I didn’t know Paul Walker personally. I had never seen him in person. Hell, I didn’t even follow him on Twitter. However, I have emotional ties to the characters he portrayed on the big screen. Coming from a person who truly loves films, the attachment between a movie character and a moviegoer can move a person to tears. Although I did not cry upon hearing the news of Walker’s death, I felt numb. The Fast and Furious franchise is one of the most entertaining slate of movies ever and Walker is arguably the biggest part of it. He also played a small role in one of the most influential movies of the 90s, Varsity Blues. Although it is apparent that he was a great man seen by his charitable efforts and reactions to his death from those closest to him, I’m not going to talk about Paul Walker as a person in this post. I’m going to discuss his acting career.
Paul Walker as Lance Harbor (Varsity Blues)
Lance Harbor is a star high school quarterback who has a full ride to Florida State, which is obviously one of the premier college football programs in the country. In fact, Florida State won the national championship the year Varsity Blues was released (1999). The Seminoles are also presently the number one team in the country. Harbor is also the boyfriend of the most attractive girl at West Canaan High School. Despite his outward appearance of the stereotypical jock, Harbor is a respectable athlete.
Much like most of the players on the team, Harbor is pushed by his father and Coach Kilmer (Jon Voight). Because of Kilmer forcing Harbor to play through injury (which we don’t find out about until later in the film), he suffers a career-ending injury after getting drilled by a defensive lineman.
Although he lost everything, Harbor is in a sense freed from the game of football to return on his terms. By the end of the film, Harbor returns as a mentor to replace Coach Kilmer and lead the Coyotes to victory.
I identified with this entire film. Although I didn’t have the same amount of pressure, I did experience the pressure of playing a popular high school sport (basketball).
My favorite character is Jon “Mox” Moxon (James Van Der Beek). First of all, his last name is fantastic and captures the nature of his character. He shows moxie on and off the football field.
Although Mox is my favorite character, Walker plays a pivotal and admirable role. Instead of resenting Mox for replacing him as the starting quarterback when he went down with his career-ending injury, Harbor remains close friends with Mox and becomes a leader. It’s a great role and Walker nails it. He also captures the intensity of his emotional injury scene (To watch this scene, click here).
Below are some of Paul Walker’s lines from another one of the most poignant moments of the movie, but for the entire clip, click here.
Coach Kilmer: “Hey, get out of here. Y’all wouldn’t know anything about dedication, team play.”
Lance Harbor: “But I would. Don’t do it, Wendell. It’s not worth it.”
Coach Kilmer: “Are you going to listen to that from a gimp who’s praying that we’ll lose so he could be the missing link?
Lance Harbor: “Don’t do it.”
Paul Walker as Brian O’Connor (Fast and Furious Franchise)
I don’t even know where to begin here. I could write for days about the character of Brian O’Connor and the Fast and Furious franchise. O’Connor is the character I identified with most in the entire series. When my friend and I go golfing, sometimes we replace our names with movie characters. Well, one of the scorecards reads my friend as Roman Pierce and myself as Brian O’Connor. I just love that character. He is the moral compass of the entire franchise. He always seems to manage to do the right thing, even if that means breaking the law.
One underrated quality of Paul Walker in this franchise is that he shares the leading role with two different actors in the first two movies in the series. Walker formed a relationship with Vin Diesel in The Fast and The Furious. He then has to switch gears to share the leading role with Tyrese Gibson in 2 Fast 2 Furious. Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but let me explain further. In the switch from Diesel to Gibson, Walker had to shift his personality to fit his role in 2 Fast 2 Furious (A much more lighthearted film). In the meantime, Walker had to keep his personality from the first film. He made a great adjustment and film worked for me. He remained the same Brian O’Connor from The Fast and The Furious, while capturing a completely different relationship with Roman Pierce in 2 Fast 2 Furious.
The Fast and Furious franchise is one of the few if not the only movie series that had six films and fans can’t wait for the seventh one. Usually films fizzle out after the third one (Granted, the franchise did fizzle at Tokyo Drift but recovered). Through the first six movies, Walker had the most screen time over any other character. The only film he did not appear in was Tokyo Drift. Based on that alone, I don’t think anybody can deny his impact on the entire franchise. His efforts brought and will continue to bring hours of entertainment to our lives.
Below are some of the things I will always remember about Brian O’Connor.
REMEMBER WHEN BRIAN O’CONNOR…
-Always got beat up by every character introduced to the franchise?
-Said the line “It’s getting thick real quick?”
-Helped save Vince’s life even though he hated him?
-Thought it was awesome when he almost beat Dominic Toretto in a race?
-Thought he beat Toretto, who in fact let him win?
-Said the line “Owned you!! Owned you!!” after thinking he defeated Toretto in a race?
-Continued to take on Toretto in races even though he could never beat him?
-Played chicken with Fonzie?
-Pulled a Dukes of Hazzard onto a boat with Roman Pierce screaming in the passenger’s seat?
-Leaped from a train to a car then off a cliff without as much as scratch?
-Broke Stasiak’s nose…twice?
-Found the love of his life in Mia?
-Gave Toretto the keys to his car and sacrificed his career for a friend?
THE BOTTOM LINE: Was Paul Walker an Oscar worthy actor? No, but he brought a character and a franchise to life that we all worshiped and will continue to adore. People have said the Fast and Furious franchise should end. I disagree. It will be different without Walker. It will be sad not having him there, but do you think Walker would want it to end on his account? Judging by the person he is off the camera, I think he would want fans to continue to watch the thrilling movies the franchise continues to pump out. Let’s try to celebrate his life with the preservation of the series. Don’t replace his character with another actor, but try to move on without him as difficult as that may be.
Thank you Paul Walker for your contribution to the movie industry. You are great man, and you are missed by many.
For a Paul Walker tribute video, click here.