“If one day speed kills me, don’t cry because I was smiling.”
This unconfirmed quote has been making rounds through the Internet since the death of Paul William Walker but despite its unofficial attribution, it would have clearly illustrated how enthusiastic Walker was in his red 2005 Porsche Carrera GT as he rode off with it from his charity event.
This blue-eyed charmer on screen may have prophetically raced off to another world too soon when he died in a car crash in Santa Clarita on Nov 30 due to the speeding Porsche he was in. Yet, the fact that he was the person most searched for on Google UK demonstrates that his life’s work and legacy lives firmly on.
The 40-year-old Californian, who grew up in San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, loved racing even before making tidal waves with the very popular movie franchise, Fast & Furious. Working with film director, producer and screenwriter, Rob Cohen, on the 2000 crime-drama thriller The Skulls, the heartthrob revealed to Cohen his undying love for cars and speed.
“[Cohen] asked ‘What do you want to do next?’ and I said ‘I want to do a movie where I’m racing cars or I’m an undercover cop’,” Walker had told Automobile magazine in an interview before the release of Fast & Furious 6.
Impressed with his passion, Cohen decided he would play Brian O’Conner, the lead, even before completing the script for the first instalment of the racing franchise.
“He committed on the spot and my commitment to him never wavered,” Cohen recounted.
After the franchise did so well in the box office with the sixth instalment ranking at 43 worldwide, the race car enthusiast turned his love to a semi-professional career and competed in the Redline Time Attack series. He also became a co-owner of a car performance shop, Always Revolving, with Roger Rodas, who perished in the same accident with him.
His love for racing over acting is further proved by him turning down the opportunity of playing one of the world’s favorite superheroes— Superman.
“Get me the F out of here. I am standing in these boots, I’m wearing a cape, tights and I’ve got an S on my chest. I’m leaving. I’m not doing it,” Matt Luber, his manager from Luber Rocklin’ Entertainment, told Deadline Hollywood of Walker’s response to the Superman screen test.
While he was not superhuman, it was his humanity that made him so well loved. Instead of being self-absorbed from all that fame, Walker put his loved ones ahead of even work. If someone close was ill or needed his help urgently, as Luber recalled, nothing could stop him from fulfilling his responsibility. This explains his missing cameo in the third Fast & Furious film due to his ailing grandfather. Indeed, his behavior off-screen speaks volumes of his character in real life.
As a dad, Walker had planned on retiring to spend more time with his 15-year-old daughter Meadow Rain Walker. Vince Krause, Walker’s close friend from Hawaii, told The Daily Mail how his fatherly demeanor defined him as a true family man.
“He loved being a father and it was very clear that his daughter was the most important thing in the world to him,” Krause said.
Indeed, the loving father had confessed to Entertainment Weekly how important Meadow was in his life. “She’s the best partner I’ve ever had. I’ve never had anything like this in my life,” Walker said. “There’s a part of me who feels like I’m making up for lost time.”
His big heart extended even to giving back to the community. Travelling all the way back from Brazil where he was filming Fast & Furious 4, Walker went out of his comfort zone to work on Shelter, a documentary on homeless people in Santa Barbara, with the film’s producer, Brandon Birtell, who’s also the associate producer of Walker’s upcoming film, Hours.
“As Paul knew from the beginning, Shelter would never stand a chance of hitting the cinemas, but he was only interested in making a difference to the Santa Barbara community,” Ken Williams, the social worker who worked with the duo during production, told Hollywood Life.
Walker’s humanitarian efforts didn’t end there. After the disastrous earthquake that left Haiti in complete devastation in 2010, Walker founded Reach Out Worldwide (ROWW) that specializes in providing aid and medical assistance to people of countries suffering from post-disaster chaos. ROWW dispatched medical teams and crew members to places like Indonesia, Alabama in the United States, and the Philippines when they were devastated by natural disasters.
“I think that some people may decide to do charity work because it’s fashionable or strategically good for their social status, but Paul was the antithesis of superficiality,” Shikari, another of Walker’s pals from Hawaii, told The Daily Mail. “[He] was no ordinary man. Even now, in his passing, he is teaching the world to give more, teaching his friends to love and forgive more. It makes me more want to be like him.”
It’s no wonder the generous actor selflessly purchased $9,000 (S$11,263) diamond engagement ring for an Iraq war soldier to help make the couple’s dream come true.
The ambitious do-gooder, whose generosity has touched many lives, had plans to change the portrayal of fighting in Hollywood.
“People know me about my fast cars, but I want to be known for the cars and I want to be known as the guy who changed the fight scenes in the movie world,” Walker once told Ricardo Miller, his Brazililian Jiu-jitsu trainer, during one of their trainings.
He finished up as a brown belt, but there’s no doubt he would have ended up as a black belt,” Miller said. Miller presented the black belt to Walker’s father on the day of the memorial on Dec 9.
Walker’s portrayal of Brian as a carefree individual in the Fast & Furious franchise not only made his character special but realistic. Being simple, truthful and genuine were the perfect descriptors of Walker and Conner alike.
In fact, Cohen had agreed that Walker’s “down-to-earth personality” was perfect for his role as an undercover cop. This was who Walker was in his real life indeed.
Sharing on how carefree Walker’s personality was, Shikari said, “I remember on many occasions, girls would walk by or waitresses would serve us at a restaurant and not even recognize Paul because he looked like one of the boys, wearing flip flops, surf shorts and a T-shirt, often sporting a scraggly beard.
“He was just like your everyday, awesome, cool dude that loved to laugh, joke around and have fun.”
UrbanWire spoke to Vikneswaran, 21, and Muhammad Habib Noh, 20, avid fans of the franchise and its lead.
“I like the way he presents himself as the characters he choose to act,” shares Vikneswaran, an accounting student from MDIS. “The industry has lost a talented actor and the world, a great human being.”
Noh, a Republic Polytechnic student studying Mobile Software Development, adds “He had a unique style and dedication to the characters he portrayed… he risked his life on the road.”
Noh recalls his favorite installment, Fast & Furious 6. “I liked the beginning of the film where Walker and Vin Diesel seemed [as though] they were racing each other but they were going to meet Walker’s newly born son.”
When the seventh installment hits the big screens in April 2015, UrbanWire hopes to catch a fitting tribute to the man who turned into the beloved franchise’s icon.
Till then, we’d like to believe that the born again Christian is behind the wheel of a Porsche, racing past the Pearly Gates and smiling to the world.
Watch Paul Walker’s tribute from the cast of Fast & Furious here.