Paul Walker never seems to lose his enthusiasm. Talking up his latest film, the sci-fi actioner Timeline, the young star who achieved fame in The Fast and the Furious, laughingly shrugs off his status as a teen icon, even at age 30. “I’m not going to fight it,” says Walker, as we chat in a Los Angeles hotel suite.
“I’ve had a really long run as a teen icon with the movies I’ve done of late, but I can think there are some 25-year-old girls out there who think I’m all right,” Walker adds, smilingly. He says that he can fight the whole teen icon thing by “not doing teen people any more or those types of publications. But I do them, because they’re the reason why I’m working; people are going back and seeing Fast And The Furious 20 times over, so I love this audience.”
Walker says that his escalating fame doesn’t preclude him from living a normal life. “I don’t go to malls. There are limitations, but it’s not near as bad as people make it out to be. The thing of it is, with my family and friends, I ask them: look, don’t read the magazines. Anything you do hear, I don’t want to hear, so just kind of keep it to yourselves. You just kind of go through life pretending that nothing’s happening. . . The core thing fore me is I just try to come off as a regular guy to everybody. With kids, it’s really easy because they just think I’m this cool guy. They don’t go – oh, he’s like this actor that’s in these cool movies. It’s just: oh that guy’s cool! He drives cars! He’s always got a good-looking girl. They just want to see me be a cool nice guy. So when I’ve got a 15-16-year-old come up to me, it’s like: hey, what’s up?? What’s going on?” Walker says that he refuses to even read what’s written about him, and perhaps that is why he is kept grounded. “I can’t read anything. I live my life and just pretend that nothing’s happening. People go up to me and say: oh, you’re in such-and-such today, and I go really? I just tune it out. I even avoid newsstands. The only time I can’t avoid it is when am at the grocery store, and it irks me. You know, I check out stands and I go you son of a –! You don’t look. You try to pass right by it.”
When talking to Walker, one is immediately struck by his genuine sense of reality and lack of pretensions. He loves the attention and the perks of movie stardom, he says, but not selfishly. “I like being treated nice, but when people treat you nice, you treat them nicer in return.”
Perhaps, one of the reasons for Walker’s philosophy is that all this fame and adulation can one day stop. “I’ve thought about that before, but like I said, I like where I am right now, but there are still moments when I’m overwhelmed by what I’m doing, when I think: Man, I don’t really fit, I’m not a movie star. I was never built for this. I really thought I’ve live a pretty simple life and I’ve be a marine biologist or maybe build custom homes.”
Walker set about studying Marine Biology and ventured into acting by accident. Still an avid surfer, but a chance meeting with an agent changed all of that. The likes of Pleasantville, Varsity Blues, She’s All That, The Skulls and The Fast and the Furious put the young actor on the industry’s radar, and for Paul Walker, the heat continues with his starring role in Timeline, about a group of archaeologists who venture back to the 14th century to save Billy Connolly’s character in the midst of the Hundred Years War. While Walker is the most recognisable name, he loved being part of an enthusiastic ensemble. “I’ve got to tell you, the best thing about it is there are so many more personalities to deal with on set, and when personalities are difficult, it can actually create a better situation,” Walker explains. “You’ve got a lot of people, and everyone wants to get their screen time, and feel they’re being rightfully served and they get their opportunity to do this or do that with their character. And, you know, they don’t want every scene to be stolen from, say, Joe over there, and that sort of thing. When you just kind of set the tone – look, I’m a team player. I look at it, and I know everybody wants their moment, and everybody wants to do this and everybody wants to do that. It’s like a team sport making a movie.”
Walker chose Timeline as his next project “because it’s Richard Donner, and I’ve grown up on his movies. The Goonies, next to Star Wars and Indiana Jones, was like my favourite movie growing up like a kid. I’ve seen it I don’t know how many times. And I loved Ladyhawke, because I’ve always loved fantasy. I like the medieval period. I’ve always had this intense fascination from the time I was a little kid with swords and knights. That stuff’s cool. I love this period. The science fiction aspect, I don’t really care. To me, the real draw was medieval France. That’s cool,” Walker says with boyish enthusiasm.
The actor continues to devote time to his five-year old daughter while juggling a high profile acting career, which may or may not include a Fast and the Furious 3. “I think I’l do a third one, to be honest with you. Walking around the streets, kids come up to me. I always ask which they like more, and the consensus is that the sequel was better because the action and the car sequences are better. Will you do a third one? And I say: I don’t know. Well, if you do a third one, who’s going to be in it – Tyrese or Vin? Well, I don’t know. And they say: Well, it should be Tyrese because Vin’s ego precluded him from being in the second one. So my whole thing is: I don’t want them saying that about me. Because the studio will go and make a third one, and in a way I’ve feel that I was letting these kids down. And on top of it, it’s a great time, and I’ve get paid a lot of money.”
In the meantime, Walker has a change of pace with the Indie film Noël, directed by Chazz Palmanteri, and featuring the likes of Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Penelope Cruz and Alan Arkin. “That’s in the top five in terms of the things I’ve read, an emotional roller coaster Christmas story, which ends with you feeling really good, but completely worn out. You’l go straight to bed after you see this movie, but every year, with your significant other, maybe with your family, I think you’re going to pop it in your DVD player and watch it and you’l all pass out real happy.”
Walker, who is spending his spare time these days “team roping, cowboy style for last several months” is eager to do a western. “I grew up on Westerns. I love Clint Eastwood.” Asked if he has an urge to maybe play someone old and ugly, Walker smiles. “I’l be old later.”