I didn't know Paul Walker. Until the news of his tragic death in a car accident this past weekend, I had no idea who he was. Being in the wrong demographic for hot-car action movies, I've seen none of the "Fast and Furious" movies, nor was I aware of his acting career prior to signing on with the FF franchise. Still, Hollywood is a big little town, where the untimely passing of anybody in the extended industry community has an impact -- and like every death in the family, such an event resonates among us all.
"D" --- one of my fellow industry bloggers -- has been working on "Fast and Furious Seven" for the past three months, and got to know Paul Walker. He wrote a sad but beautiful post about the experience, and the here-today, gone-tomorrow nature of working on feature films. It's a poignant piece that says a lot about our lives in this industry. Most of us who've been doing this for twenty or thirty years have lost someone we met and got to know on set, and that hurts with a pain that never really goes away.
If you haven't read it, you should.
Film critics are a distant part of the industry community. Although they often meet the stars and directors of movies, the nature of their job keeps them far from the nuts-and-bolts aspects of the Industry -- and maybe that distance allows them to take a clear-eyed, dispassionate look at the films and actors they review. In a piece that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle put his feelings about Walker like this:
"Paul Walker was never going to be asked to play Hamlet, but he was at the center of a number of highly enjoyable films over the last fifteen years. He had an ability, probably innate, to engage audience sympathy. He was good-looking enough to be a pretty boy, but he was something else. He had a toughness that, combined with his smooth good looks, made him something unexpected. He held his own opposite Vin Diesel, whose voice alone could blow anyone off the screen. He was a truthful actor, and I always liked him.
As a critic, I try not to know what a movie is about before I go see it. I try even not to know who’s in it, though most of the time I do. But there have been a few times over the years when Paul Walker has turned up in a movie without my knowing, and I always thought, “Oh, good. Him.” With him, a story was in good hands."
That last line -- "With him, a story was in good hands" -- speaks volumes, and is an epitaph that would make any actor proud. Like so many before him, Paul Walker died much too young, truncating a promising future in film and in life. Such tragedies have happened before and will doubtless happen again, but that doesn't make the bad news any easier to take.