FRONT Magazine

“OBVIOUSLY I’VE SPENT A LOT OF SCREEN TIME BEHIND THE WHEEL OF A CAR!” – A QUICK CHAT WITH PAUL WALKER

IMG_7287 copyYou’ll all know that handsome chap Paul Walker from the Fast And Furious franchise, but he’s got another car-based flick out this month – Vehicle 19. It’s about a bloke who picks up the wrong rental car and discovers there’s a hostage in the boot. Shits just gets cray from there on in. We had the chance to chat to him about it, as well as other stuff like sharks and stunt driving.

Vehicle 19 is filmed in one car – how does that all work?
It works like this: we’re about a week in and the director looks at me, smiles and scratches his head and goes “Oh fuck, I’m running out of things to do in this car!” (laughs). I think that early on I liked the challenge and I liked where he was coming from – it was familiar to me because obviously I’ve spent a lot of screen time behind the wheel of a car! It played into what we were trying to accomplish, which was something familiar but at the same time it had a fish out of water element – you’ve got an American that’s been thrown into the shit and is scrambling to stay above it. I think that having it all in the confines of this car plays into the claustrophobic feel of the whole thing, the desperate feeling of being trapped with no options, nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. As if filmmaking wasn’t challenging enough! I like the idea of creating just that little bit more – it was the right way to do it – by limiting yourself you’re almost forced to be more creative and resourceful, and I saw that every day.

Did you have to use a specially designed car with the doors ripped off or something?
No, we did try taking the sides off one car but for the most part we ran the vehicle in its entirety, a lot of it was just freewheeling. What made it a lot easier considering the time constraints – we weren’t there for a long time – was that in South Africa they don’t require permitting, so we didn’t have to close off roads and stuff. The majority of the film was spent quite literally with crew members hanging off both sides of the car with multiple cameras, just driving in and out of actual Joburg traffic. To me it was quite liberating because I’m used to the safety net and the due process when I’ve done things in the past, but this time it was just the Wild West – we were shooting from the hip and I found it quite refreshing. In a lot of ways I find the structure of other movies quite suffocating, so the ability to go out there and just play was great.

Did you do all the stunt driving yourself?
Well, this time it was different again because the insurance company agreed to allow me to do the stunts, which was great – it made it much easier because we could just go for it. There was one sequence where the car is supposed to hit a vehicle and there are people standing there, but I wasn’t comfortable doing that because whenever there’s people outside the car, if things go wrong then you kill people. I’m comfortable with taking certain risks, like when I’m encased in a vehicle and the risks are calculated, but I don’t like running people over! Those sequences make me feel too uncomfortable.

That’s understandable! You’re pretty much on screen the whole way through – that’s a lot of pressure. Were you worried about that at all?
I mean, I show up on time, I know what I need to do, I know my lines, I know I can bank on myself to a degree (laughs) but unfortunately that isn’t always the case – you don’t know what could happen. If things don’t work out it’s all on my shoulders but if they do, then hey guess what, maybe I can take a little credit! It’s refreshing again, it’s just a matter of stepping out on the ledge and taking that leap of faith. We went for it, we had fun, but we learned a lot too, we learned a hell of a lot.

How does working on the smaller movies compare to the mega budget movies like the Fast And Furious franchise?
It’s just a different feeling altogether. On Fast And Furious there’s a lot of people who have a strong voice, they need to be heard and their voice needs to be realised in the finished product, but on this one it was a much smaller team – we had far more braves than we had chiefs, which is more conducive at times to working. I think there’s merit for both versions, but given that I’ve been doing the bigger movies for a while it was a refreshing change of pace. It seems like a collective effort and we definitely had our backs against the wall, a situation where you find the best in people. You find people’s best work when they feel a little desperate.

Which type of movie do you prefer working on?
I think one has me appreciating the other more. It’s hard to be objective with that – like if all I’d ever done were indies and small movies then when I got a big huge studio film, I’d be like “Oh my God this is incredible, the craft services are amazing, the lunch is so good! Look at the size of my trailer!” (laughs) But the creature comforts at this stage of my life are not something that really mean a whole lot, so as a result I appreciate the more stripped-down, rough and tumble approach. I think that might be more my personality though, it’s the way that I was raised and the way I came up, so right now I enjoy doing the smaller movies, it’s fun.

You’ve got two movies out at the moment about cars – it’s obviously one of your main interests, how much of your spare time to you dedicate to this?
My grandfather was a professional race car driver, so I always wanted to race cars. There was always a lot of focus on vehicles and the different specs in my house, and there were always car magazines laying around, so I think it was just as a result of exposure but also DNA – it’s a big part of who I am. I’m a professional race car driver, I’ve got my professional licence so I love to just get out there and race. I’ve done a couple of endurance events, some time attack events and I’ve got quite a few more opportunities on the horizon, I’m looking forward to them and I think it’s something that I’ll be doing for quite some time yet.

Would you be doing that if you didn’t go into acting?
No because I wouldn’t have had the money! (laughs) Just about any of these guys that races professionally, whether it’s Formula One or Nascar or whatever, most of them were born into wealthy families, it’s just a reality. Daddy’s big pockets is what allows them to get there. I think if I wasn’t acting I’d probably be doing something with Earth sciences – I’d probably be a professional guide, a park ranger, a marine biologist, a geologist or something like that.

You swam with and studied sharks before, is that something you’d always wanted to do?
I’m actually going in two weeks to go and do it again, I’ve done it without crews and cameras before but this next time we’re doing it for the Discovery Channel Shark Week. That’s something I’ll continue to do, I’ll do that until I’m an old man!

So what’s next? What projects have you got lined up? 

Early retirement! I don’t know, we’ll see, I take everything one day at a time at the moment, fatherhood!

Vehicle 19 is out on 20 May and Fast & Furious 6 is out 17 May. Read our review HERE.

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