By Tim Nasson
Paul Walker: ‘Racing is so sexual. How can it not be?’
Universal Studios, Universal City, CA – Those familiar with the gorgeous man’s man Paul Walker know that his greatest passion in life is surfing. Since none of the movies he has starred in so far (The Skulls, Varsity Blues, She’s All That) have given him the ability to show off his surfing talents, he is content to explain in great detail his experiences of falling off waves and crashing into sand. While others his age have tattoos and piercing which they’re proud to display, Walker has many scars to prove his love for surfing, and he’s not too shy to reveal them. Lifting his T-shirt and turning around, he exposes his tanned back and proudly proclaims, “This is my newest one.” He received the gash on his lower back, now scabbed over, when falling off a big wave on the Southern Californian coast. His back and arms are scarred with many other memories of the wild waves.
On the back lot of Universal Studios one recent, hot summer morning, surrounded by cars that were used in The Fast and the Furious, Walker admits he is 27 going on 19. It doesn’t hurt that he was blessed with genes to help that notion along. “My mother was a model and my father was a two-time Golden Glove when they met,” Walker says, perhaps explaining his uncommonly good looks and penchant for the wilder side. “My license is suspended right now for too many speeding tickets,” he admits hesitantly. “I am the king of the illegal U-turn.
I still drive, though. I have to drive. How else would I get to the waves? I probably drive over 30,000 miles a year, all the way up and down the Southern California coast in search of the perfect wave. I am very mobile.”
I tell Walker he’d better watch out, driving without a license. He’d certainly be the most popular prison inmate if he got caught.
Walker’s latest film, The Fast and the Furious, takes the world of illegal drag racing to new speeds. “I loved working with Rob [Cohen] on The Skulls, and told him that I wanted to work on his next film, no matter what it was.” Cohen had read a story in Vibe magazine about illegal street-racing and decided to turn it into a big-screen treatment, replete with a story of undercover cops, murder, gangs, robbery, love and redemption. And Cohen had nobody else in mind for his lead other than Walker. “He is a teen heartthrob who has grown into manhood with a great combination of male beauty, intelligence, heart and testosterone,” Cohen says.
“He said that? Well,” Walker says, slightly embarrassed, “I don’t know if I want to be called a beauty. Maybe handsome, but not beautiful.”
Walker made his professional acting debut on television’s “Touched by an Angel”. That small guest role landed him roles in films and instilled in him the love for acting. “I love epic action movies.”
Before landing the lead in The Fast and the Furious, Walker drove fast, but always in domestic cars. The cars featured in his new movie are all imports with expensive enhancements to both body and engine. “I had to get one of those,” he says. “I bought a Nissan Skyline. I had it imported from Japan. It had to be revamped, though, before I could drive it. All that EPA garbage. I had side-impact beams put in, too. It’s in the shop now, though, because I burned the clutch.”
To practice for his role, Walker dove into the underground drag racing scene. “It’s crazy, really,” he says of the thousands of black and Latino teenagers, boys and girls, who line their cars up each night in a deserted part of Los Angeles, mostly near warehouses, to see who is the best. “It’s only 10 seconds and a quarter of a mile, but
those 10 seconds are what these kids live for. They spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on their cars for a 10-second rush. But I guess to them, it’s like surfing to me. Racing is so sexual, too. How can it not be? With all that speed. It awakens just about every sense in your body.”
One night, while watching the illegal races, Walker was chased by the police. “They just swarm in on you if they find out where the races are,” he says. “I was in this really scary part of town where three freeways meet each other. It was easy for the kids who had cars to escape, but I had ridden there with some dude who was part of the scene, and he took off. I was by myself. The cops were in their cars chasing me while I was on foot. It seemed like a real movie. I got away, though. They could only drive one way on the freeway, so I ran the other way and finally got picked up by the dude who drove me to the races. He came back looking for me.”
Though Walker has worked in New York City, modeling and acting, he does not see himself as a permanent resident there. “I am an LA boy. I am always struggling in NYC to find a piece of the sky. Forget about any plant life. Whenever I find a bush, I bow down and pay homage to it,” he says, laughing.
Walker can’t wait to get back to surfing. “I don’t have much time right now. I have to talk to guys like you to promote the movie. Too bad we couldn’t have done the interview on the waves,” he says.
In his next movie, Joy Ride, Walker plays a bad ass who impersonates a girl.
“Yeah, I get to pretend to be a girl, but I don’t have to dress up like one. I only change my voice. Joy Ride is about two dudes driving across the country harassing truck drivers on their CBs. We pretend to be girls, and lure them to truck stops.”
Paul Walker Interview with Tim Nasson for The Fast and the Furious