News of Paul Walker’s tragic death this past Saturday took me immediately back to 2001, when ‘The Fast and the Furious’ was king, a film as yet without a franchise.
It had everything going for it: young, hip stars in Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster; a cool soundtrack; a proven-winner plot (‘Point Break’ anyone?); and enough angst and rebellion to draw in the disaffected youth of the day.
Just like yours truly.
I have no problem admitting I was a devotee. Most of us were: it was 2001 and I was about to graduate from high school. I had a chip on my shoulder and a desire to be cool…and nothing was cooler than ‘The Fast and the Furious’. As soon as it came out, everyone wanted to be a street racer. I wanted to be a street racer. More specifically, I wanted to be Paul Walker.
I couldn’t be Vin Diesel: I didn’t have the physique or the presence. But Paul Walker (in the guise of his character, Brian O’Connor) – now him I could be…
Skinny white boy in jeans and a T-shirt?
Boyish charm and a sense of justice?
Souped-up Japanese import?
Ch… Not so much. Unfortunately my second-hand Magna wasn’t going to cut it. The closest I ever got to being a street racer was a passing interest in automotives and my dreams.
I eventually stopped wanting to be…or at least imitate…Paul Walker, and my fascination with cars eventually died down.
I watched the subsequent films in the ‘Fast & Furious ‘ franchise like everyone else, and enjoyed them. None of them exhibited the same zeitgeist qualities though as the first, even as they morphed into action instead of racing movies. They kept on pleasing the crowds, and thus we made it this far…
Who knows if ‘Fast & Furious 7’ will ever be finished now that one of its stars has died mid-filming? All I know is I’ve lost what felt like a friend – a periodic companion you could count on to keep you entertained for 2 hours every couple of years.
So here’s to you Paul Walker: you bowed out like James Dean, so maybe your stardom will endure too. Hopefully your performances will continue to entertain us, even as the circumstances of your passing serve as a warning about the dangers of unsafe driving, whatever form they may take.