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ByJon O'Brien/March 5, 2023 7:15 am EST
Having parlayed his teen idol beginnings in the likes of "She's All That" and "The Skulls" into action hero status— most notably fronting the never-ending and increasingly elaborate "Fast and Furious" series alongside Vin Diesel— Paul Walker looked destined to enjoy a long and fruitful Hollywood career.
Of course, the heartthrob's life was cut tragically short in 2013 when the Porsche Carrera GT he was a passenger in collided with two trees and a concrete lamp post and subsequently burst into flames. Walker died instantly at the age of just 40.
But that wasn't the end of the movie star's story. Thanks to the wonders of CGI, he would go to appear posthumously in another chapter of his most high-octane franchise. And a whole host of tales and facts have since emerged to paint a broader picture of the man behind the poster boy looks. From random acts of kindness and wedding duties to failed auditions and final words, here's a look at 14.
Paul Walker auditioned to play Superman
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Paul Walker may have fronted one of the most successful movie series of the 21st century. But did you know that he very nearly got the chance to showcase his action hero talents in an even more fantastical universe?
In an interview with "The Howard Stern Show" in 2023, Brendan Fraser revealed that back in his post-"The Mummy" early '00s days, he'd been in the pipeline to play none other than the Man of Steel himself, Superman. And the Oscar nominee spotted several other famous faces in the audition room, too, including a certain blue-eyed, blonde-haired hearthrob.
Fraser recalled, "Everyone in town was reading for Superman. I think six or seven guys in 2002/2003 [tested]. Paul Walker, I remember Paul Walker was before me. They were like the usual suspects." The project in question was "Superman: Flyby," a big-screen caper scripted by J.J. Abrams which sadly never got off the ground anyway. According to the 2018 documentary "I Am Paul Walker," the star also turned down a later offer to wear the famous red, blue and yellow lycra in what was presumably Bryan Fuller's "Superman Returns."
Paul Walker paid for a stranger's diamond ring
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Paul Walker's reputation as one of Hollywood's nice guys gained further credence shortly after his tragic death when a story emerged about his incredible generosity. In an interview with CBS Los Angeles, military vet Kyle Upham revealed that his wife Kristen's diamond ring was paid for by the "Eight Below" star.
In 2004, the pair visited a jewelry store in Santa Barbara shortly before Kyle was due to head out to the Middle East for a second tour of duty. Somehow, they got chatting with a fellow browser and one who looked remarkably familiar. Kristen said, "And when he found out Kyle just came back from Iraq — I remember seeing the look in his face. He kind of transformed."
Kyle and Kristen had been looking at one particular ring but its $9,000 price tag meant that they left the store empty-handed. However, soon after they were asked to head back for a surprise, with the latter recalling, "One of the ladies came out holding a bag and just said, 'Here's your ring.' I think both of our mouths dropped." Although the staff kept tight-lipped about who had paid for the item, the Uphams worked out that it was the Hollywood heartthrob they'd just encountered. In the wake of Walker's tragic death, one of the store employees confirmed that this was the case.
A last-minute text ultimately led to Paul Walker's death
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Paul Walker famously lost his life in a car crash just moments after leaving a toy donation event staged by his own charity Reach Out Worldwide. But if it hadn't been for a last-minute text message earlier that morning, the "Into the Blue" star would probably have been busy picking out Christmas trees at the tragic moment instead.
In "I Am Paul Walker," adocumentary which aired five years after Walker's 2013 passing, mum Cheryl Walker revealed that the toy drive had completely slipped her son's mind until he received a reminder just hours before it was due to start. She recalled (via People), "We were having this good conversation, and he'd forgotten about an event he had. He got a text and said, 'Oh my gosh, I'm supposed to be somewhere!'"
Cheryl, who'd been sitting at the kitchen table with Paul and his teenage daughter Meadow at the time the message came through, went on to pay tribute to her oldest child: "I think so many people think 'Oh, he was just a movie star who was killed in a car accident.' But there was so much more to him. That was just a piece of who he was. He was an amazing man."
Paul Walker's last words were about driving
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On the afternoon of his tragic death, Paul Walker attended a toy donating drive staged by his Reach Out Worldwide charity in aid of Typhoon Haiyan's victims. And it was here where the "Fast and Furious" star uttered his last-known words.
Speaking to the press at the scene of the Santa Clarita crash that took Walker's life, Jim Thorp revealed (via Mirror)the last thing that his friend said before leaving the event were "Hey, let's go for a drive." The actor subsequently got into a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT with driver Roger Rodas for a ride which would end in the most tragic of circumstances.
Referencing one of Walker's most famous films, Thorp said he took some comfort from the fact that the actor perished doing what he loved: "He lived his life and he died fast and furious ... He loved speed, he loved cars, and he had to die this way. He died in a very fast car with his friend."
Paul Walker planned to team up with Nick Hogan
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In the wake of Paul Walker's shocking death in 2013, Linda Hogan— ex-wife of the wrestling legend Hulk— told TMZthat there was an unlikely connection between the actor and her son. In fact, the two had been preparing to go into business together.
Linda claimed that Paul and Nick Hogan had become good friends over a shared passion: "They loved to do the cars together, they were planning on opening a shop together. They were thinking basically a place to store their 'toys.' Paul was a super good person, he did so much for charity."
According to Linda, Paul's charity efforts were also set to include her son's initiative. After nearly losing his life in a street racing incident six years previously, Nick had founded Keep It On the Track, an organization designed to keep the kind of vehicles involved in his crash off public roads. The reality TV star alleged that the Hollywood heartthrob had agreed to help raise its profile.
Paul Walker had two major films in the pipeline
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Paul Walker had already started filming for the seventh chapter of the "Fast and Furious" franchise before suffering fatal injuries in a car crash in December 2013. And the combination of CGI and his lookalike brothers ensured that audiences could still get to see him in the finished product one last time.
However, two other films that had cast Walker in leading roles were left with no other option but to recast. The actor had bagged the part of Dawson Cole in the adaptation of Nicholas Sparks "The Best Of Me," the story of two high school sweethearts who reconnect a quarter-century on. And he'd also landed the titular role in video game adaptation "Hitman: Agent 47."
Rupert Friend was asked to step into Walker's gun-toting shoes, while James Marsden took over the more romantic of the two roles. And the latter had nothing but kind words to say about the late actor in a chat with Us Weekly: "All I can say about that is he is just one of those tremendous actors that was even that much more special of a human being. There was a wonderful energy about him and he was a terrific actor. You always want to be good stepping into a role like this but [it] felt a little bit more of an honor to play this role because of him."
Paul Walker served as his brother's best man just weeks before his death
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Although Paul Walker had serious relationships with Jasmine Pilchard-Gosnell and the mother of his only child Meadow, Rebecca Soteros, he never made it to the marriage phase. The actor did, however, get to play a part in his brother Caleb's wedding as his best man. And it sadly proved to be the last family event that he attended.
Just six weeks before losing his life in a car accident, Walker and youngest sibling Cody stepped up to the plate for the nuptials between Caleb and Stephanie Branch at California's Dove Canyon Country Club. Photos from the occasion which emerged after his death showed the "Joyride" star delivering a toast to the bride and groom while wearing a sharp designer suit.
Sadly, Paul would never get to see his own daughter tie the knot. In 2021, Meadow said "I do" to Louis Thornton-Allan after being walked down the aisle by her late father's "Fast and Furious" co-star Vin Diesel.
Paul Walker was vulnerable while filming 2 Fast 2 Furious
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It's now hard to think of a "Fast and the Furious" film without Vin Diesel. But after steering the 2001 original to box office glory and before returning for its triumphant 2009 reboot, the muscle man swerved the franchise for two chapters. And his absence in the 2003 sequel apparently left co-star Paul Walker feeling exposed.
In a 2021 interview with Entertainment Weekly, "2 Fast 2 Furious" favorite Tyrese Gibson revealed that Walker had some insecurities about carrying on without his former partner in crime: "Paul really felt vulnerable after making the decision to proceed without Vin." The actor went on to say how director John Singleton tried his best to put Walker at ease throughout the shoot, ensuring that he knew the responsibility for the movie's success wouldn't be his alone.
It was an approach which paid dividends, according to Gibson: "Everything about us and our banter and our true collaboration with "2 Fast," it was a plan that we came up with, like, I don't want to upstage you, you're not on a mission to upstage me. This s*** is really about us saying, some way, somehow, there's a sequel to this thing, and how about we just do the best we can to make it great?"
Paul Walker helped Vin Diesel overcome his fatherhood fears
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Vin Diesel is now the proud father of three children with Paloma Jimenez, daughters Hania and Pauline and son Vincent. But before becoming a parent for the first time, the muscle man was particularly apprehensive about one aspect of the whole process: the delivery room. Luckily, he had his "Fast and Furious" co-star on hand to give him some much-needed advice.
Eight years after Paul Walker lost his life in a car crash, Diesel took to Instagram to share how the late actor had been a source of comfort during such an uncertain time. He wrote (via Independent)"I told you that I was about to have a baby and didn't know what to expect at the hospital which I was heading to after work. Will never forget what you told me."
Diesel, who named his third child after Walker, went on to add, "You said a lot of tough guys will tell you to wait out side of the delivery room, but that's wrong. Go in there, actually cut the umbilical cord and it will be the best day of your life. You of course, was talking from experience, having already an angel of your own." The action hero is also godfather to the aforementioned angel, Meadow Walker.
Paul Walker still had anxieties about his talent
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The story of a father attempting to protect his young daughter's life during Hurrican Katrina, 2013's "Hours" was the first film starring Paul Walker to be released following his untimely death. Unlike his work on "Furious 7, the actor had already completed all his scenes for the disaster movie. In fact, it was released just two weeks after the car crash which cost him his life.
As a man who'd already fronted one of the most successful film franchises of the 21st century, as well as box office hits such as "Eight Below" and "Varsity Blues," you might have expected Walker to be comfortable with his leading man persona by that point. But "Hours" director Eric Heisserer told CNN that it was actually the contrary.
When asked about whether Walker ever appeared to carry the weight of the movie on his shoulders, the filmmaker replied, "He never seemed to balk at that during the shoot. He confessed to me later that it did scare him many a night. He'd go home and worry that he wasn't doing enough."
Paul Walker inspired his younger brother's passion for cars
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It's perhaps little surprise that Cody Walker ended up being a car enthusiast. After all, his oldest brother Paul Walker starred in the most pedal-to-the-metal film series of all time. And with a 15-year-gap between them, he constantly looked up to the Hollywood star.
Cody went on to launch FuelFest, an event designed to celebrate his late sibling and the passion they shared. And in an interview with Metro, he credited Paul with inspiring his need for speed: "Being the younger brother by so many years, he really made a big impact on me and my life and influenced me in so many ways. And cars being one of them. Absolutely, [it's] all due to him."
And it wasn't just on the big screen that Paul showcased his love of motoring. Cody, who alongside brother Caleb helped to complete the actor's final performance in "Furious 7," added, "When he wasn't modifying his cars and collecting cars, he was at the racetrack honing his skills, and learning how to be a real proper driver."
Paul Walker fought for a Fast and Furious star's return
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After appearing alongside Paul Walker in "2 Fast 2 Furious," Tyrese Gibson went AWOL from the franchise for several installments. And he would probably have still remained absent if it hadn't been for the determination of his late co-star.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly's "Binge" podcastGibson revealed that Walker had to plead with producers to bring his character back for "Fast Five" having had his previous requests fall on deaf ears: "... It was a fight, man. I think there was some type of spoken but yet unspoken tension in and around Roman Pearce, and where do I fit in? And I think after hanging out with a Vin a few times before we did "Five," he realized quickly that I'm more of an asset ..."
Gibson, whose former convict has appeared in every chapter since, went on to add, "There's way more upside to what I'm bringing to the franchise over it ever even remotely being considered competition or anything that anybody should be worried about."
Paul Walker wanted to be a park ranger
One of Paul Walker's first major film roles was in "Meet the Deedles," a broad comedy in which he and Steve Van Wormer played surfer dudes who, in a hilarious mishap, get mistaken for National Park Service rangers.
The 1998 comedy bombed with both critics and audiences alike, grossing less than a fifth of its $24 million budget. But the flop still appeared to give Walker a taste for the outdoor life. In fact, according to the 2018 documentary "I Am Paul Walker," the heartthrob often dreamed about abandoning his Tinseltown career to become a park ranger in real life.
Viewers of MTV's "Cribs" may remember that Walker had previously shown off his love of the great outdoors during a tour of the RV that the actor and his family used to vacation in. Wayne Kramer, who directed the star in "Running Scared," also remarked (via The Hollywood Reporter), "When Paul wasn't in L.A. making movies, he wasn't even in the country. He would be in the Amazon. He would be diving with sharks." The doc suggests that the only reason he didn't commit to his ambition was that he wanted to make sure that his daughter Meadow was financially secure.
Paul Walker had thought about his funeral arrangements
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You might not have expected Paul Walker to have thought about funeral arrangements, having only celebrated his 40th birthday just a few months before losing his life in a tragic car accident. But in a documentary about the actor screened five years later, it was revealed that he had made at least one request.
In "I Am Paul Walker," the star's family disclosed that they said their final goodbye to the "Fast and Furious" actor with a Viking farewell, a custom which, according to daughter Meadow, he'd previously talked about having. This involved building a ship and then setting it afloat with Walker's ashes on board.
A tearful Ashlie Walker, the sister of the one-time "The Young and The Restless" star, told the cameras that this intimate ceremony had been one of the few moments of comfort during such a difficult period.