Paul Walker for “The Fast and the Furious”

Paul Walker is Hollywood’s latest teen idol, but the star of the adrenalin-charged Fast and the Furious, doesn’t mind a bit, as he happily admits to Paul Fischer.

When movie hunk Paul Walker first appears on screen in the action thriller The Fast and the Furious, the young audience goes wild. The young actor, previously seen in The Skulls, doesn’t mind one bit, this whole teen idol thing, he admits while chatting at Universal Studios. “It might be bizarre but I definitely like it. There’s no getting around it and it definitely helps me out, if you know what I mean”, he says with a slight wink. No, he wouldn’t elaborate. “I think you get the idea”.

Perhaps his latest film, in which pumping male bodies become intertwined in the raucous world of illegal drag racing in The Fast and The Furious, may further ‘help him out’.

In this action-packed youth drama Walker plays Brian O’Conner, a young undercover Los Angeles detective. who must infiltrate a street gang in order to discover who is hijacking freight trucks. The Los Angeles police and FBI are convinced only skilled street racers could carry off the daring, high-speed heists with such precision. But O’Connor becomes more entrenched in this world than he ever though possible.

The 28-year old Walker, whose films include Varsity Blues, Pleasantville, She’s All That, Brokedown Palace and The Skulls, was a natural for the role.  He admits he’s probably “the illegal U-turn king of L.A. I just got my licence back after having it suspended for getting too many speeding and illegal turn tickets. I was still driving the whole time, but with my fingers crossed”.

This frenetic world of illegal dragsters was a far cry from his childhood being educated “in a proper Catholic High School” but the LA native soon turned to modelling. “My mother was a model and not long after I was born, my mum’s old agent asked her to come in and do a little modelling. When my mom told her she had a baby, she told her to bring me along”. Walker ended up getting more work than his mother.

While still in high school, Walker fell in love – with Surfing. “Surfing soothes me,” he says. “It’s always been a kind of Zen experience for me. The ocean is so magnificent, peaceful and awesome. The rest of the world disappears for me when I’m on a wave, and I love to see the sea animals and stuff. It’s an incredible world down there”. In fact, Walker even contemplated studying marine biology at one point and started it at college. “I got into school and realised there were a whole bunch of other things that I liked. I had friends graduating in Chemistry and Science who were just miserable and I thought: There was no way I was going to be that guy”. So he quit, for a very unacademic LA life of “smoking bowels [dope] and living out of a garage for a while”. He recalls going “nowhere fast” but having fun “and panhandling and Magic Mountain; I could make a good 500 bucks in 6 hours, it was a great way to NOT make a living”.

The good times ended, of sorts, when his former agent called to ask him to audition for a role in Touched By An Angel. It was the part of a surfer, “which is why the casting guy knew I was perfect for the role”. He got the part and a week later was cast in Pleasantville. Young Paul hasn’t looked back since. “I figured that acting was a great way to make money so I could continue surfing and avoid real responsibility”.

The Skulls producer Neal Moritz and director Rob Cohen encouraged him to be more serious about his career. They told him he reminded them of a young Steve McQueen, and insisted they wanted to work with him again. Moritz asked the young actor what he would like to do next.

“I told Neal I really wanted to play an undercover cop,” Walker says. “I had no idea that Rob had been researching the illegal racing scene in L.A. About a month later, Neal and Rob came to me with their idea to set a film in this subculture of street racing. They told me I could play a cop, drive fast cars, make out with a beautiful leading lady and they’d actually pay me. I mean, hey man, a young guy’s fantasy come true”. The car racing aspect of the film ended up striking a deeper chord than playing cop.

“My grandfather raced factory cars for Ford in the 1960s, so the speed thing is in my blood, and  my dad still races cars. And now I race cars. I imported a Nissan from Japan”. No wonder “the whole idea behind The Fast And The Furious really spoke to me,” Walker recalls..

Walker prepared for Fast and the Furious, firstly by attending an actual illegal drag meet in the outskirts of LA. “It was everything Rob promised and much more,” Walker recalls. “The police raided the meet and everyone scattered. My buddy drove off without me and I found myself engaged in a long foot race with a couple of cops who were in their car. I ended up alone on the freeway”. It was such a powerful real-life moment, that director Cohen even worked it into the movie.

With this movie destined to get many hearts pumping, Walker is ready to come to terms within his continued adulation, but of course wants to be taken more seriously. “I know that I got a lot of my early roles because of the way I look, but I hope I’m putting all that past me”.

But acting has its rewards. In The Fast And The Furious Walker not only got to attend a racing school in Las Vegas but kiss his gorgeous co-star Jordana Brewster, who plays his love interest. Walker says he didn’t dare  get too physical, even in their more passionate scenes, because “Jordana was still dating Mark Wahlberg when we were filming, and there were rumours he intended to show up unannounced for the love scenes. Mark’s not a guy I want to tangle with,” he adds laughingly.

In real life, Walker says he’s still single, continues to surf, race cars and looking for “the ideal movie role”, adding that now he has fulfilled a fantasy of playing cop and dragster on screen, he yearns to “be in a period western. I want to wear a cowboy hat and ride horses”. Apparently he can add horseracing to his list of credits.