Confirmed just over an hour ago, actor Paul Walker – likely best known as Brian O’Connor in the FAST & FURIOUS movies – died in a car crash in Los Angeles on Saturday, 11/30. He was a passenger, the car was a Porche belonging to a friend, they were apparently leaving a charity event. He was only 40 years old.
I doubt anyone would try and argue, even now, that Walker was one of the great actors or noteworthy movie-stars of his day. He was always one of those performers who seemed to have come up in the wrong era, and would’ve worked continuously in the 50s or early-70s when essentially looking like a walking Ken Doll and affecting unironic sincerity garaunteed you steady leading-man work (see: Alan Ladd.) By all accounts he was one of the good guys, and the FAST movies were among those that (eventually) knew exactly how to put him to good use – it’s very possible that Vin Diesel’s “exotic” pan-racial ubermensch character wouldn’t have “popped” so notably in that franchise without Walker onhand as the “regular guy.”
But he had an active career beyond that series, one that yielded as couple of bona-fide (if little-seen) classics that suggest he would’ve had a strong career heading into middle age as a character actor “handsome mature badass” type;” the unquestioned masterpiece of which was 2006’s mind-bending pitch-black crime thriller RUNNING SCARED:
I’m also very partial to “EIGHT BELOW,” where he played the main human component in what’s effectively a wilderness-survival movie primarily starrting a group of dogs trapped alone at the South Pole.
He also had HOURS due out for mid-December, which if nothing else features a particularly novel twist on the “ticking clock” in the form of a baby hooked up to a life-support device that needs to be manually re-charged once every three minutes:
He was also active advocate for the preservation of endangered shark species, and operated the humanitarian aid group Reach Out World Wide.