Very sad news: Actor Paul Walker, 40, died in a car crash north of Los Angeles, the Associated Press and other news outlets report. He was a passenger in a friend’s car which crashed while he was attending a charity event on Saturday.
His Facebook page posted the news: It is with a truly heavy heart that we must confirm that Paul Walker passed away today in a tragic car accident while attending a charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide. He was a passenger in a friend's car, in which both lost their lives. We appreciate your patience as we too are stunned and saddened beyond belief by this news. Thank you for keeping his family and friends in your prayers during this very difficult time. We will do our best to keep you apprised on where to send condolences. - #TeamPW
Walker is best known for the “Fast and Furious” franchise although he has a long list of other credits. I spoke to him in 2006 when he had a pair of very different movies in theaters and he was quite pleasant over the phone.
He was incredibly good looking but that will only get you so far in Hollywood where everyone is good looking; he was talented, too, able to tackle R-rated or family friendly material. He will be missed.
Here’s what I wrote in February 2006:
By Barbara Vancheri Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A word to the wise: Don't go to the box office and just ask for a ticket to the new Paul Walker movie.
You could get a seat to "Eight Below" when you want "Running Scared" or -- lordy -- you could end up in "Running Scared" when you want the Disney dog adventure.
"Running Scared" is what Walker acknowledges is a "hard R," in terms of its rating. Targeted largely at young men, it's filled with profanity. Walker had to work that out of his system before making the family film about the dogs fending for themselves in Antarctica.
"I was cleansed of my sins by doing 'Eight Below'; that's what it was about after doing this one, after seeing my mom cry," when she saw a "Running Scared" preview designed to help sell the movie. "She laid the heaviest guilt trip ever. I was baptized by 'Eight Below,' so I'm clean again."
In "Running Scared," directed and written by Wayne Kramer, Walker portrays a low-level employee of the Italian Perello mob in Grimley, N.J., which was created in Prague. Walker spent a week in the real Jersey for certain scenes that couldn't be faked.
Walker's surfer-boy good looks served him well in movies such as "Into the Blue" opposite Jessica Alba or "The Fast and the Furious" and its sequel, but they have worked against him, too.
"This isn't what people are offering me. I had to chase this one down," the 32-year-old native Californian said, during a Philadelphia publicity stop. "This is the kind of movie I like, this is what I like to see, this is a movie I've wanted to be part of for a long time but people see me as blond hair and blue eyes," and cast accordingly.
"Running Scared" proved to be challenging in every way, Walker says, with scenes shot in an ice rink requiring him to be face down, with a hidden tube spitting out a puddle of fake blood and a 350-pound man kneeing him in the back. A hockey puck fired at his face was computer-generated. Those sequences took seven days to film.
"We had more than an ambitious shot list every day, a ridiculous list. We had to get it. We knew there wasn't going to be someone to bail us out and give us more time at the end of it." It was challenging physically, mentally and emotionally, he says.
"I was ramped up. I was living on adrenaline almost this entire shoot. You can't fake that. You gotta match the moment, what's scripted. I went home exhausted. I had to show up at work with a full tank, and I was just barely making it home on the fumes. I'd get home and couldn't sleep because I was still trembling from the adrenaline."
Working with two young actors -- Alex Neuberger who plays his son, Nicky, and Cameron Bright as a neighbor boy -- helped keep things in perspective. "They just have a way of reminding you that, hey, look, if you can't have fun at the same time, there's no sense in really doing it."
He threw the football around with the pair, bought them guitars and jammed with them in the trailer and spent time playing Halo on Xbox, too. Walker probably did none of those things on "Flags of Our Fathers," Clint Eastwood's new Iwo Jima movie.
"I play Hank Hansen, a real guy," Walker says, and he had U.S. Navy and Marine Corps research to draw upon. "You'd be amazed at how much information they have on this guy: personality traits, nicknames, favorite color, you name it." Hansen was tall and lanky and had coloring similar to Walker's.
Eastwood is famous for doing just one or two shots, and Walker says, "I used to like take seven through eight. ... I've learned I come sharp, I come ready. You just got to know what you got to do. Basically on a Clint Eastwood movie, if you don't get it right, you're not going to be in the movie."
Walker will star opposite another Oscar winner -- Anthony Hopkins -- in a movie about Ernest Hemingway called "Papa" that starts shooting in the fall.
Walker's short publicity tour for "Running Scared" has taken him to New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia, and he says audiences react in identical fashion no matter the city. "It's the same beats every time," with applause for justice dispensed by Vera Farmiga, who plays his wife, and a cheer at the movie's final twist.
That is one thing both Walker films share.