Paul Walker, the blond-haired, blue-eyed actor best known for starring in The Fast and the Furious film series, died on Saturday afternoon at the age of 40.
According to TMZ, “the actor was in a Porsche when the driver somehow lost control and slammed into a post or tree… and then the car burst into flames.” The actor was in Santa Clarita, Los Angeles, for a car show to support relief efforts for Typhoon Haiyan, which ravaged the Philippines, on behalf of his humanitarian aid team REACH OUT Worldwide. CBS Local reported that the crash occurred around 3:30 p.m. PT in the 28300 block of Rye Canyon Loop in Valencia, and when officials arrived at the scene, they found the vehicle “fully engulfed in flames.” After the Los Angeles County Fire Department put out the fire, two victims were found inside the wreckage and pronounced dead at the scene. The County Coroner is still waiting to determine the official cause of death, and identify the second victim.
The following message was posted to Walker’s official Facebook page Saturday night:
“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 organization Reach Out Worldwide. He was a passenger in a friend's car, in which both lost their lives. We appreciate your patience as we too are stunned and saddened beyond belief by this news. Thank you for keeping his family and friends in your prayers during this very difficult time. We will do our best to keep you apprised on where to send condolences.”
Walker was California through and through. He was born in Glendale and raised in the San Fernando Valley. The son of a fashion model and sewer contractor, Walker grew up Mormon and graduated from Village Christian High School. His acting career started at the age of 2, when a baby Walker appeared in a commercial for Pampers. He was eventually “discovered” by casting director David Giella, who got him an audition for the TV series Touched By An Angel, which led to a recurring role on the TV soap opera The Young and the Restless. He grew up idolizing Jacques Cousteau and dreamed of being a marine biologist, even attending community college after high school to study it, but acting ultimately won out. Walker made his feature film debut in the 1998 surfer comedy Meet the Deedles, which led to supporting roles in the seminal teen films Varsity Blues, as injured star quarterback Lance Harbor; the douche-y antagonist Dean Sampson Jr. in She’s All That; and as the all-American sports star in Gary Ross’s excellent drama Pleasantville.
“He's like a young Steve McQueen,” filmmaker John Singleton said of Walker. “The trip thing about him is he has a lot more edge as a person and many more nuances than in the roles he's played. He has been asked to be the American golden boy, the California kid.”
Walker was, in some respects, the ultimate “California kid,” blessed with surfer dude good looks—blond hair, piercing blue eyes, chiseled bod. He resided in Santa Barbara, Calif., with his golden retriever dogs and surfed in his spare time. He was a bonafide stud, and gained the affections of an entire generation of Millennials.
“Surfing soothes me, it’s always been kind of a zen experience for me,” Walker said. “The ocean is so magnificent, peaceful, and awesome. The rest of the world disappears for me when I’m on a wave.”
But he was also a gifted actor, providing an interesting mélange of surfer dude insouciance with a hint of danger. His big breakthrough came in 2001, when he starred opposite Vin Diesel in the car racing film The Fast and the Furious. Walker played undercover LAPD officer Brian O’Conner, who gets tangled up in the world of underground car racing. The film was a cultural phenomenon, grossing over $200 million worldwide, and spawning several sequels—with all but one, 2006’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, starring Walker. The most recent installment, Fast & Furious 6, was released this past summer and was a gargantuan hit, grossing over $788 million worldwide. Walker gained a love of car racing from starring in the films, racing cars in the Redline Time Attack racing series.
In addition to the Fast films, Walker also starred as a blue-blooded member of a secret society in The Skulls, in the underrated thriller Joy Ride, and as a manic Jersey cop on the hunt for a missing gun in the gonzo action-thriller Running Scared—my personal favorite performance of his. One of his proudest moments as an actor came when he starred as a WWII veteran in Clint Eastwood’s acclaimed 2006 film Flags of Our Fathers (Walker’s grandfather, Paul Walker Jr., a.k.a. “Irish” Billy Walker, was a professional boxer and Pearl Harbor survivor).
Walker has a daughter, Meadow Rain, with his ex-girlfriend, Rebecca. She turned 15 on Nov. 4, and moved into Walker’s Santa Barbara home in 2012. His humanitarian aid organization, REACH OUT Worldwide, paid a visit to Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, and was busy raising money for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Phillippines.
The actor was in the midst of filming Fast & Furious 7, the seventh installment in the car racing-heist blockbuster franchise, and his last tweet was a photo from the set of the film, which he sent on Nov. 29. The film is scheduled to be released on July 11, 2014. He’d also wrapped filming on Brick Mansions, a remake of the French action flick District 13, which is set to hit theaters on Feb. 26, 2014. His next film is the thriller Hours, which will be released in theaters and VOD on Dec. 13.
“You know, all that really matters is that the people you love are happy and healthy,” Walker told Flaunt magazine. “Everything else is just sprinkles on the sundae.”