Paul Walker: Fast Walker
Paul Walker has never had a hit show on The WB, has never been a Calvin Klein model and has never stepped inside the music world. He has never played the lead role in a film, either. He was a supporting player to James Van Der Beek in Varsity Blues, to Freddie Prinze Jr. in She's All That and to Joshua Jackson in The Skulls. Nevertheless, Walker has developed an immense teen following over the past three years, one far beyond anything his level of visibility would normally merit. Some of the extraordinary attention can be explained by his looks alone--he's a tall, blue-eyed 27-year-old Southern California-born surfer, a particularly good example of a beloved type. But the better explanation is what happens when those looks collide with the big screen. Even in small parts he has memorable presence. Walker will finally have a starring role in this summer's testosterone-pumped thriller The Fast and the Furious, and if the movie delivers on the excitement the trailer has generated in theaters, he is likely to emerge as more than just a pretty face for teen girls to swoon over.
STEPHEN REBELLO: Do you think Hollywood underestimates you?
AUL WALKER: I have more range than people give me credit for. I've been pinned as being the all-American poster boy/California surfer. And yes, those are my roots. But I'm an actor. If I was given the opportunity, I could prove that I'm capable of doing more than looking cute on-screen.
Q: Do producers tell you you're too handsome?
A: They say I'm too pretty for certain roles.
Q: More often than not, good looks help win roles, though.
A: [Laughs] I'm not an egotist. It's just that I've been in these teen films where I've been made to look pastel. I want to be challenged. The majority of roles I've done, I've done in my sleep. I never really chose to be an actor. It just kind of came my way. But now that I'm determined to have a career as an actor, I'm putting forth 110 percent. If there's a project I'm passionate about doing, I'll do backflips through flaming hoops.
Q: Maybe you should break your nose or something.
A: I'll pull a Brad Pitt and chip my teeth. [Laughs] Things are looking really good for me, though. There aren't many people making the transition from teen genre movies to more adult, mainstream films.
Q: What type of films do you hope to make?
A: Period epics. Michael Mann's The Last of the Mohicans. Braveheart. I'd love to do a movie that's a cross between Jeremiah Johnson and The Man From Snowy River.
Q: Didn't you almost win Heath Ledger's role in The Patriot?
A: It came down to my being too damned tall, which was too bad.
Q: What else have you lost out on?
A: I read Tigerland and had an opportunity to meet with Joel Schumacher. After Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line, I thought, Who the hell wants to see a movie about boot camp? My gut took me the wrong way on that one. I had my reps call Joel Schumacher and tell him I felt like the world's biggest idiot. He was so gracious about it.
Q: You wanted Spider-Man, too, right?
A: I thought, I am Peter Parker and I'm Spider-Man, too. All the time I'm scaling the sides of buildings to get into girls' windows. [Laughs] But when I heard Sam Raimi was interested in Tobey Maguire, insecurity kicked in. I kept hoping they were going to come to me and say, "Hey, Paul, we think you'd be great for Peter Parker," but they never did.
Q: Has The Fast and the Furious turned out as well as you'd hoped?
A: It's turned out a lot better than I thought it would be. It's very tight and intense--it really hits the mark. Everyone pretty much kicks ass.
Q: There's a lot of talk about Vin Diesel's performance. Any jealousy?
A: Vin and I complement each other. I was excited he was doing it. I told him, "Look, man, if you're the lion, I'm the cheetah. If I'm the gazelle, you're the elk." He has a strong presence. Girls just love him, no question, and guys think he's cool.
Q: What do you think makes star quality?
A: Why does Harrison Ford or Mel Gibson have a successful career? Guys think they're cool, girls think they're hot and they do really good work. If you have those three things going, you can't lose.
Q: Did making the movie make you want to drive fast?
A: [Laughs] I'm racing now and I've really gotten into it--it's a rush. I'm doing quarter-mile racing. I even own my own import car.
Q: Who have you been impressed with in Hollywood?
A: A lot of people will probably laugh at this, but Scott Caan has become a really good friend. He puts on big bravado, but he's a good guy with a good heart.
Q: How is your love life these days?
A: I'm still very new at the game. There's someone that I care about deeply. She's not in the business. If I'm going to be with anyone, it's going to be with someone who's more stable than I am. This industry makes you crazy and unstable. For that reason, I've mostly stayed away from actresses. I would like to think that at 27, I'd have a pretty good grasp on who I am, but it changes every day.
Q: Why do you live outside L.A.?
A: Most people in L.A. don't give a shit about you. Everyone's racing to get to where they need to be. I go crazy being in that atmosphere. Being outside of L.A. helps me maintain.
Stephen Rebello interviewed Jacqueline Bisset for the May issue of Movieline.