Paul Walker obituary: Co-star of the 'Fast & Furious' franchise which turned the world of illegal car racing into a huge box-office success

 

Paul Walker was one of the actors who helped make the Fast & Furious film franchise so successful, with its heady mixture of petrol and testosterone. He died in a car crash along with his friend Roger Rodas when Rodas' Porsche Carrera GT, in which Walker was a passenger, crashed into a tree in the Santa Clarita valley in California. He was in the area to attend a charity event at a racing car shop to benefit victims of the recent typhoon in the Philippines, under the auspices of his organisation Reach Out Worldwide, which he formed in 2010 to help those struck by natural disasters.

Walker rode the Fast & Furious franchise to stardom, featuring in all but one of the six action blockbusters, beginning with the first film, in 2001. The blond-haired, blue-eyed Los Angeles-native brought California-surfer good-looks and an easy, warm charm to the street-racing series. Walker did some of his own driving in the films, though the insurers prevented him from doing as much as he would have liked. He said it was the driving and working with the stuntmen that he enjoyed most.

The son of a fashion model, Cheryl, and a sewer contractor, Paul, Walker grew up in a working class Mormon household in Glendale, California, the oldest of five children. His mother began taking him to auditions as a toddler and he was a child model by the age of two. He said his early induction to showbusiness wasn't to start him on a career path, but as simply a way to help provide for the family.

He made his big-screen debut as a 13-year-old in the 1986 slasher-comedy Monster in the Closet, and after a string of television roles, including small parts in Who's the Boss and Charles in Charge, he drifted away from acting for a while, but was then tracked down by a casting director with a long memory who gave him a role in the television series Touched by an Angel. He also had a recurring part in the soap The Young and the Restless

His returned to films in the 1998 comedy Meet the Deedles and had supporting roles in Pleasantville, Varsity Blues (as a young quarterback – "I got to play the meathead jock that I hated in high school," he recalled), Flags of Our Fathers and the 1999 teen comedy She's All That. His performance in the 2000 psychological thriller The Skulls, which explored the conspiracy theories surrounding Yale's Skull and Bones student society, caught the eye of producer Neal H Moritz despite the film's poor critical reception.

Moritz then cast him alongside Vin Diesel in The Fast and the Furious. Adapted from a Vibe magazine article, "Racer X", about underground street racing, the film became an unexpected hit. Walker's undercover police officer, Brian O'Conner, is ordered to infiltrate a ring of illegal street racers suspected of stealing electronic equipment and finds himself drawn to their adrenaline-fuelled lifestyle.

Walker, a self-styled "gearhead", had taken part in street races, and he used some his fee for the first film to import a Nissan Skyline R34 sports car, the model he drives in the 2003 sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, in which he starred without Diesel. He wasn't in the third instalment, but the pair were reunited for the fourth film, known simply as Fast and Furious (2009). It became the biggest hit in the series and the producers stuck with the formula for Fast 5 (2011) and Fast and Furious 6 (2013), each successive film garnering bigger box-office grosses. The most recent has made nearly $800 million worldwide so far.

Walker starred in other films between Fast & Furious outings, including the crime thriller Running Scared, the Antarctic adventure Eight Below and the heist film Takers, in which a gang of young criminals carry out a series of minutely planned bank jobs to bankroll their expensive lifestyle. Although he didn't make as much of an impact beyond the franchise, he continually drew praise from his co-stars and directors as a kind-hearted and eager collaborator. "Your humble spirit was felt from the start," Ludacris, one of his co-stars, said on Twitter. "Wherever you blessed your presence you always left a mark, we were like brothers."

In 2006 he was cast by Clint Eastwood in Flags of our Fathers as one of the six US Marines who famously raised the American flag at Iwo Jima during the Second World War. The seventh Fast & Furious instalment began shooting in September, with a release planned for next July. The film's production was on break with more shooting to be done, which producers said would go ahead despite Walker's death.

Walker also stars in the forthcoming Hurricane Katrina drama Hours, due to appear later this month. He plays a father stranded with his newborn daughter in a New Orleans hospital in what Walker described as "a passion project". Reading the script, he said, "I just wanted to believe that if I was faced with a similar situation, I would see it through the same way. You want to believe you have the make-up to do what it would take to keep this baby going." He is also in Brick Mansions, a remake of the French action film District B13, due for release next year.

Walker and Rebecca McBrain, a former girlfriend, had a daughter who lived with her mother in Hawaii for 13 years and then moved to California in 2011 to live with Walker.

Roger Rodas, who died with Walker, was a financial adviser and the CEO of Walker's company Always Evolving; the pair met through their shared passion for cars. Another passion for Walker was martial arts, and he held a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He was also interested in marine biology, and made a series for the National Geographic Channel, Expedition Great White, in which he helped tag great white sharks off the coast of Mexico.

Vin Diesel posted a photograph of him and Walker arm-in-arm on Instagram with the message: "Brother I will miss you very much. I am absolutely speechless."

Paul William Walker, actor: born Glendale, California 12 September 1973; one daughter; died Valencia, California 30 November 2013.  

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed