ST. LOUIS — Paul Walker would have been 46 years old this week. While he is gone, his impact remains via efforts made far from the big screen.
To some people, he was a movie star who got by on his good looks and athletic ability to perform in action stories. But he was so much more.
While Walker did enjoy immense success on the big screen, thanks mostly to The Fast and the Furious franchise, he did a lot more away from the big screen.
Walker was a big-time philanthropist, traveling to poverty-stricken countries and dangerous lands to spread good vibes and bring good medicine to the less fortunate. After all, it was a charity event hosted by his company, Reach Out Worldwide, that Walker was leaving from on that fateful November day back in 2013 when he died. Walker left this world doing two things he loved most: helping people and riding in a fast car.
Reach Out Worldwide's chief attribute is bringing first responders to disaster-stricken areas: including doctors, nurses and firefighters, among others. The company doesn't make a dime and wasn't instructed to form this organization. Walker did it because he was a good person. The world is in dire need of those today.
He was also a good movie star. Everybody doesn't come to Hollywood to win an Oscar and wear a few layers of prosthetic for a role in the hopes of being adored by your peers. Walker, in every single one of his 43 credits, took roles that he saw as a worthy endeavor to have fun and make some money at the same time. I don't think the Fast and the Furious franchise would be as strong without him, because he was a perfect foil for the robust masculinity of Vin Diesel, whom he became best friends with in real life. Diesel named his child after the late Walker.
Could Walker act? In most films, he didn't have to. Like Diesel and his other Fast and the Furious co-star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, acting wasn't truly required in most of his movies. Action stars need presence, charisma, and a knack for comic timing to get the job done. Walker had all three and good looks to go with it.
There are two movies where I think Walker truly excelled and audiences failed to take notice. Running Scared, a little-seen low budget thriller starring Walker as an undercover cop trying to protect his family required the physicality and compassion he brought to the role. The second film, one of Walker's last films, Hours, showcased his limited yet reliable acting range. He played a desperate father trapped in an abandoned hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina trying to keep his premature daughter alive on a ventilator.
Both films were carried by Walker and riveting from start to finish. They showcased the heart and soul Walker showed on a 24/7 basis in real life, when he wasn't crashing cars through buildings or getting into fights on an airstrip.
If you ever feel like spending a couple of hours with him for fun, check out one of these titles: Fast & Furious, Hours, Running Scared, Into the Blue, Furious 7.
There are some days when one of his movies comes on and it feels weird and sad that he isn't around anymore. Did he make an unwise choice in getting into that car with his friend? Sure, but we all do it. We trust our friends and go on that ride, not expecting to perish before the destination is reached. It's called being human. Frailty is part of the game. Every day.
Walker created a fine legacy of entertainment, but a lasting impact with Reach Out Worldwide. While he isn't around anymore, the work he started carries on in his name. He died young, but his impact will grow old.
This month, you have the chance to help his passion project extend their reach across the world. If you happened to miss Walker or want to do something to help, donate. Become a part of a movement he held close to his heart.