The first time I met Paul Walker I was on the set of FAST AND FURIOUS (the fourth installment in the series). At the time, it wasn’t exactly obvious how big the franchise would become but it was clear that Universal had faith in it. Either way I was thrilled to witness the beginning of a new chapter for the series and I was especially looking forward to meeting Mr. Walker. During the interview he offered very honest reasons for doing another sequel yet clearly he had an amazing work ethic. After the interview, we talked a little more about the film and whatever else came up. He was the kind of guy that makes you feel comfortable. Friendly, funny and real with not an ounce of pretension, this is the kind of person, famous or not, you’d want to hang out with.
I am honored to say that I had more than one opportunity to chat with him and every single time I continued to gain respect for this talented man. Needless to say it hit pretty damn hard when I heard about the tragedy that happened this past weekend. But I’m not here to talk about the accident that claimed the life of Mr. Walker and his good friend Roger Rodas. There has been far too much spoken about it whether it has been speculation or misinformation. Frankly it is far too heartbreaking just to see some of the headlines or the disturbingly negative forum posts on IMDB as well as other sites. The truth is I feel very privileged to have had the chance to speak with him. His death comes as a shock to everybody, yet it is his good friends and family that are suffering the most and to them I offer my condolences.
What I do want to talk about is some of the genre work which made me a fan to begin with. While not necessarily Arrow in the Head specific, I feel compelled to talk a little about THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. In the beginning I wasn’t a fan of the films. The first didn’t necessarily appeal to me, even when the franchise seemed to rev it up a bit for the third sequel by reuniting its original cast for FAST AND FURIOUS, after PART 2 and TOKYO DRIFT. However it was the fifth installment that sealed the deal. The high-octane, thrill-a-minute flicks have increased in budget and star-power and proved that you can absolutely make a better and more satisfying sequel. Aside from the action, what I have always enjoyed about these flicks – even in the beginning - is the chemistry between the leads including Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster.
Of course we here at Arrow in the Head hold a special place in our hearts for a couple of Walker’s earlier films. I had heard quite the buzz when I finally got a peek at director John Dahl’s road rage inspired 2001 thriller JOY RIDE. This may not have been my first introduction to the actor, but damned if I wasn’t impressed! He did a fantastic job in this suspense laden flick alongside Steve Zahn. Neither actor were familiar faces in horror so it was nice to see that the two worked so incredibly well together making things all the more involving once shite hit the fan. JOY RIDE is a perfect blend of tense action, thrills and even a little bit of well-placed humor. It also featured the very attractive Leelee Sobiesky as the damsel in distress. If you haven’t checked this one out, you owe it to yourself to do so.
It won’t be a surprise for most of you who have been following this site that we dug the actor’s performance in Wayne Kramer’s gritty thriller RUNNING SCARED (2006). With both the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise as well as JOY RIDE, Walker had a lot of support. This time he ably carried this crime drama as a well-intentioned thug trying to save his family from some deadly dangerous criminals. While the feature didn’t set the box office ablaze it has certainly found itself to be a cult classic. It also happened to feature terrific performances from Vera Farmiga and Chazz Palminteri. The director and Walker really enjoyed working together and it showed in the quality of the film – they recently collaborated in this year’s white trash comedy anthology PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES which I personally enjoyed the hell out of for all its outrageousness. Wayne posted a very loving tribute to his friend and it is a wonderful read, you can check it out here .
Maybe it’s the booze talkin’, but this time it feels like tons more than that, Paul Walker was not only a great guy but a talented actor. I was a fan of his work in films like FAST FIVE (and beyond), PLEASANTVILLE, FLAGS OF OUR FATHER and of course as an all-around amazing human being thanks to the fact that he was one of the nicest guys around – charitable work, fan friendly, great to work with, you name it. While his resume isn’t fueled by horror, he did partake in a couple of movies that we loved. For action and horror fans, both JOY RIDE and RUNNING SCARED would be a great way to look back at his career and remember the cool and collected, but always down-to-earth actor that worked hard yet he made it all look so easy. RIP Mr. Walker... I only wish we could have seen all the great work you had in store.