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Paul Walker’s career is rising as fast as he’s driving on screen in 2 Fast 2 Furious, but now he’s taking a breather from the ‘self serving’ business of making films – but sees that perhaps you CAN make a difference, he says on his Sydney visit. Andrew L. Urban meets the fast Walker (again).

MEMO to Phil Avalon, Australian producer & director (Liquid Bridge) and all round surfing dude: hunky Paul Walker loves fast cars, owns seven and has just made 2 Fast 2 Furious about street car racing, the sequel to The Fast and The Furious, which was quite a smash. He’s as hot as the cars. But guess what? His loves surfing EVEN MORE. Suggest you be first to contact his agent and put a hold on some dates for your next surfing movie. PS: you’ve got time to write the script, as Paul says he’s taking a bit of a break, partly to spend time with his partner and baby daughter, Meadow, and partly to rest up. – Good luck, Phil. Best wishes, Andrew.

I thought I’d fire that memo off first, knowing how it’s a case of first in best dressed. Walker, back in Australia just 20 months after his previous visit to promote the first Fast & Furious film (and we meet in the very same hotel room as we did that time) is rising pretty fast himself in the Hollywood hierarchy. So fast in fact that he’s already been offered the role of Superman – which he’s declined for reasons he didn’t go into. But there are other projects looming, including one at Warner Bros.

"I think 2004 is going to be busy for me"

“I think 2004 is going to be busy for me – I’m going to do another movie with John Dahl…” Dahl directed Walker in Joy Ride (aka Road Kill), an experience which Walker found professionally satisfying. “I really like him…Red Rock West, The Last Seduction…he’s one of my favourite directors.” (In our last interview, Walker said of Dahl, “he makes commercial films look like arthouse.”)

Walker’s schedule has always been busy, throughout 2001/2/3, having shot Timeline (based on the Michael Crichton time trip novel and directed by Richard Donner) immediately after 2 Fast 2 Furious; and the latter took him to Miami for the best part of nine months.

Walker returns as Brian O’Connor, but the undercover cop is now without his badge, having lost it after letting Vin Diesel’s character Dominic Toretto escape at the end of the original film. The rule breaking loner is based in Miami and hooked on speed – that other kind. The Feds, desperate to nail bigtime money laundering businessman with a link to illegal street racing, Carter Verone (Cole Hauser), reluctantly call O’Connor in, who demands to work with his own choice of partner, childhood buddy Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), an ex-con with handy fast driving skills. It’s a chance for the ex cop and the ex con to clear their respective records. But there’s a woman – again – who could be the undoing of O’Connor, undercover agent Monica (Eva Mendes) who is in Verone’s confidence – but maybe also his bed. 

Contractually bound to do the sequel, Walker was a bit ambivalent about it at first. “But people were really keen on it; you know, the DVD had just come out and people were walking up to me saying, ‘hey, are you going to make another one’. So it turned out I was going to make a movie people were already keen to see. How often do you have that luxury. I knew the fan base was there.”

But then he was hit with the news that Vin Diesel wasn’t going to do the sequel, and Walker was dismayed. “I went, Oh shit! But then they told me they were considering Tyrese Gibson, and I’d just seen him in Baby Boy, and then I met with John Singleton (director) and I said ‘this feels good’.”

"it just always felt great"

Indeed, making it, Walker “felt more human than the first one. This was two buddies having a good time, two guys who grew up together. It was chemistry with Tyrese; we were supposed to have this relationship and it’s one of those things you can’t force. Either you have that chemistry and it translates to the screen or you don’t and it doesn’t. Tyrese and I got along really well. We were in the car for several hours at a time, and we were supposed to be having a good time – and it just always felt great, like we were having fun.”

Indeed, Walker and Gibson were having so much fun director John Singleton had to keep yanking them into line to keep on schedule. “We were screwing around too much! But by the end of it, we are like brothers. You know, we had so much fun, Universal shouldn’t have paid us!” But as we laugh, he says, “But it’s too late now!” 

Walker – apart from the setting - is the main connecting string between Fast 1 and 2Fast, with Singleton taking over from Rob Cohen. And Walker’s take on the two directors is that “John is not a director in the classical sense. He’s a film geek, he loves movies. So everything is an analogy. Instead of saying ‘this is what you’re feeling and this is what’s happening’ he says ‘remember that shot in Saving Private Ryan when they’re landing on the shores of Normandy and…’ and I’m like saying there’re a million shots there, which one, so he has to explain it to me. It’s fun; he loves Steven Spielberg and he’ll find a (Spielberg) shot that he likes and somehow try and change it or if he really loves it he’ll find a way to incorporate it.”

By contrast, “Rob Cohen is more into motivation, and where the character is coming from…but they’re both really enthusiastic and they both really love what they’re doing, which is really important, especially when you’re spending three or four months in principal photography. John comes on set in the morning and he’s almost shouting with enthusiasm ‘hey check it out what great stuff we did yesterday’. And Rob would come in ‘the dailies from yesterday were just phenomenal!’… Looking in from the outside you might wonder, well, how important is that? But when you’re doing 16 hour days, it’s important!”

"Two totally different styles"

Singleton puts his directorial efforts into the initial rehearsals. “Once it comes to filming, if you’re not there, sorry bro’ it’s your job. This is the shot I want. Whereas Rob is more like the whole way through. Two totally different styles.”

But it’s unlikely Walker will get to compare the two films too closely, since he has an aversion to seeing his own work. “I regret everything I’ve done in the past….you sit there and you see little bits I like, some of the decisions I’ve made in the role. But I hated Fast and The Furious when I first saw it. Yet I loved it when the public liked it. The second I’m in a movie I hate it. I sit there and analyse my choices of which way I could have done everything and drive myself insane.”

If this seems perverse, Walker cites Harrison Ford who said he hates everything he’s done. “Right on! If HE can say that…”

Besides, he has the antidote: Rob Cohen had just come out of one of the opening day screenings of The Fast And The Furious in the Los Angeles Valley area, “and there was this young girl crying, and he asked her why and she said (Walker takes on the weeping voice) ‘I loved that movie…’ and Rob asked her what she loved best about it, and she said ‘Paul…’ And he says ‘I’m the director’ but she doesn’t believe him. ‘What would it take to convince you?’ he asks, and she says ‘Call Paul.’ So he calls me, and I have a chat with this girl for a few minutes…and just recently it got back to me that this girl had been having a tough time at school, she was super depressed and all these psychological problems, but after that she went to school and told everyone about the phone call and after that apparently she pulled out of it and she’s been doing really well.”

"maybe you CAN make a difference"

As Walker adds, “this never happens…you wish it did. I thought this was cool. Sometimes making movies seems so self-serving, so shallow. But then something like this happens, and you think, yeah, so maybe you CAN make a difference.”

Published June 5, 2003

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Paul Walker



... in 2 Fast 2 Furious

... in Roadkill

... in The Fast and The Furious

... in Pleasantville

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