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WALKER, PAUL: THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS

PAUL WALKING THE LINE
The camera loves Paul Walker, and so do the girls; but the young actor is as full of contradictions as any of us, walking the line between Hollywood’s self propulsion and his innate Christianity. Louise Keller and Andrew L. Urban meet the star of The Fast and The Furious.

He’s not exactly what you’d expect, Paul Walker: or is he. Late 20s, handsome, successful movie star, born in – and born of – Los Angeles, but a Mormon with a girlfriend and a baby. A fast driver and a smooth talker, yet a Christian who feels he owes the world something.

He’s got “a three or four year plan” to set up a marine foundation that would a) teach disadvantaged children (including poor Latinos) about the oceans, and b) provide jobs for some of the many graduates interested in marine biology who can’t get work.

“He talks with a smile and an easy manner that hides a complex young man”

The impetus comes from his Christian sensibilities coupled with his teenage interest in marine biology. (It was only the advanced physics that turned him off.) But the thrust of doing something with his fame and success is as much a Hollywood ethos as a health-conscious, body-loving lifestyle. Even if for many it is rarely more than lip service.

For Walker it’s a plan; at present. He talks with a smile and an easy manner that hides a complex young man. But he is enjoying the international junket he is undertaking for his film, The Fast and The Furious, partly because the media are not as jaded as their American counterparts. As for the film’s widespread success, he shrugs: “The studio thought it would appeal to the young males…but obviously, as they say in movies, magic happens.” Ethnically diverse and with two interesting female characters as well as hunky guys, fast cars, and giant stunts, the film maintains interest with its well formed characters, thanks to actors like Walker and Diesel, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, among others.

“Paul Walker looks uncannily like his character from the film”

The film was great fun to make and, considering the risky stunts, went surprisingly smoothly. He plays Brian, an undercover cop who infiltrates a gang of guys who play with computer controlled fuel injection enhanced street machines (that’s fast and furious cars to you and me). They are suspects in a series of highway robberies in which high performance cars hijack giant trucks. Vin Diesel plays street machine gang leader and prime suspect Dominic Toretto, whose sister Mia (Brewster) gets more of Brian’s attention than is called for in the line of duty. Rick Yune plays Johnny Tran, head of the rival gang.

Sitting in the self-consciously trendy new W hotel – slap bang next door to the famous Harry’s Cafe de Wheels, in a juicy piece of Australian juxtapositioning – Paul Walker looks uncannily like his character from the film, with stylish face stubble, dun jeans with beige short sleeve shirt and sneakers that aren’t tied. No socks. He sits in an armchair, opposite the two of us, gingerly answering our questions, like a well oiled pro.

“He feels he’s made the right choice and is honest enough to admit he’s getting paid for having fun”

But then he was born into the business, like we said, with parents in showbiz – and his first paying gig at the age of two, selling something in a tv commercial. “I was really into marine biology and I even met Jacque Cousteau,” he says. The flirtation with marine biology never eradicated an interest in acting, and when the dreaded physics stumped him, he devoted all his energies to acting. He feels he’s made the right choice and is honest enough to admit he’s getting paid for having fun.

Not long after The Fast and The Furious opens in Australia, he will be seen in Joy Ride, co-starring with Steve Zahn (playing Zahn’s older brother) and Leelee Sobieski ("she's the best"), who Walker has come to admire “both as an actress and a really great, down to earth person.” He also admires director John dahls’ style: “he makes commercial films look like arthouse.”

“I had a hard time hearing myself. So now I listen to myself more”

And his next role is one he is really looking forward to researching: he plays a young archeologist (who has an older woman “wrapped around his finger”) in Richard Donner’s film of Michael Crichton’s sci-fi story, Timeline, in which scientists perfect time travel.

Walker is at a stage in his career when the choices are expanding and the money is growing. But he’s stopped listening to anyone but himself. “My father, my agent, my manager…it got so confusing that I just froze. I had a hard time hearing myself. So now I listen to myself more.”

There is one simple and useful test: “I usually toss a script aside by about page 20 or 25. If I make it all the way through to the end, I usually want to do it. But I try not to think too hard about it all,” he adds frankly. “It’s all a roll of the dice.” He smiles and quotes a line of dialogue from The Fast and The Furious; Vin Diesel’s character says he lives life a quarter mile at a time. Adds Walker, “I live my life day by day.”

Published September 20, 2001

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