Actor Paul Walker’s death in a fiery car crash under a clear-blue California sky on Saturday continues to feel so incredibly sad, and so surreal.
How can it not?
The actor, 40, spent much of his life on screen behind the wheel of fast cars, walking away from the worst possible pileups in “The Fast and the Furious” franchise. As one of the central players in the hugely popular series, and a part of the cast from its 2001 beginnings, it created a world where there was no curve its drivers couldn’t navigate, no wreck they couldn’t survive. Cars stood for high-octane escape, freedom at 200 mph.
PHOTOS: Paul Walker, 1973 - 2013
No one was prepared for a day like Saturday. That Walker’s final moments would carry such heartbreaking irony; that the sort of images that defined his life in film would also frame his death.
Though the “Fast and Furious” anchor is star Vin Diesel playing Dominic Toretto, a local L.A. tough with a heart of gold, a few of the core cast members became minor constellations in their own right. Walker, as the undercover cop who became Dom’s best friend and his most reliable partner in crime, was one.
Part of the films’ appeal was its blue-collar ethos and its love of all things American, except for a law here or there. Walker’s cop Brian O’Conner couldn’t resist. Dom's crew of gear-heads, grease monkeys, guys willing to get their hands dirty when duty called, soon won him over.
Walker's character was our entry point into this very real underground scene. The actor helped us see the merit in these renegades, to be seduced by the adrenaline rush of the race. There was also Brian's sweet relationship with Dom’s sister Mia, played by Jordana Brewster. Together the actors embodied a classic working-class couple, their courtship remarkably innocent in an outlaw world.
That was Walker’s strength in front of the camera. The actor was ever the