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Paul Walker: Obituary and tributes

Vehicle 19

Obituary by Jack Foley

US actor Paul Walker, known to millions of film fans as undercover agent Brian O’Conner in the Fast & Furious movies, has been killed in a car crash at the age of 40.

A statement issued via his Facebook page confirmed: “It is with a truly heavy heart that we must confirm that Paul Walker passed away today in a tragic car accident while attending a charity event for his organisation Reach Out Worldwide. He was a passenger in a friend’s car, in which both lost their lives. We… are stunned and saddened beyond belief by this news.”

Walker was pronounced dead at the scene following the accident in Valencia, north of Los Angeles, on Saturday, November 30, 2013.

Walker, the son of Cheryl (née Crabtree), a fashion model, and Paul William Walker III, a sewer contractor, was born in Glendale, California and raised in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County.

He actually began his acting career as a toddler, appearing in a TV commercial for Pampers, and began modelling at the age of two, before going on to work in TV shows such as Highway To Heaven and Touched By An Angel.

It was the latter series that is credited with giving him his big break, as Walker had begun to drift away from acting until a casting director, who had remembered him from years before, tracked him down and gave him a role in the TV series.

He later won a recurring part in the soap The Young and the Restless in 1996, which also enabled him to take the first steps towards making the transition to the big screen with supporting roles in Varsity Blues, She’s All That and The Skulls.

But then, in 2001, his life was transformed again when he won the role of Brian O’Conner in the first The Fast & The Furious film, which catapulted him onto a new level of fame.

He reprised the role of O’Conner for a second time in 2 Fast 2 Furious despite the absence of former co-star Vin Diesel, and also broke out as a leading man in his own right with roles in Roadkill and Into The Blue alongside Jessica Alba.

Although he departed the Fast & Furious franchise after the second film to continue to pursue other projects – including the Disney adventure Eight Below and Clint Eastwood’s World War II movie Flags of Our Fathers, he returned for the fourth installment once a cameo by Vin Diesel at the end of the Tokyo-set third film paved the way for the series to be rebooted.

Fast & Furious became the highest grossing film in the series up until that point and paved the way for future instalments that just continued to grow in size. Fast & Furious 5 quickly followed, set in Brazil, and once more surpassed the previous film’s achievements.

This summer, Fast & Furious 6 became one of the highest grossing films in Universal’s history, while a seventh film is currently in production. Walker had only recently confirmed in an interview that an eighth instalment was guaranteed.

Walker has also filmed Hurricane Katrina drama Hours, which is due to be released in the US on December 13, and Brick Mansions, a remake of the French action film District B13, for film studio Relativity.

Away from movies, Walker’s first passion was marine biology. He regularly cited his idol as being Jacques Cousteau and he joined the Board of Directors of The Billfish Foundation in 2006.

He fulfilled a lifelong dream by starring in a National Geographic Channel series Expedition Great White in 2010, which saw him spend 11 days as part of a crew, catching and tagging seven great white sharks off the coast of Mexico.

Also in 2010, Walker travelled to Chile, specifically to Constitución, to offer his help and support to the people injured in the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck on February 27.

He also flew with his humanitarian aid team, REACH OUT Worldwide, to Haiti to lend a helping hand to the 2010 Haiti earthquake victims. The actor had been leaving a charity event for Reach Out at the time of the fatal accident, together with a friend identified as Roger Rodas. Both men were killed in the incident.

Walker is survived by his daughter, Meadow Rain.

Tributes

Leading the tributes to Walker was his Fast and Furious co-star Vin Diesel, who wrote on his Instagram account: “Brother I will miss you very much. I am absolutely speechless. Heaven has gained a new Angel. Rest in Peace xxx”

In a second post he wrote: “My brother and I… we aimed for the stars together… and achieved more than we ever hoped we could with f&f.”

Another co-star Ludacris wrote on Instagram: “Your humble spirit was felt from the start, wherever you blessed your presence you always left a mark, we were like brothers & our birthdays are only 1 day apart, now You will forever hold a place in all of our hearts @paulwalker legacy will live on forever. R.I.P”

And Dwayne Johnson, who entered the franchise during the fifth entry, Tweeted: “All my strength, love & faith to the Walker family during this heartbreaking time. We find our strength.. in his light. Love you brother.”

James Wan, who directed Walker in three of the films (from 4 to 6) Tweeted: “I am so beyond heartbroken right now. I can’t process anything.”

Universal Pictures, the company behind the film franchise, released a statement saying: “All of us at Universal are heartbroken. Paul was truly one of the most beloved and respected members of our studio family for 14 years, and this loss is devastating to us, to everyone involved with the Fast and Furious films, and to countless fans.”

Mark Webb, who works on the set of the Fast and Furious films, told ABC News Radio: “As far as people go, they didn’t come any finer, any more gracious. He always treated everybody with respect. This one hurts. This one hit right in the gut on this one.”

Hollywood actress Goldie Hawn Tweeted: “Our family mourns the loss of Paul. A very special human being. Our prayers go his beloved family.”

Hawn’s husband, Kurt Russell, was filming Fast & Furious 7 with Walker.

Fellow actor Michael Ealy wrote: “My heart is crushed by the news that my friend Paul Walker passed away today. Prayers and light to his daughter and family right now.”

Actor James Franco wrote on Twitter: “So sad. He gave a lot of joy.”