I had seen The Fast and the Furious (part one) and thought it was a decent action flick but it didn’t stick with me, so once the franchise began expanding I didn’t make any effort to see the follow up films. Eventually, I ended up working for a publication that required me to cover TV and film, and got invited to a set visit for Fast Five. Set visits are when members of the press get invited to check out the behind the scenes production of a film in progress, as well as interview some of the cast.
During that period of time, we conducted group interviews with several of the cast members. They were brought out one by one, we fired off our questions and they went back to filming. For most of us, being on set was cool but as we began speaking with some of the stars of the film–think the ones with the biggest names–I noticed that there was a lot of ego, which always bores me and causes my attention span to shut down. To be obviously clear without dropping names, the racially ambiguous main star of the franchise and a certain chocolatey R&B singer who doles out ratchet love advice both seemed to feel that they were gracing us with their almighty presences and it felt like we were supposed to be grateful…or something. They weren’t complete jerks but their respective hubris was palpable. One kept skating around us in a circle on a new scooter and eventually began giving out advice (because of a silly fan girl reporter who went there) while the other spoke to us in a tone that suggested a Johnny Bravo level of, “I know I’m fly.” It was amusing. I still could care less, though.
Eventually, Paul Walker came out and most of us were disinterested until his demeanor was noticeably more down-to-Earth. I wasn’t going to write about this until I started reading comments from people who seemed to feel that Paul Walker was “too cute to die.” People say and believe a lot of ridiculous things, but to talk about someone’s death in the superficial is something that needs to be called out. Death is an arbitrary fact of life that does not discriminate based on looks, age, race or socioeconomic status. Logically, we all know this but in practice, not so much. So, my contribution to this situation is to mention that one of the things that struck me most about Paul Walker was his humility and how much he seemed to be a family man. While the aforementioned stars were being braggadocio and childish, Paul talked often about how he made it a point to call his daughter at least twice a day, once in the morning and once at night, whenever he could, despite the work schedule. In addition, he lit up when he talked about the camaraderie on set and lessons he learned from his castmates.
And just like that, something about his energy in 30 minutes piqued more of my interest in Paul as an actor and in the Fast series. I never became a super stan with a fan club, posters and screen savers but a genuine personality goes a long way. I didn’t know him but I’m glad that of all the stories I can tell about any celebrity that I’ve met, I remember him fondly. I’m terribly sorry for his family and their loss, especially his little girl.
In related news, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Roger Rodas, the other soul who died with Paul.
We live in this culture where people worship celebrities for all the wrong reasons and in situations like this, the “other guys” get eclipsed. I know we often feel like we know celebrities from media reports and other images we see, so it seems more personal when things happen to them but my heart goes out to Roger Rodas as well.
Like I said, death is a fact of life but admittedly, I’m guilty of expecting people who die to be 90-year-olds that die in their sleep. At least that way you can rest easier knowing that they lived a full life and went peacefully. However, accidents and murder seem to take an even heavier toll on emotional health so I wish both families well and hope they get through this in peace and love.