It’s not appropriately wistful I suppose, but I like that picture of Paul Walker. It captures a lot about him- a rugged magnetism, a big smile, a fun fist-pump. It could use some abs –the man was a serious piece of ass, after all– and it doesn’t convey the deep generosity and curiosity that he possessed, but I like the spirit of it.
From the audiences of his films, his filmmaking colleagues, his friends, to his 15 year old daughter, we’ve all lost something special in Mr. Walker tonight, by way of a tragic car crash that occurred literally while he was participating in a philanthropic event. He was mid-production on the sixth Fast & Furious sequel, he was mid-charity, and he was mid-fatherhood. At a mere forty years old, the man was in the middle of a great many endeavors that, from everything I’ve ever read or heard, he put his full passion and heart into, without exception. He was fascinated by marine biology and supported scientific efforts, especially the study of sharks. He put real money and labor into charitable works, putting his wallet and hands to good use for both Chile and Haiti after major disasters.
As for his work, around here there’s probably no need for me to recommend Walker’s more interesting films like Running Scared (brilliant) or the quiet charmers like Joy Ride, much less the consistently entertaining Fast movies (that get no better than the original, but have reached wonderful recent heights with Fast Five and, to a lesser extent, Six). We all know how much fun Walker could be when he was in front of the right cameras. He had that kind of charisma you just can’t fake. It’s probably the kind that comes from being a genuinely enthusiastic person in real life, though I couldn’t say for sure.
I’ll leave the rest to better eulogizers. I don’t have a great story of defending some Paul Walker deep cut or spotting the actor in Tammy & The T-Rex and knowing he’d be somebody. For me it wasn’t even Varsity Blues. I was 13 when The Fast & The Furious came along and shot me full of that special kind of testosterone that action movies with cars produce in a teenage boy, and Brian O’Conner joined Neo as one my early, stoic action icons. “Don’t worry, scrawny white boy,” Walker and Reeves seemed to say, “you can be cool and run with the muscled-up badasses too.”
I’d been taking great pleasure in Former Detective O’Conner still being a presence in my life over a decade later, and now comes the sad shock of letting Mr. Walker go. I wish the best for his family, and I have nothing but hopeful thoughts for his colleagues in the unenviable position of finishing a silly car chase movie with such a tragedy hanging over it. It’s going to be hard to go as fast or have as much fun without him, but I have a feeling he’d want everyone to enjoy his very fitting last ride.
“We get to play make-believe like you can only dream of on the studio’s money. We get to blow stuff up, crash cars and kick the crap out of one another. It’s a lot of fun. People ask me if I’m concerned about being type-cast or stuck with the genre. I’m like, “Are you kidding me?” I get off on it. This is life to me! That’s the living part. If I’m not doing it when I’m getting paid for it, I’m doing it for fun, so I might as well get paid doing what I love to do…”