I am so sick to my stomach right now and I have so much grief welling up inside me that I don’t know what to do about it. I want to tell you about the real Paul Walker. People may refer to him forever as the hot blond guy from the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise, but he was so much more that that. He was a loving father and a wonderful man. I had the pleasure of working with him on ‘Running Scared’, and he left me with some things that will stick with me forever.
‘Running Scared’ was a very difficult movie to shoot. There were only a handful of us Americans that came over to Prague to shoot the movie; the rest of the crew was Czech. To galvanize the crew, I conspired with Paul to organize a weekly bowling match at the Bowling Centrum in the heart of the city. I bought a bright yellow t-shirt with the Czech cartoon character Krteček on it. It was to be the bowling trophy for the winner of the night. With a gleam in his eye, Paul took home that damned t-shirt every week in a row, until we started handicapping him by (eventually) 100 points, and he would still win.
Paul was a competitive person, but a generous man. As much as he liked to win, he would always help the kids (Cameron Bright and Alex Neuberger) to be better bowlers – and actors, too. He was a ray of sunshine in our world on that movie, and his incredible perseverance, drive and positive attitude lifted all of us toward a common goal.
If you’ve seen the film, you might remember the scene where Joey Gazelle (Paul) is taken to an ice rink and tortured by Ivan Yugorsky (John Noble) and his hockey-playing henchmen. This scene took forever to shoot, and Paul had to be face down on the ice, dripping blood from his nose and mouth for five straight days – a miserable proposition for anyone. Before each take, Paul would smile, shake his shoulders, and shout “Let’s DO THIS!” Then he would kneel, crouch, and lie down for hours of cinematic torture. His unstoppable spirit – the devotion and commitment to this role, this movie, this crew, this director – moved me profoundly. We knew he was miserable, but he was doing this for US, and for YOU, the audience. He was my hero instantly, and I think back to that moment in the ice rink when times get tough. This is for US. This is for YOU.
I can’t grasp the fact that he is gone. His light is too vibrant to fade, his smile too bright to be dimmed. I think about his darling daughter and his brother, both of whom he loved so much, as well as his family, countless friends and coworkers who comprised his world. Their loss is unimaginable. This guy was a good guy. One of the REAL good guys. A mensch. A legend. A hero.
Paul Walker should not be remembered as a beautiful face or as that guy from ‘Fast & Furious’. He was so much more than that. His love of nature and adventure and his zest for life were so massive; his heart was so big. He did not waste time here, people, and we can all learn from that. He didn’t talk about doing stuff; he did it. He lived.
I was hoping that I’d get the chance to see him again, if for nothing else but to give him a hug and return the surfboard he’d lent me for a photo shoot. Now, I won’t get that chance. My heart is breaking for his family and friends. I’m so sad that his story ends here – that the world will never get to fully know Paul Walker the person. His death is a tragedy, and he will be profoundly missed by everyone he touched.
I taught him to play the Rolling Stones song “Wild Horses” on guitar, and I’d like to leave you with that for tonight. It’s going to be a bit of a totem for me. When I hear that song, I will think of him and wish he was still here with us. Rest in peace, my beautiful buddy. Until we meet again.