Fast and Furious actor dies in car crash

PETER MITCHELL
Last updated 07:03 02/12/2013

Fast and Furious star dead at 40 after a car in which he was a passenger loses control and crashes in flames north of Los Angeles.

Paul Walker
Firefighters extinguish the fire in the car where actor Paul Walker and his friend Roger Rodas were killed.

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Australian director James Wan says he is ‘‘beyond heartbroken’’ by the death of actor Paul Walker.

Wan and Walker had been filming Fast and Furious 7, the latest chapter of the blockbuster action movie franchise co-starring Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson.

Walker, in recent interviews, had been full of praise for the fresh look the Melbourne director of horror films Saw and The Conjuring had given the seventh chapter.

‘‘I am so beyond heartbroken right now,’’ Wan wrote on Twitter. ‘‘I can’t process anything.’’

Walker, 40, had been attending a charity event in Los Angeles on Saturday to aid Filipino victims of Typhoon Haiyan for his organisation Reach Out Worldwide.

Walker was a passenger in a friend’s Porsche when the driver lost control and the car crashed into a light pole and burst into flames.

‘‘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 organisation Reach Out Worldwide,’’ the  charity announced in a statement on the actor's Facebook page.

Walker was set to star in another two Fast and Furious films.

It is not clear if Hollywood studio Universal will release Fast and Furious 7 in July next year as scheduled.

‘‘All of us at Universal are heartbroken,’’ the studio said in a statement.

‘‘Paul was truly one of the most beloved and respected members of  our studio family for 14 years, and this loss is devastating to us, to everyone involved with the Fast and Furious films, and to countless fans.’’

His Fast and Furious co-star Diesel posted a photograph of him and Walker on Instagram with the message: ‘‘Brother, I will miss you very much. I am absolutely speechless.’’

The son of a fashion model and a sewer contractor, Walker grew up in a working-class Mormon household in California. The oldest of  five siblings, Walker’s mother began taking him to auditions as a toddler.

He was a child model from the age of two.

Walker has said the early induction to show business wasn’t to start him on a career path, but was a way to help provide for the  family.

After a string of TV roles as a child in the 1980s, including small roles on Who’s the Boss and Charles in Charge, Walker made his feature film debut in the 1998 comedy Meet the Deedles. 

Supporting roles in the films Pleasantville, Varsity Blues and Flags of Our Fathers followed.

His performance in the 2000 thriller The Skulls caught the eye of producer Neal Moritz, who cast him in The Fast and the Furious as undercover police officer Brian O’Conner.

Adapted from a Vibe magazine article about underground street races, the film became an  unexpected hit.

In the sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Walker moved to centre stage, with Diesel temporarily dropping out.

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Walker, a self-described  ‘‘gearhead‘‘, kept his character’s sports car from the film.

Walker starred in other films, including the crime thriller Running Scared, the Antarctic adventure Eight Below and the heist  film Takers.

Though his stardom didn’t make as much of an impact outside the Fast and Furious series, Walker continually drew praise from his co-stars and directors as a kind-hearted and eager collaborator.

‘‘Your humble spirit was felt from the start,’’ Ludacris, Walker’s  Fast and Furious co-star, said on Twitter. ‘‘You always left a mark, we were like brothers.’’

Released in May, Fast and Furious 6 was the most lucrative of the movie series, grossing more than $US788 million worldwide.

Walker formed Reach Out Worldwide in 2010 to help people involved in natural disasters.

Bill Townsend, a friend of Walker, who attended the fundraiser on Saturday, told AP Radio: ‘‘He was very happy. He was smiling at everybody, just tickled that all these people came out to support  this charity. He was doing what he loved. He was surrounded by friends, surrounded by cars.’’

Walker is survived by his 15-year-old daughter Meadow Rain, who he had with ex-girlfriend Rebecca McBrain.

Celebrities have been making social media tributes to the Fast & Furious star since the news broke.

 

-with AP, Cover Media, AAP

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