The Fast & Furious series is one of the less likely franchises in modern Hollywood history. It needed Paul Walker. He was the linchpin, back at the beginning. The first film was conceived as a Walker star vehicle. This was back when he was the guy from Varsity Blues and She’s All That and The Skulls. The latter film, mostly forgotten nowadays, was directed by Rob Cohen — and it was Cohen who thought of Walker for a film that was originally titled Red Line, based partially on a Vibe article and at least a little bit on Point Break. It was possible to go into a movie theater in the summer of 2001 thinking that The Fast and the Furious was a Paul Walker movie. He was the blond blue-eyed star. He played Brian O’Conner, an undercover police officer. Of course, he broke bad. He couldn’t help himself. He met Vin Diesel.
Walker’s career was defined by the Fast & Furious films. He starred in five of them, and was not yet finished filming Fast 7 when he died. Even Walker’s non-Fast roles felt like O’Conner variations. Character arcs trended vehicular: the trucker-terror pulp gem Joy Ride (he drove a Chrysler), the manic thriller Running Scared (he drove a red convertible), the little-seen Vehicle 10 (he drove a rental car). If he wasn’t driving something, he was usually heisting somebody: in Takers, or in the underrated beach-bum thriller Into the Blue.
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