Paul Walker’s career has been defined by the Fast and the Furious franchise. While the actor has been in a number of other films, he is most commonly recognized as Brian O’Conner, the former cop who committed career suicide to have the time of his life with a group of renegade street racers.
The only Fast and the Furious film Walker did not star in was Tokyo Drift, but his character is as integral to the overall story as any of the other Fast and the Furious alums. We sat down with Walker on the set of Fast Five and discussed the past, present and future of the franchise.
After a short discussion regarding his experience with Twitter and how co-star Tyrese Gibson has taught him "the ways of the Force," we got into the Fast Five talk.
Right off the bat, Walker discussed the current state of the 10-year-old franchise:
Paul Walker: I don’t even know if I can say this will be the last one. The way things are looking and coming together; we are having a good time. There was a period back aways when I thought I’d never come back and revisit. But I’m a little older and a little wiser and it’s been fun to be a part of something that spans ten years. We’re having a good time. It feels more balanced now than ever before.
The new energy has helped a lot by bringing in Dwayne. In terms of pressure and all that, everything is distributed across the board. Everyone has a bigger stake in it this time around. I think the majority of the story still falls on the Dominic Toretto's character and his saga, we are kind of arm and arm with him. But as far as the weight of the whole thing, I think bringing in Dwayne and bringing in the surrounding characters it made it better. It freshened it up just enough – otherwise it would have been stale.
The franchise has done a good job of staying fresh with each film, amidst the recurring street racing storyline. Each movie has its own style and focus. While all four films deal with the similar core theme of family, each tackled a different car culture from around the world.
Fast Five is aiming for yet another new look. Now, the gang tackles a more personal adventure - survival. On the run, each character must find unity amidst their differences and keep each other alive. The street racing element has transformed into a survival of the fittest.
PW: [Dom] took in all these kids and created a family and Brian can identify with that because that’s all he ever wanted. This time around, we are a family. Even though we are on the run, we are together.
The group is on the run for much of the film, but this time a formidable hunter is on their trail. Dwayne Johnson has joined the ride as Special Agent Luke Hobbs. One of the few straight-laced cops we've seen in the franchise, Hobbs uses a combination of wit and muscle to chase the gang. Ultimately, Johnson's addition to the cast leads us all to wonder about his inevitable showdown with Vin Diesel.
We asked Paul Walker if he has any toe-to-toe screen time with Dwayne Johnson. The fight between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson is an obvious boiling point for the film, but will Brian O'Conner throw down with The Rock?
PW: Well, there are a couple scenes were Brian puts him on blast. He keeps saying I know who you are, but you are too chicken s--t. Look within and ask yourself what you are really doing, you honorable cowboy, you know, coming to get us all, the bad guy.
Brian has always been a proud character. He believes in only a few things but he's dedicated to them. While he may not have been loyal to his law enforcement counterparts, Brian has done his best to become a worthy part of Dom and Mia Torreto's family - and it doesn't hurt that he loves cars.
Walker explains how the personal relationships, and his affinity for four-wheeled friends, expand in Fast Five.
PW: It makes up for that childhood he never really had. He’s got siblings now. He’s got a family. He gets to live all that for the first time. Getting in a car is Brian being a kid. That’s him riding a big wheel. He may as well be 5, 6 years old.
But this time around, he finally is where he always should be. Even though he is running from the law, he actually is living lighter than ever before. He is being true to himself. Sure, he is running, but the people he is running with – Mia, Dom – they’d all just as soon go out in a blaze of glory than go to prison.
Yeah, we are attached at the hip. She’s not letting me out of her sight. Brian’s completely bananas over here. He’s hangin’ on her, kissin’ on her all the time. [How’s that make Dom feel?] Dom likes it. He knows that Brian would fall on swords for his sister in a heartbeat.
As the personal relationships continue to evolve, the franchise is nowhere near complete. The cast and crew have been re-energized by the success of Fast & Furious. The attention may be on Fast Five, but we are already curious about the future of the saga.
Walker describes the movies they've made so far as something of a World Series. The first four movies were "the finals" and the assembly of every major character from each of them makes this the biggest Fast and the Furious movie yet. Walker sits confident in the potential for a sixth chapter, especially considering they spent more money on Fast Five than any of the previous productions and the cast is bigger than ever.
PW: We were talking about Europe on this one initially. It was either going to be Europe or Brazil and then it was narrowed down to Brazil and we were going to film a chunk of it in Brazil and then we ended up using Puerto Rico for Brazil. Yeah, it would have to go to Europe.
Whether you like the Fast and the Furious movies or not, the franchise's success relies heavily on its ability to portray a sense of adventure and fun. There isn't an overabundance of forced drama, aside from the family-related issues of the characters, and the cast and crew recognize the movies' appeal to car enthusiasts and fans of the actors themselves. Action is key with the franchise and there will be plenty of it in Fast Five.
It is refreshing to hear actors approach a production with fun in mind - especially since these movies are pure action. If it tried to be more than adrenaline-packed car chases and fist fights, it might get messy. Fortunately, the core story of family is integral to the action, without feeling like a boring transition used just to progress the movies from action scene to even bigger action scene. Walker acknowledged what has worked...and was has not:
PW: Along the way there have been some bumps. The second one, Vin didn’t do it. The third one neither of us really did it (other than that cameo). It kind of got away from us for a little while and I don’t think we really knew what it was anymore or where it was going and the executives, at the time, had the idea the real stars were the cars.
Now everyone really knows what it is about and it’s just lighter. I mean, we are throwing more money at it this time than any of the previous ones and it doesn’t feel like there are any stakes. Justin has an incredible work ethic and works really hard and just enjoys what he is doing. It is Fast and the Furious and hey, if you aren’t going to show up and have fun you shouldn’t be doing it. He takes it as serious as anybody should, but at the same time he is lighthearted about it. It’s a balance. We can’t take ourselves too seriously or it loses the essence of what it really stands for, I think.
Paul Walker needs Fast Five just as much as it needs him and both sides recognize that relationship. He may not be on magazine covers or in a blockbuster movie every summer, but Walker has made his name synonymous with a studio franchise - something few actors have done.
Check out the rest of our Fast Five coverage, including:
Keep checking Screen Rant for more interviews from the set of Fast Five. The movie speeds into theaters on April 29th, 2011.