Paul Walker, best known for his role in the Fast and Furious franchise, tragically died Saturday afternoon in a car accident in California. At the age of 40, he was taken far too soon. But in those mere 40 years, he was able to leave behind a legacy of that of someone twice his age. From Pleasantville to Flags of Our Fathers to The Lazarus Project, Walker showed off his acting chops in a variety of genres. However, his most iconic role in the world of film came from the Fast and Furious films.
Starting in 2001, Walker began his journey in the world of street racing, and over a decade later, he is still one of the starring faces of the franchise. While Walker’s unexpected death came right before he was due back in Atlanta to resume shooting Fast & Furious 7, Universal has decided will resume production on a delayed schedule, according The Hollywood Reporter. But whether Walker will still appear in the next film or not, for us, he will always be fondly remembered as Brian O’Conner. Here our a few of our favorite of Walker’s scenes from the Fast series:
The Fast and the Furious
There’s a scene in the first The Fast and the Furious film where Paul Walker’s character, Brian O’Conner, reveals to Dom that he’s an undercover cop — this has always been one of my favorite moments in the series for two reasons. The first is that it comes right after Brian rescues Vince from being tied to the side of a truck, and then narrowly escapes getting shot by jumping back into his convertible, all during a high speed chase. The second is because Walker’s performance during that scene is incredible — far better than anything you’d expect from a Fast and Furious film, and so quiet and simple that even I often forget how good it is. Walker is having two conversations during this scene: one on the phone, where he’s calling an ambulance to save Vince, and one, silently, with Dom, where he’s apologizing for deceiving him, asking for forgiveness, and trying to get him to focus on keeping Vince alive, using only his face. Walker and Vin Diesel have an entire argument in that moment, expressing all of the anger, hurt, and fear the characters are feeling without actually articulating it. It’s a tricky feat to convey all of that without words, but Walker nails it perfectly, and his performance deserves just as much recognition as the car chases and explosions that the franchise has become famous for.
– Julia Emmanuele
2 Fast 2 Furious
2 Fast 2 Furious, John Singleton’s sole stab at the franchise, is widely considered the weakest of the Fast and Furious movies. But even with its mediocre script and less than stellar visuals, we see charm in Paul Walker. His back and forth with the walking machismo that is Tyrese Gibson showcased hints of the goofy, straight-laced charm we’d see come out with a vengeance in the later pictures… but the badass side of gawky Brian O’Conner was clear as day in the film’s climactic scene. Long before Taken opted for the very same ending, 2 Fast 2 Furious handed Walker the chance to fly — in a speedy vehicle — over the water and onto the boat of a fleeing criminal.
We have to give a few points to Walker for handling the adrenaline here with some dignity. He winces, bellows, and shrieks… but all with the kind of cool humanity that balances him as a relatable character and an action hero. No, 2 Fast is not at all a terrific showcase of Walker’s aptitude as an actor, but it is one of the chapters in the series he is best known and most celebrated for. And there are more than a few notes therein of his penchant for making the camera happy.
– Michael Arbeiter
Fast & Furious
Many of Walker’s most exciting scenes in the Fast and Furious series took place off the streets entirely; for instance, his ad hoc interruption of Vin Diesel’s torture of a small-time criminal, rescue of the man from his fall to certain death, and subsequent grappling with a rival officer over the mess at hand. In a movie series filled with men twice his size, Paul Walker was still able to emanate some of the highest levels of intensity and intimidation. There’s no amount of muscles that can beat the smolder out of that chiseled glare of his.
– Michael Arbeiter
The Fast and Furious series is essentially a superhero franchise where the heroes are criminals and they hop into armored cars instead of pulling on capes and tights. And to Vin Diesel’s broody, Batman-like Dom, Walker was tasked with playing the far less edgy former fed O’Conner. And while the franchise worked best when largely a two-hander between those characters, the best character moment in Fast Five was actually the “Million Dollar Race” between the whole “crew,” exemplifying how great direction and chemistry between actors managed to carry over even though each was locked alone in a car.
And that ended up being the key to Walker’s character in this series. He’s not cool. He’s actually pretty goofy and more than a little corny. But therein lies his awkward charm. He looked like a leading man, and held up that mantle efficiently when he was asked to, but his best work was when his enthusiasm was palpable — when he was enjoying the chance to have superpowers and gleefully rib the actors you could believe were his friends.
– Kayla Hawkins
Fast & Furious 6
While Paul Walker’s character displayed most of his talents behind the wheel, he still knew his way around a fight. In a move reminiscent of the show Prison Break, Brian O’Conner purposely threw himself in jail to pay a visit to Arturo Braga, the villain from the first Fast and Furious movie, to learn more about Letty Ortiz’s (Michelle Rodriguez) mysterious reappearance. Backed in the corner, and at the mercy of three goons and their prison shivs, Brian dispatches his attackers in one of the film’s most brutal and underappreciated fight scenes.
– Jordan Smith