It’s been two weeks since actor Paul Walker died in a fiery crash and after details surrounding the event slowly pieced together nothing short of a horrifying story, the star will finally be laid to rest during a funeral service in Glendale, CA on Saturday.
At a time when the darker, seductive side of Hollywood claims far too many lives and a vicious media is all too willing to document these tragic downfalls, Walker’s untimely passing struck a chord amongst fans and colleagues, documented by the millions of heartfelt messages that lit up social media, not only because it was shocking and unexpected but because Walker was one of those rare celebrities that never let Hollywood consume him.
A classic example of art imitating life, Walker wasn’t one person on screen and another off. Though he may have had pitfalls, he was always the good guy. He made an impact on the movie industry, an impact on the world and was simply gone too soon.
At the height of his career, Walker, 40, was leaving an annual fundraiser for his nonprofit organization with Roger Rodas, 38, a friend and business partner. Rodas reportedly lost control of his Porsche Carrera GT, crashing into a pole and causing the car to explode into flames. Both men died at the scene of the accident.
Not only did the star leave behind a 15-year-old daughter and longtime girlfriend, the news stunned Walker’s family of 14 years, the cast and crew of his latest film, Fast & Furious 6, which just months earlier had cemented itself in history as the third highest grossing film of 2013 and 43rd highest grossing film of all time, no small feat for an action flick.
Born and raised in Glendale, CA, Walker graduated with an associate’s degree in marine biology, a field he hoped to pursue until early work in modeling brought his focus to the Hollywood scene. At age 12, he guest starred in a series of TV shows, eventually landing a lead role in the soap opera The Young and the Restless followed by his big screen debut in Disney’s Meet The Deedles (1998).
Despite being a box-office flop, the movie led to a series of memorable supporting roles in films such as Pleasentville, Varsity Blues, and She’s All That. But it was in 2001, when Walker was cast as FBI Agent Brian O’Conner in The Fast and The Furious that he truly broke into the spotlight. Due largely to intense and driven performances from he and his co-stars, the film spawned five sequels and become one of the most lucrative franchises in history.
That intensity eventually led Walker to return to his passion for the aquatic life as he joined the Board of Directors of The Billfish Foundation, an organization that works “to improve the health of oceans and economies” worldwide. He also starred in Into The Blue opposite Jessica Alba, which required diving and underwater filming and in the 2010 National Geographic series Shark Men, where he was part of a crew out to tag a group of great whites in order to study migratory and mating patterns.
A lifelong racecar enthusiast, Walker is credited with giving the sport a much needed publicity boost both through his work in film and by regularly attending car shows. He competed professionally in the 2010 Redline Time Attack series, driving an E92 BMW M3 similar to the luxury cars he drove in the F&F movies. Walker earned a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, allowing him to perform many of his own action stunts, and was awarded a black belt posthumously.
In 2010, after visiting an area of Haiti devastated by the massive 7.0 earthquake Walker realized the extensive need for relief workers and supplies and formed Reach Out Worldwide. This nonprofit organization aims to bridge the “gap between the availability of skilled resources and the requirement for such personnel in post-disaster situations” by supplying professional first response volunteers and coordination. His daughter Meadow has stepped in to ensure that current efforts, including the relief of Typhoon Haiyan victims, continue.
Although the funeral for Walker is private and open only to family, friends, and the cast and crew of the F&F films, fans can pay tribute to the late star by watching his final performances on the big screen, including Hours, available now in limited release and on video on demand. Essentially a survival thriller, it follows a father (Walker) who fights to keep his newborn baby alive after Hurricane Katrina floods the hospital and cuts power.
The French action flick Brick Mansions hits US theaters in February 2014 and stars Walker as a cop who goes undercover and infiltrates a crime ring in order to cease plans to detonate a neutron bomb that could destroy Detroit. Similar to F&F, It features crash and burn sequences that now eerily mimic the death of its star. These scenes can’t be replaced or withdrawn but Producers are currently working on a new cut that will take the present situation into thought.
His final role will be his most iconic, that of Brian O’Conner in The Fast & The Furious 7. Production for the latest installment of Universal’s franchise was halfway complete when the cast and crew took a break to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with their families. Walker returned home to Santa Barbara and sadly did not get a chance to wrap up either his or O’Conner’s story.
A temporary hiatus in filming was originally ordered out of respect for the star and his family and to figure out how to continue the franchise without Walker however, it’s since been reported that production is suspended indefinitely. While the film may not make its planned Spring 2014 release, it will be completed, possibly by using younger brother Cody Walker, a stuntman, as a fill in. How O’Conner will meet his end is unclear but it’s sure to be a genuine farewell to the man who not only brought the character to life with aplomb, but also found a place in the hearts of millions in the process.
Donations can be made to Reach Out Worldwide.
Eric Miller is a marketing professional with experience in creative writing, journalism and corporate communications. He has been writing in some way, shape, or form for nearly all his life with plans to eventually publish a novel or screenplay. He is also an entertainment enthusiast with the latest news on movies, pop-culture, and events. A born and bred resident of the Baltimore Metropolitan area, he enjoys visiting the Inner Harbor as well as traveling the country, watching movies, and experimenting with mixed drinks. He is currently a member of the Sundance Institute, American Film Institute, and Maryland Film Festival.