Today: April 15, 2024

Actor Paul Walker

Paul Walker, the star of The Fast & The Furious franchise, tells us why fast cars and faster women will always sell.

Paul Walker, the star of The Fast & The Furious
franchise, tells us why fast cars and faster women will always sell.

Why do you think this
franchise is so popular?

That question comes up every time we come back! I
mean, clearly cars and good-looking girls translate pretty well, but outside of
that we can only speculate. The thing that gets me is that trends, they die
hard and they die fast, especially in pop culture, and that’s what this is.
Typically what was cool three years ago, nobody wants to touch today. So I
think we’re just fortunate, we tapped into some subject matter that just
doesn’t seem to date: cars and girls. You go back to the invention of the
automobile, and guys have been racing them. And good-looking girls never go out
of style. So I think we’re doing alright.

It’s been ten years since
the first one. Did you ever think, back then, that you’d get ten years in and
it would still be this cool?

No. Not a chance. When I was working on <The
Skulls> with Rob Cohen (director) for Universal, they asked me, “What do you
want to do next?” I had just seen <Donnie Brasco> and <Days Of
Thunder> and so to me, the idea of playing an undercover cop and racing cars
– that was it. They came to me just some three months later with this idea, and
there wasn’t even a screenplay, but I agreed to do it. My agent and my manager
were pissed off. But Rob and I had a really good rapport at that point; and
along with Neal (H. Moritz – producer) and Scott Stuber, who was working at
Universal there at the time, and they were all like, “You can’t do that.” You
have to keep in mind that I was just a young kid; I had only done two other
projects and at that point, it was just about having fun. And in retrospect, I
look back and I go, “You know what? That’s really the blessing.” When you get
older, I think we have a tendency to over think things. At that point, I was
just going with my gut. It was something I wanted to do, and it was virtually a
mindless decision. It was just a gut feeling. It was something that seemed fun
to me. To be quite honest with you, if I was facing the same decision today, I
would probably spin the whole thing out and I would probably talk myself out of
doing the project. So, right place, right time. And K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple
Stupid.

And are you still having fun
today? You look like you’re having great fun on set and there’s a great
chemistry with the guys?

Oh yeah, it is what it is. It’s <The Fast And The
Furious>. If you’re not showing up and having a good time, you’re clearly
not here for the right reason. We’re not here making <Schindler’s List>
for crying out loud. I think that’s one of the greatest parts and one of our
greatest responsibilities is just showing up and having fun, because if we’re
really having fun, it’s going to translate on screen.

There is a theme about
family in all the Fast & Furious films. Would you describe yourselves as a
bunch of good friends or a family?

I’d say more like friends. And low maintenance
friends at that, because although we are very close, it’s not like we’ve spent
ample time together over the last ten years. Typically speaking, we work on
this and then we go our separate ways, and we’ll run into one another from time
to time. So for that reason, I would opt to say friends more than family
because with family, even if you don’t get along, it seems as though you can’t
get rid of them.

Did you know anything about
cars before you started this franchise?

Yeah, my grandfather actually raced cars. He used to
tear up the San Fernando Valley in the 1960s. This is my mother’s dad. My
father was a gear-head, so I grew up with all the various car magazines – all
the Peterson publications, <Automobile>, that sort of thing. So growing
up, a good portion of my time spent with my father was spent arguing about what
cars had what specs because he has one hell of a memory but C.R.S. set in a
while back – the Can’t Remember Shit syndrome – and I tell him it’s because
he’s an old man now, but we would get into arguments the whole time. When it
comes to cars, I love them.

Which is your favourite car
in the whole world? Ever?

My grandfather raced Fords, so I have always driven
Ford trucks, but when it comes to cars, I’ve always liked Porsches. I’m a
Porsche fanatic. I’ll show you my car: I’m actually racing in a series this
year – it’s called the Redline Time Attack – and in that series, I’m racing a
BMW M3 E92, supercharged. It’s really sweet. I had a race just a couple of
weeks ago, and I took third place so I was pretty happy. There’s my car
<passes around his phone with picture of the car> It’s legit.

They don’t allow you to
actually race when you are shooting the movies though, right?

Yeah, but you know it is easier to ask for
forgiveness than it is for permission.

Would you like to do the
stunts in the films yourself?

You know, when we did the first one – the budget was
under $40m then, and this one’s $150m – it was basically just one unit, money
was much tighter so they let me do a lot more of the driving, not some of the
bigger stunts, the jumps – there was no chance I was going to do any of those –
but as time has gone on, they have taken more and more away from me. Like on
this one, I’ve had to really fight for every little bit of driving that I’ve
got and they don’t give it up easily. It’s insurance and liability.

How many Porsches do you own
now?

Just one, a 911. Right now I have a 997 GT3RS, 2007.

Have you seen the new GT2RS?

I love it. I love that car. Down the road I’ll get
one, but the GT3 is good for me now.

One of the trademarks of the
franchise is that you don’t use much green screen. Is it important to keep this
old school style?

There is still some green screen, but Justin (Lin –
director) fights to have as much shot practical as possible. I think nowadays
we know green screen, we know what’s real and we know what’s fake, so I think
it’s just better in terms of credibility. I think there was a period where the
CG stuff was fascinating but I think we’ve seen enough. I think it’s reverting,
I think we’ve almost gone in the other direction, where we want to see things
in an actual sense, in a real sense – that’s more captivating, in my opinion.
But I may be wrong.

As this is the fifth film,
you could feel a little blasé?

We don’t at all. Do you know what I think it is? On
the last one, my concern anyhow, was that it was stale. It had been so long
since we had done one, but we had the studio and the producers coming in and
saying, “Hey look, there’s definitely an audience for this.” It’s blind faith
at that point because we don’t know. They are clearly doing their market
research and they have their ears out there, so to speak, but I was scared. It
wasn’t until the movie opened and it was well-received that I was okay. So now,
on this one, it’s definitely more current – it was only two years ago – so
there’s more inner peace, there’s not as big a question this time. And bringing
in Dwayne (Johnson – Hobbs) and bringing everybody back – last time I didn’t
feel it was right without Tyrese (Gibson – Roman Pearce), and I made that more
than clear; Justin also fought to get him back – but finally everyone’s here. I
think the new energy has just made it better. When something has spanned this
much time, we’re here clearly not just because of the first one, not just
because of the second one, but because of all of them, so I think to not have
everyone come back on this last one wouldn’t have been right. It would have
been like making it to the World Series. So it’s nice to have everyone here, I
think there were even talking to Eva (Mendes) about potentially coming back,
but I don’t know what happened about that.

Do you have to do any mental
preparation when you are told you are going to do another <Fast &
Furious>?

No. No. As I said earlier, it is what it is. For me,
I show up and I’m playing Brian, but it’s me. I’m showing up and I’m having
fun. It makes it easy. Jordana (Brewster) and I get along really well, and
Tyrese (Gibson) and I get along well. Vin (Diesel) and I have always got along,
so we’re pretty much just carrying on our energies, so there’s really nothing
to it, to be honest with you. I think that if you try to make more of it than
it is, then I think you are going in the wrong direction. That’s my personal
feeling.

Your character has always
been balanced on the border between good and bad, and sometimes you can guess
which side he really is. What about <this> film? Are you more on the evil
side in this one?

Yeah, if you wanted to call it ‘the evil side’. I get
what you’re saying. He’s on the bad side. He’s a bad guy in this one.

He’s meant to be a man of
the law.

I think that Brian early on – not much unlike any one
of us growing up – was raised knowing this is right, and this is wrong –
everything was black and white. Then as you grow through years, you learn that
things aren’t always black and white, there are definitely grey areas and I
think he is an idealist: he wanted to do good but he came from a bad home, and
he just wanted to bring bad guys to justice. And for whatever reason, I think
Brian is one of those guys who is just gifted, and when it came to
law-enforcement, the specifics of shooting or the obstacle course and all that,
he excelled at it. There are other guys, like Stasiak in the last one, in
<Fast & Furious 4>, who try so hard, are really diligent, always
studying, but was still never quite as good as Brian. So not only was Brian
idealistic in his terms and his approach, especially when he went under cover
in the first one, everything was in absolutes, in black and white, “I just want
to bust bad guys,” and then he meets Dominic Toretto – who is a bad guy – but
he has the biggest heart. He has taken in all these street kids that really
have no sense of direction, and he creates a family, and that family is
something that Brian has always wanted, and something that he believes that
maybe he found in law enforcement, but they’re all corrupt. They promise
‘this’, but it’s all a lie. And so, at the end of the day, I think Brian
realised a while back that he was living a lie in the fourth one, as a Federal
officer, but he was stuck doing it because it came naturally, but I think
finally now, in this one, I think Brian is actually living more free than he
ever has. He might be on the bad side, but at least he is being honest with
himself. He’s not lying any more.

What do these films mean to
you in your career?

Well, it’s ten years of my life. It’s ten years of my
life and it’s ten years of my prime so it means a lot to me. I had no idea this
franchise would stand the duration of the time that it has, so I am pretty
lucky.

Can you talk a little about
the worldwide fans, because the franchise is huge around the world. What do the
fans say to you? How cool is it going out there and seeing all these different
fans?

It’s fun. I travel a lot, I travel a lot to surf, and
travel just to see things, and a lot of that travel has taken me to Third World
or even Fourth World countries, and I remember a couple of years ago when I
went to El Salvador, and I thought El Salvador would be a walk in the park, but
I couldn’t get over how many people recognised me from the Fast & Furious films,
I was like, “Wow!” It just makes things nice, it just opens doors for you,
people welcome you into their home, so you get a home-cooked meal. It makes the
experience of travel more fun, a lot more rewarding experience, it enriches the
experience so much. That’s one of the biggest perks to my job. So I really
appreciate all the fans.

To Pre-Order Fast Five On DVD Click Here Or On Blu-Ray Click Here

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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