Interview: Paul Walker for "Fast and Furious"

By Paul Fischer Monday March 30th 2009 09:34AM
Paul Walker for "Fast and Furious"

There was a moment during which point Paul Walker was on the verge of stardom, thanks to "The Fast and the Furious" franchise, then the young actor and family man chose films that he did for himself, rather than for Hollywood.

Now Walker is back with the franchise that started it all, and looking relaxed, he talks about the resurgence of the franchise, family and attitudes towards his very up and down career.

Question: So, what convinced you to want to come back to this franchise?

Walker: Timing. Crucially, right? Writers' strike. [LAUGHTER] Not a lot of work. Everyone was available to come back and make really the first true sequel. And – you know, there's never a guarantee of what you're about to go make, especially when you're hoping to make a commercial movie, but there's really an audience for it. Well, Universal does their marketing research. And they know what they can sell. What there's still an interest for, and what there isn't. And they said, "Hey, this is a go deal." And why not? I'll come back, hang out with some friends. What else am I doing right now? I'd taken some time away. And like I said, I want to get back and work, and just have fun again.

Question: Did you have any input into the script at all?

Walker: No. that was it. And because we were still facing the writer's strike, when we went into principal photography, we couldn't make any tweaks.

Question: Really?

Walker: No. I mean, Vin and I were making our changes that we could. But, see – it's a sensitive issue for Justin, because he's a writer, as well. So here he is, the director, and he's like – it's good. [LAUGHTER] You know?

Question: Did you have any apprehensions about revisiting the character?

Walker: Yeah. I think everybody did. Right? My biggest question was, do people still really want to see this? That was the biggest one for me. It's ten years later. But – yeah. Well, just about. We filmed it in 2000. I round up, call it a decade. [LAUGHTER]

Question: Why do you think audiences are ready to see this movie again? What do you think is different about this, that will entice them, apart from the reunion factor, to see this movie?

Walker: I think it just goes back to the first one. I think the first one had the most heart, in the sense where – I don't know, I just like what Dominic Toretto created, a family. They're basically just a bunch of street kids that have this common interest, which is cars. And – you know, it was either that or gangs, right? These guys would have probably ended up in a lot of trouble. They all found something they were passionate about, that they liked. And Brian, of course, comes along and screws it all up. But this is going back to that, you know? Family, Johanna, and – I think that's what the other ones are missing. I loved – the second one was a lot of fun. But I don't know that the second one had the heart that the first one had. I think the first one had the most heart.

Question: Well, after all of that contemplation, how psyched were you to know that the audience still exists, and that all of the principal players want to come back and do it again?

Walker: There's still a degree of reluctance – you know, hesitation. You know, been there, done that. A couple years ago, I probably would have been like, "Ah, I don't know if I want to do it." But I'm a little older. I like to think, a little wiser. And I realized that everyone should be so lucky to have a franchise that spans eight years, you know? Hell with it. I'm going to come back and make another one, and I'm going to smile the whole time.

Question: You still felt like you had the chemistry with Vin, and stuff? I mean, did it seem like you had it, like, from the first day that you guys were on the set together?

Walker: Our chemistry is that we don't have any chemistry. [LAUGHTER] That's the funny thing. He's East Coast, I'm West Coast. You know? We respect each other as human beings. And that's about all it takes, you know? We get around, we laugh. But we have such two totally different approaches to this whole game.

Question: How are they different? Can you talk about what those differences are, then?

Walker: This is something Vin's wanted for a long time, and he's worked really hard for it. You know? He created this a long time ago, in his mind. And I think it's safe to say, it's his life's ambition to be a movie star, you know? And for me, it's just something I enjoy doing. It doesn't define me. I do – you know, there's a lot of other things I like outside of it.

Question: Like what?

Walker: Oh, gosh. Jujitsu, travel, photography.

Question: Cars?

Walker: Cars. Surf. There's a lot of things I like to do.

Question: Is there any car in this that you wanted to live in your garage?

Walker: There's some pretty cool ones. I battle with all of them, though. That's the thing.

Question: You do? Oh, yeah.

Walker: At one point or another.

Question: Your own car's in the movie, isn't it?

Walker: The white one in the background. Yeah. It's a cool car. I've had that since we did the sequel. The second. Yeah. Had that one for a while.

Question: The way the movie ends, obviously, though, it leaves it open for another movie. And I saw it with an audience, who were like, filler audience. They were like – you could tell they were pumped. They just wanted this to continue. Will you guys come back?

Walker: You really felt that?

Question: Oh, yeah. They talked about it when we walked out.

Walker: Wow. Well, we'll see. Right now, I'm going, "Wait, are you kidding me?" Because I thought we were going to close it out with this one. Come back, do the first true sequel – boom. I wanted Tyrese back so bad.

Question: So, you're not contracted for another one?

Walker: No, but there's rumors. I've heard it in the rumor mill. It's beyond rumors at this point. Like, I've spoken with executives at Universal, and they're like – they're pretty serious about it. They're developing it. They know where they want it to take place. They want to do it in Europe.

Question: But would you want to do it? I guess that's the big question.

Walker: I don't know. I'd really want everyone to put due diligence – really put time into it. I don't think it'd be too hard to make the very best one yet. I don't think "The best one yet" has been made yet. If we were to go make a fifth one, that would be the best one. In my mind. Otherwise, let's not do it.

Question: Would you try to have more of an involvement in that script development?

Walker: Yeah. I know Vin's in there already. You know, so – I'd like to get my day in court. He's got a big voice, and he stays on it. He holds pretty tight reins. I'm more of, like, "Ah, things are going to come around the way they're supposed to. Let's be organic. Let's sit down, let's talk and see how it flows." Vin's going to be in there going – [LAUGHTER]. You know, moving things around. So. I think that's where we complement each other. I think that might be a big part of the reason why people think we have chemistry. Whatever it seems to be. It's just, our approaches are just so different.

Question: You mentioned Tyrese. What's the deal with wanting Tyrese back?

Walker: Oh, he's my brother. I love that guy. I had so much fun with him, making the second one. I just – he's just one of those people, you just – he's just fun to be around. He's just a big kid.

Question: Did you lobby for him?

Walker: Oh, yeah. Like, all hell. Justin and I, we tried real hard. We should have given him a bigger bone than that, in my opinion.

Question: You mentioned when I spoke to you last time that one for them, one for you, one for them, one for you. So, you're putting yourself back in the limelight pretty hard with this. Are you already trying to think about the "one for you" project?

Walker: Yeah, I'm looking for it. Reading all the time. I got a couple things in development. Hopefully something will drop.

Question: So, Paul, this one has a lot more technology, as technology improved from the last one. There's probably less real stuff, and more in computers. Does that bug you as a driver, somebody who likes to drive, that there's probably more computer than there is you in the car?

Walker: Yeah. We shot a lot of practical on this one.

Question: Okay, good.

Walker: The tunnel sequence? You would think almost all of that was CG, with the exception of the big crashes, and the cars getting completely mangled, those cars were all being driven. The tunnel's CG; it was just drapes. And then later, they CG'd in the cave. So the driving is practical. That's why the cars look real through the tunnel-driving sequences.

Question: Driving through a bunch of drapes. That's funny.

Walker: That's it. In a giant warehouse.

Question: How much fun is that, going into that sort of world of make believe? Does it remind you of why you became an actor in the first place?

Walker: I love doing action. I'm still just a big kid. My favorite days are the days I get to show up – when I'm making a movie like this, I want to run and jump, and blast dudes around. Hop over fences. That was the first week for me on this one. For the first week, I was the only returning actor that showed up every day. It was great. I got to come in, got to know Justin real well. Got to get real friendly with the crew, get real comfortable, find my zone. Then Vin popped in, then Jordana popped in. I really liked the way this one started out. It was fun. But the action – you make Fast and the Furious to go run around and have a good time. The second they take that away from me, which they did a lot of in this one, I get real angry. All the driving stuff. Because the first one, the insurance policies weren't too high. But nowadays, forget about it.

Question: Do you have a real need for speed in your own life? Or, how do you control it, if you do?

Walker: I race all the time. I was just at the track on Wednesday. I gotta drive a truck or I'm going to speed. I can't drive a car. That's trouble.

Question: Do you ever get caught?

Walker: I did when I was younger. Yeah.

Question: Are you more into the imports, or domestics?

Walker: All across the board, the Japanese, the domestics. I like 'em all.

Question: What's the latest one you bought?

Walker: The latest one I put in the garage. It's been a while. R-35 Skyline. No, no, I have a 997, Porsche GT3. That's the most recent one.

Question: Which of the big summer movies are you most looking forward to seeing?

Walker: Oh, Terminator could be fun.

Question: Could be.

Walker: Christian Bale, Terminator. I loved—well, the first one and the second one! The second one came out in '91. And I went on – I went on a trip, just graduated high school. I think that was the first movie that cost over $100 million to make. And I went with my friends to go see it. We lost our minds. Did that just blow you away, or what? That movie was unbelievable.

Question: So you think they could get back to that.

Walker: Hopefully. It's hard to reinvent it right now. It's hard to bring anything new, or – when we've just about seen it all, you know? Then something comes along like 300. You go, "Wow! I haven't seen that." I loved 300.

Question: You said that you had other interests, besides acting. Do you want to turn that interest into something professional? Do you have any aspirations to quit acting at some point and do something else completely different?

Walker: You know, I talk about that all the time. The truth of the matter is, I think if I could just keep a rhythm of cutting out and then getting back in, if I could find a healthy balance, which I'm still struggling to find – that'd be perfect. Come back, maybe do a movie a year. I like making small movies, to be honest. That's probably my favorite. Coming in and working really hard for eight weeks. The ones no one sees? Those are the most gratifying ones. I don't know what it is.

Question: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that. I mean, are you at the point in your career where art is as important as money? Or vice versa?

Walker: Yeah. I mean, I take care of a lot of people, you know? I like supporting people, and helping out where I can.

Question: So, you've got to do this to get paid, and then you go off and do your –

Walker: But the money – for me, I live real simply, aside from my cars. I don't really have a whole lot. Not a lot of flash, that's for sure. And – but, yeah. It's like, I'm in a position where I'm going, "Hey, you know what? Money does come relatively easy for me. People have got to work really hard for it over there." For me to walk away from that, I think would be pretty tough, when I can just kick people down, you know? And, you know, that's my family. My Mom's getting – I want my Mom to retire soon, even though she refuses to.

Question: I think this is a date movie, because I think there's something for girls and something for guys. What do you see in this that is going to appeal to both sexes, in this?

Walker: I don't know. It's hard for me to be objective like that. I saw it for the first time last night, coming out. You know. It's like – I know what we set out to make. And it's like, you always – I want everything. I want to have my cake and eat it, too. I don't care what it is, you know? And this fulfills a certain part, certain piece. But it's not everything, you know? That's why I make this one, go make something – like, a Running Scared. That's my favorite movie I've been in, by far.

Question: You talked about doing another film.

Walker: With Wayne. We still talk about it.

Question: Yeah, what's up with that?

Walker: Talk is cheap. [LAUGHTER] It's just hard. You know, getting everything to line up. Financing, all that. You know, I had – there's a cool-off period for me. I took a little too much time away. So, I didn't have the – couldn't really justify throwing down – you know, X-amount of dollars on me to go make another small movie with Wayne Cramer. But something like this increases those odds. So, that's what we're hoping for right now.

Question: Did you shoot anything after Fast and Furious?

Walker: Yeah, I did one for Clint Culpepper at Screen Gems called – the title's going to change. It's called Bone Deep.

Question: So, what's the new title?

Walker: I don't know. It has TI, and Chris Brown.

Question: Who do you play in that?

Walker: I play a good bad guy. If you're to take Heat and cross it with Point Break, that's Bone Deep. It's fun. It's the same audience – it's a Fast and Furious audience.

Question: So, what can people look forward to with this new one, Bone Deep? Can you talk a little bit more about the story?

Walker: I'll tell you something that's pretty interesting, actually. The guy that wrote it, this guy John Luessenhop, he wrote it and – you guys remember The Italian Job heist? That was this screenplay. The way that they boosted that armored truck? Somebody stole it. We were the original. We're just coming out a little bit later. That's the background. That's truth right there. So in the movie, they felt like now that it was finally going, John was like, "You know what? We've got to come up with something new. A different way to pull off this heist." I hope I didn't reveal too much by saying this.

Question: So it's a heist movie.

Walker: Yeah. It's a heist movie. At one point, they talked about completely deviating from it and going a completely different direction, and coming up with something else. They said, "No, you know what? We were first. I was the one that wrote it. We're going to refer to it 'The Italian Job.'" [LAUGHTER] In the movie, "We're going to pull The Italian Job." I thought that was pretty cool. It's fun. You guys have probably talked with Hayden a bunch, right? I like Hayden a lot. That was a cool cast. Chris Brown's a good kid.

Question: So, what are your thoughts about his situation at this point?

Walker: It – it sucks, bro. You know, everybody screws up. People do dumb stuff. I'm not saying I don't sympathize with her. I mean, what went down, went down. But he's a really good kid, and he screwed up. That's it. Top of the world, man. He's got a lot going for him. What is he, maybe 20 now? He was 19 when we were working.

Question: Looks like he's still 19.

Walker: He's dealing with a lot. And just for that, I just – he's got a really sweet spirit. I know he's going to be fine. He's going to make it through it, and he's going to be good. I just hope that doesn't mess him up. I want him to be the way that he was, at the end of it.

Question: Has the press made too much of a big deal of it? Do you think the press plays a role in exacerbating these situations?

Walker: Yeah. I mean, if you were to ask her, what do you think she would say? Did she forgive him? Appears like it, right?

Question: But the city prosecutor doesn't think so.

Walker: Yeah. She loves him. She knows his situation, she knows his story. I think she's a smart girl. She's sticking around. I'm sure he's plenty sorry.

Question: Well, public opinion is definitely against him.

Walker: Yeah. I'm not.

Question: Were you upset that you didn't do as much of you own driving in this?

Walker: Do you regret it? Oh, it pissed me off, actually.

Question: Tell us what you really think about that. The real issue is, if you guys go to Europe and make another one, can you put it in your contract, "I demand doing certain stunts?" Or is it just totally –

Walker: They wouldn't get any insurance. There's no way. Not with the money they'd have to throw down. The studio, the investor. If I got hurt? Oh.

Question: Obviously, you're talking a little bit about it. Most of us think that the film's going to open pretty big. I mean, do you have any sort of, like, ideas of where you might see your character? Because without revealing anything, the end of the film leads you to believe that perhaps something new is going to be happening with this dynamic.

Walker: Yeah. I gotta tell you, that was a hard thing, too, me coming back and just accepting the screen play that we had. I was like – I'm sorry, but – that's not where Brian's at, in his head. I just didn't feel like he'd be in that world, as an FBI agent. I just didn't feel that was right. I felt like in his mind, he already had decided he was out. This wasn't for him. After letting Dom's character go in the first one, and after what happened with him and Tyrese in the second one. So, I was surprised to see that – what, he's a Fed?

Question: Yeah, the character always seemed conflicted about where it was he was supposed to be.

Walker: He hasn't figured it out yet? And so by the end of this one, I think that Brian is where I already felt that he was. It was a serious discussion. But like I said, writer's strike. They weren't having it. "Leave it, man. This story wrapped." I'm like, "Oh, sweet."

Question: So, you're going to blame it all on the writer's strike. Did you feel rushed when you were making this, though? Did it feel like, because of the strike, that you had to do this?

Walker: Going into the actor's strike and all that, potentially?

Question: Yeah.

Walker: Yeah, we had an out. I think we had a bumper, because we stared by a certain time. And we knew we had – I think we had a month. A month's space at the end of it.

Question: What kind of photography are you doing? You say you were interested in photography.

Walker: Lotta landscape. Portrait. I shoot a lot of different stuff. I just started playing with filters. More like – I guess, image manipulation, you know? I used to like shooting things as they were, and all just natural light. And now I'm at a point where anything I look at, I'm trying to figure out how to obscure it and make it look more abstract, or a little different. I hope one day to have a gallery.

Question: Oh, really?

Walker: I love Peter Lik. You guys have probably seen his galleries. He's a landscape and nature photographer. I really like his stuff.

Question: Would you do a book? Would you like to do, like, a coffee table book?

Walker: Yeah, something like that. Just with travels. I travel so much just doing this. I'm taking off on an international press tour here on Sunday.

Question: Where are you going to go?

Walker: Where am I not going? It's crazy. The only bummer is, I don't really get to spend any real time there. Just – pop in, pop out. But I'll run out and get a couple photos wherever I stop. See if I can't come back and put together something cool.

Question: What is your favorite subject matter? People, or landscapes, or cities?

Walker: I like it all. I really do. It started with – I think it started with people. It's my daughter. I started shooting her a lot. And then it turned in – I like to go hiking. I hike a lot. It's – you know, I started photographing flowers and different plants and weird bugs. And next thing I knew, I had a macro lens, and – you know. Just trying to figure out how to better shoot stuff.

Question: How old's your daughter now?

Walker: She's ten.

Question: Wow. I guess she would have been about two, when I first interviewed you. How are you finding balancing this career that you want with fatherhood, and all that stuff?

Walker: That's life, right? Is finding the balance. I'm not even close. But I'm getting better.