As my Film-Addict colleague Chris McHugh finely put it, Paul Walker’s death was “2 Fast 2 Furious”. A reference of course to the weakest film in the Fast/Furious franchise but a blunt description when it comes to losing a young movie star. Walker died today in Southern California when he was riding in his Porsche as the car spun out and crashed into a tree and burst into flames. He was 40 years old and was participating in a charity event for his foundation, Reach Out Organization.
When TMZ first reports a celeb’s death, they are usually dead on. I found out via their site about the deaths of Tony Scott and James Gandolfini. When I heard about Walker’s in the past hour, it was literally as shocking if not more. Walker was a young man. Whether you like his films or not, he was a father of a 15 year girl, had a family and did a lot of charity work. You will know him for his high throttle film work in the Fast/Furious franchise as well his taut little thrillers Running Scared and this month’s Hours. He also did kids films such as Eight Below and the classic high school football film Varsity Blues. Walker also had a small role in Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Father’s.
This news will cause a genuine eruption on the set of the blockbuster car racing series, currently filming its 7th installment. Walker tweeted a picture of himself, Tyrese Gibson and Vin Diesel last night around 7:45 p.m. from the set. The cast, especially Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordina Brewster and Gibson, had become a close knit family with Walker. They had worked together for over 12 years on these movies. There is no clue how his role will be rewritten or worked into the plot of the 7th film, which brings British action star Jason Statham into the mix for a revenge style adventure. That’s not important right now.
What is important is the loss of a young ambitious man, a father and a passionate giver. Walker was raising money for the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines this week and may have crashed in the midst of a test drive he was giving people to raise money for the fallen country. More details will come out soon. For now, all we can do is remember his film work and the man he was outside the set. He gave until it was gone.
This month’s film, Hours, promised a different kind of Walker. Playing a father who brings his wife to a New Orleans hospital on the eve of Hurricane Katrina, Walker stretches his acting limits(in a good way) as a dad who must do whatever it takes to save his infant daughter when the power goes out in the hospital. In addition to Fast & Furious 7, Walker had recently wrapped Brick Mansions.
Walker, who just turned 40 in September, first broke into film with a role in Monsters in the Closet in 1986 and went on to slowly become a popular face in cinema. Sure, his range wasn’t as wide as others, but he was still an enjoyable presence and being a hardcore car lover, he did a fair share of his own driving in the Fast/Furious films.
I will remember Walker in taut thrillers like Joy Ride, with Steve Zahn and Ted Levine. His frantic character in Running Scared, which was an underrated thriller starring Vera Farmiga and Chazz Palminteri that scored on many gritty levels. His offbeat role in Pleasantville as the hunk Skip Martin. Playing a menace in The Skulls, Walker was more convincing than expected. In Eight Below, he was a calming presence as a leader of sled dogs. While he may be remembered for his hell raising car action flicks with Diesel, Walker did more than people realized in his 27 year long career which included 42 roles.
His beginning was quiet, in 1973 in Glendale, California. His end came in a blaze of flames, on a regular day in December in California. A bittersweet end for Walker’s life carried more than enough of Hollywood flair. He had just welcome his daughter in California to live with him. It’s just a sad deal, but that’s life and death for you. It’s never fair, either with the rich and famous movie star or the blue collar worker. I didn’t expect to write this tonight and it truly pains me to finish it here.
Rest in peace, Paul Walker. You left us too soon.
Written by Dan Buffa