This weekend was awash with bad news as usual, but for car lovers the one piece of news that stuck out was the sad death of 40 year old Californian actor Paul Walker, best known for his role as agent Brian O’Conner in The Fast and the Furious film franchise.
In an ironic twist of fate, Walker died in a car crash as the Porsche being driven by a friend crashed in Los Angles and was engulfed in flames. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.
Universal Studios echoed what many already thought; that Walker was a nice guy, saying in a statement “Paul was truly one of the most beloved and respected members of our studio family..”
The first Fast & Furious (as the franchise became known) film was released in 2001 and was inspired by an articled entitled Racer X about illegal street racing in Japan. Walker play O’Conner, an undercover policeman who is set the task of finding out who is stealing high end electronic equipment.
In that first film, it was essentially a vehicle for Vin Diesel, but for the second film, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Walker’s role was elevated due to Vin Diesel’s absence (Diesel reappeared in the franchise for the third movie, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift).
Walker’s career path started at a far more sedate pace as a child actor in a Pampers TV commercial followed by a modelling career that started at the tender age of 2. The Fast and the Furious was his big breakthrough though, and that same year, without straying too far from the car theme, he starred in the thriller/horror, Joy Ride (or Roadkill depending where you are in the world).
It would be fair to say that The Fast & Furious franchise has polarised opinion in some quarters. Ahead of the release of Fast & Furious 6, the Toronto police issued a statement warning fans of the films to be aware of their driving, suggesting that the franchise might be influential in encouraging young drivers to try to replicate the driving style from the films saying: “This movie continues to maintain a following of individuals who believe that the operation of vehicles similar to the way the vehicles are operated in the movie is acceptable and without consequences.”
It’s not a new argument of course, and not just related to films about cars. My own opinion is that some people are more likely to have the disposition to copy their heroes, while the majority just appreciate films for what they are – entertainment.
Walker is also the star of a new movie called Hours, a drama about Hurricane Katrina, which is due for release on 13th December. But he will always be know for his role as Brian O’Conner in the incredibly successful Fast & Furious films which have so far earned around £1.5 billion at the box office.
In one of his last interviews on the set of Fast & Furious 7, Walker talked about the blurring of fiction and reality among fans: “I’m Brian a lot more than I’m Paul Walker, which is awesome. When I hear, ‘Hey Paul Walker!’ my hair stands up on the back of my neck. It’s uncomfortable. But when I hear ‘it’s Brian!’ it’s cool. I like Brian.”