’d like to share a few of those here. From FAST & FURIOUS co-star Vin Diesel: “Brother, I will miss you very much. I am absolutely speechless. Heaven has gained a new Angel. Rest in Peace.” From FAST & FURIOUS co-star Jordana Brewster: Paul was pure light. I cannot believe he is gone. — Jordana Brewster (@JordanaBrewster) December 1, 2013 From FAST & FURIOUS co-star Dwayne Johnson: All my strength, love & faith to the Walker family during this heartbreaking time. We find our strength.. in his light. Love you brother. — Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) December 1, 2013 From FAST & FURIOUS co-star Ludacris: “Your humble spirit was felt from the start. Wherever you blessed your presence, you always left a mark. We were like brothers & our birthdays are only 1 day apart. Now you will forever hold a place in all of our hearts. Your legacy will live on forever. R.I.P.” From FAST & FURIOUS co-star Tyrese Gibson: My heart is hurting so bad no one can make me believe this is real Father God I pray that you send… http://t.co/CnKblb3PWu — #VisionImplementor (@Tyrese) December 1, 2013 At least I got to say I love you…. #OurLastExchange but our laughs and moments will live forever… http://t.co/LyNrYK0r44 — #VisionImplementor (@Tyrese) December 1, 2013 We made moment count couldn't get anything done cause we were having too much fun http://t.co/Qv2cGONMHo — #VisionImplementor (@Tyrese) December 1, 2013 Not just a family on camera were a real family #WeJustCelebratedHis40th Pray for his daughter and… http://t.co/S4cc0trZIw — #VisionImplementor (@Tyrese) December 1, 2013 From Universal Studios: “All of us at Universal are heartbroken. Paul was truly one of the most beloved and respected members of our studio family for 14 years, and this loss is devastating to us, to everyone involved with the FAST AND FURIOUS films, and to countless fans. We send our deepest and most sincere condolences to Paul’s family.” From director Joe Carnahan: I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Paul Walker. He flew to an airport in NC to talk about a role in THE GREY. He was a total gentleman. — Joe Carnahan (@carnojoe) December 1, 2013 He was kind, thoughtful and could not have been nicer to myself and my wife. I'm shocked. It's always the good ones that go too soon. RIP. — Joe Carnahan (@carnojoe) December 1, 2013 The thing about Paul Walker was, after seeing him in the criminally underrated RUNNING SCARED. You wondered how deep this kid could go… — Joe Carnahan (@carnojoe) December 1, 2013 I remember having the sense that this guy was gonna become an Eastwood-like actor as he got older. He was as smart as he was handsome. — Joe Carnahan (@carnojoe) December 1, 2013 And, finally, I wanted to share this remembrance from Walker’s RUNNING SCARED and PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES director Wayne Kramer. It’s long, but it’s worth the read: “It’s truly been a devastating day for Paul Walker’s family, his friends and his fans all over the world. I still haven’t begun to process it. It doesn’t seem real. I had the great privilege to work with Paul twice, most recently last year on a little seen film called PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES (which came and went this year) and in 2004 on a film I hold closest to my heart, RUNNING SCARED (released in 2006). A filmmaker could not ask for a better or more supportive collaborator than Paul. So many people who knew him will talk about what a great human being he was – and they would be right; everybody who met him instantly loved him – but I want to talk about what a great actor he was. Both times I directed him, he brought an absolute commitment to his craft and would be very hard on himself if he didn’t think he was getting there. He was a natural athlete and could deliver a precision action performance take after take, hitting very difficult camera marks in sync with extremely complicated camera moves. During RUNNING SCARED, he spent seven days shooting a grueling action scene on a real ice rink and, at least, five of those days he had his face pushed down into the ice, to the point that his flesh was literally stuck to the surface of the ice — and he never ever complained about it. It was an absolute joy to work with him every single day on that film. Like a little kid, he was excited to conspire with me on those very scenes that we knew would get a strong reaction from the audience. “Judging from what I experienced and from what others have told me, Paul was always the great unifier on set. He went out of his way to accommodate both actors and crew members. I’ve also never seen him refuse an autograph to anyone. We shot one of the final scenes in RUNNING SCARED in a working class neighborhood in New Jersey and by the time production wrapped, there must have been a few hundred kids mobbing him for his autograph. He stayed and signed for everyone of them. We attended a neighborhood Italian restaurant one night during shooting, and I swear about five grandmothers came over to our table to marry their daughters off to Paul. He barely got a morsel of food in his mouth that night because he was too busy auditioning future wives and ‘grand’ in-laws (if there is such a word). He always had time for his fans and had he lived long enough to no longer be the cool movie star, I can guarantee you he would have rather gone hungry than sell his autograph to fans. “It always pained me when critics and internet talkbackers slammed him as an actor because I knew the truth about the guy: he was fucking awesome in every way. And he was just coming into his own as a strong leading man. I always told Paul that his most exciting years were going to be his 40s and 50s, and even beyond, as a masculine American tough guy in the vein of Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. We talked about how Paul was going to be my Lee Marvin and we were hungry to make those kind of films that could show Paul in that light. In some alternate reality somewhere, he’s still on that career trajectory and I’d love to be there to see the work because it would be something to experience indeed. For every anonymous internet hater who bagged on him, there were great actors and directors who made a point of letting him know how amazing he was. Kevin Costner was a fan and wanted to do a western with Paul. Vincent D’Onofrio (whom I recently worked with) made a point of telling me how much he dug Paul as an actor. Quentin Tarantino called Paul after seeing RUNNING SCARED to tell him how much he loved Paul’s performance. Sylvester Stallone was a fan of Paul in RUNNING SCARED. Walter Hill and Brian De Palma offered him projects a few years back. Paul was very discriminating with the films he picked. He chose to make them for personal reasons, regardless of the quality of the finished film or the reputation of the director. And once he signed on, he was there one thousand percent for his directors. We shared the same taste in material. Usually dark and extreme, but with a lot of soul. Closer to the films of the 70s and 80s that they no longer make anymore. “What kills me about the way Paul died (and I know he wasn’t driving) is that Paul was an amazing driver. He was every bit as good, if not better, than the stunt drivers he worked with. I’ve been on the set where the stunt drivers couldn’t nail it and he had to do the stunt for them. Paul had a great stunt double on RUNNING SCARED, his good friend Oakley Lehman – only Paul did all of his own stunt work. I think Oakley did some second unit stand in shots and one real stunt where Paul gets slammed to the ice by one of the Russian hockey players. Nothing makes a director happier than to hear his star is having a great time on a film he’s directing – and I got to hear that every single day from Paul on RUNNING SCARED. PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES was the same thing, but we had a much shorter schedule. I remember this crazy scene in PAWN SHOP when Paul puts on this clown mask that he’s brought to a meth lab robbery and scares the shit out of his partner in crime played by Kevin Rankin. This came at the end of an eighteen hour day and nobody was in a particular good mood, but the moment Paul started his clown mask schtick, the entire set was in hysterics. I looked over at Jimi Whitaker, my DP, who was operating the camera and he was almost convulsive, trying his hardest not to ruin the shot. Paul would do whatever it took to get you the moment you wanted. Still wearing that clown mask, he charged across the set of this meth lab, while Lukas Haas was blasting him with a shotgun (loaded with blanks) and threw himself into a tiny floor level kitchen cupboard – and to this day I don’t know how he managed to fit in there. It’s one thing to draw up crazy storyboards and action scenes, but you need a game actor like Paul Walker to bring it to life for you. And he always did. I have never been disappointed by Paul as a filmmaker. “Paul was an intensely private person and he didn’t interact that much with industry people when he was on breaks from making films. He was doing some of the most amazing shit in ‘real life’ and living his life to the fullest like no one else I know. The guy swam with sharks, hiked through jungles, visited some of the most extreme and exotic places on the planet; he flew to Haiti right after the earthquake, and gave back in so many ways that he never talked about. He was an iconoclast that the world didn’t really know outside of the FAST & FURIOUS films. He may not have taken his career as seriously as he might have liked when he first started acting, but about ten years ago he started getting really focused about acting and looking for better opportunities. They didn’t always find him and I’m convinced we were robbed of some truly great performances. I feel like I’ve lost my true partner in crime and I only wish we had made more films together.” (If you’d like to honor Paul Walker, you can donate to his charity, Reach Out WorldWide. And for a list of his other recent and upcoming projects, click here.) Paul Walker: 1973-2013 was last modified: February 21st, 2016 by John Bierly Related Furious 7 3 comments 0 Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest John Bierly previous post DEAD Talks Podcast: AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD Episode 407- “Dead Weight” next post DEAD Talks Podcast: AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD Episode 408- “Too Far Gone” You may also like SNOWPIERCER Expands July 3, 2014 Pioneering Spirit Meets Survival Instinct In INTERSTELLAR... May 16, 2014 Latest Look At ‘Gravity’ Showcases The Film’s... July 24, 2013 Retro Review: THE ROAD WARRIOR March 28, 2015 TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES’ Gets A New... June 25, 2014 Katniss Takes Aim In The Final Poster... September 30, 2013 Retro Review: The Muck Encrusted Beauty of... October 31, 2014 Sign The ‘Dredd’ Sequel Petition For A... July 25, 2013 JUPITER ASCENDING Review February 6, 2015 The Fear of Artificial Intelligence in Hollywood:... April 7, 2015 Chance A. Pates Great article John. He will truly be missed. Antoinette Gulley Oh man…. Great Article !!!! Kelly Matthew Best article I have read on Paul Walker- thank you!!