By the age of 40, when he died in an automobile accident after a charity event for his foundation Reach Out Worldwide, Paul Walker had generated a lot of respect. He had many friends in Hollywood. He had a big fan base. He had an on-going role in an enormously successful movie franchise.
I know first-hand, from interviews for a couple of his Fast & Furious movies and by hanging around with him on the set of Timeline in rural Quebec, what a charming fellow he was. Among movie stars, he was remarkable for never appearing pretentious about his fame or fortune.
But let us be honest: After breaking out with a soap role in The Young and the Restless, Walker’s career was mediocre. While Walker had screen charisma, while he looked good, while he could drive a car like a professional stuntman, his movie choices never rivalled screen legends such as Steve McQueen, who could also drive like the wind. So I was perplexed when asked to come up with the five best Paul Walker movies. I chose three instead:
Walker had a supporting role in Gary Ross’ inventive and surreal fantasy, which serves as a satire on American society. Still in his 20s, Walker proved that he could play well with others. The ensemble around leads Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon allowed this quirky story to develop beautifully, as Maguire and Witherspoon found themselves caught inside a 1950s black-and-white television show. For Walker, this project led to roles in Varsity Blues and She’s All That.
The Fast and the Furious (2001):
By playing undercover cop Brian O’Conner opposite Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto, Walker became part of an incredibly lucrative franchise and a genuine film family (as Diesel eulogized after Walker died). But I’ll never forget how exciting the original movie was when it exploited the street racing craze and made movie car chases fun again.
Fast & Furious 6 (2013):
It is the best in the series since the original. It helped to revive a flagging franchise. And Walker never looked more comfortable onscreen, hinting that he might be hitting his stride as he entered his 40s. Now we will never know. Walker shot scenes for Fast & Furious 7 (which is set for release on April 10, 2015) but left some unfinished. His brothers are serving as stand-ins to complete his role.