Mourning from Cali

I miss Paul Walker.

When he wasn’t filming, or on press tours for Fast, he would post the most adorable, endearing Tweets–the kind of adorability that comes from having, at best, only a tenuous understanding of the medium. You could always tell when it was PW and not his publicity team, because one of these entities knew how to use Twitter and one of them truly did not.

In the mornings, he’d Tweet “morning from Cali!” and before he went to bed, as though this were some personal communication that needed to be entered into and then formally closed, he’d Tweet “ni ni from Cali!” (He’s also the only Californian, born and bred, who ever called this state “Cali.”) But my roommate and I would wait for these Tweets, and we’d laugh, and it’d be hilarious because omg Paul Walker what even. But we loved waking up to Paul Walker’s ridiculous Tweets, and it really didn’t seem appropriate to go to bed until he’d bid adieu.

And for some reason, he was always telling everyone to “Be good,” appropriate context be damned. (It’s the weekend! Be good. Good morning! Be good. I love Game of Thrones! be good. Lunch time. Be good!)

If you scroll back far enough, they’re still there.

When he died, unless it was a car website, almost all of the obituary journalism focused on his charity work over his acting career. This makes sense, because the former really did mean the world to him. But from a journalist’s perspective, I think the motivation was tinged by something else, too. Because his filmography didn’t seem to have the gravitas to afford him a proper legacy–B action films, B cop thrillers, surfing movies, football movies, dogsled movies. And so many of the articles led with “But something you might not have known about Paul Walker is what a great guy he was…” or something to that effect. But that’s really not it at all, because we already did know; anyone at all familiar with the guy already knew. The ‘twist,’ or that attempt to leave him some kind of legacy that was more honorable than a movie about time travel to medieval France (Timeline), or some bizarre film about Bahamanian sunken treasure (Into the Blue), or Harvard University’s homicidal secret societies (The Skulls–aka the campy 90s version of the Facebook movie, I guess!) wasn’t much of a twist.

For us at least, my roommate and I, I think Paul Walker was really mostly famous for being Californian.

Really, really, really fucking Californian.

He is the only actor for whom I have a favorite interview–it’s with the UK version of GQ, which was supposed to ask him about the cologne he was promoting, and ended up mostly talking about sharks. I’m not kidding. From the article:

Paul Walker is into sharks. Really into sharks. When GQ met the 39-year-old Californian actor in London in one of Claridges’ cavernous bedrooms we expected to talk for a few minutes about his new role as the face of Davidoff’s Cool Water, his scents of choice and his career on the silver screen. Instead we learnt more about sharks than we’d ever imagined. Did you know that nobody’s ever tagged oceanic whitetip sharks until this year? Or that great whites regularly swim 3000 miles between Salinas in California to Hawaii? Walker does.

And a favorite photograph:

Starfish. ❤

We just loved him, my roommate and I. We loved him doing his strange little Paul Walker things. Even the nonsensical ones, or the adorably dumb ones–especially those, probably. It was good to have in your life. It was just happy! Anything he did just made us really damn happy.

Which, I think the world can agree that realistically, Paul Walker was not a great actor. And he doesn’t go around giving commencement speeches and articulating exactly how to solve all the world’s biggest iniquities (though he has done big things about some of them, in big, hugely personal ways). But man, he was still a really cool dude, and there is a lot about him I want to be more of.

Paul Walker was not a great actor. And he’s admitted that it’s a really fortunate way of paying the bills more than it was so much a passionate calling. If he didn’t take his job or himself that seriously, though, he did take seriously the effort that went into it, and took hugely seriously the dedication and hard work his casts and crews were also putting forth. And you know? In Fast 6, Running Scared, and Hours, he was actually really fucking good. (AKA all the movies where kids were involved; he loved his daughter deeply.)

But I think the thing I loved best about Paul Walker the actor–besides his dorky smile, but that’s true of Paul Walker the Californian, too–was how point-blank honest he always was in his interviews, and how realistic he was about the things he was doing. He’d just be like, yeaaaah I’m growing up a little late, but I’m getting there. Or he’d be like yeah, I didn’t really think that hard about which roles I was taking–I’ve totally taken a movie because it was filming in Colorado, and I knew I’d be able to ski and snowboard. Or, for instance, Into the Blue, which is 50% just Paul Walker and Jessica Alba scuba diving together. Or any of the infinite numbers of undercover cop thrillers he’s done, all of which involved a high-speed car chase. (THE SCUBA DIVING MOVIE INVOLVED A CAR CHASE. THE ONE SCENE ON LAND, AND IT WAS A CAR CHASE FROM ONE SIDE OF THE ISLAND TO THE OTHER.)

Even for Fast, and when taking publicity spots specifically to promote the films, he never candied his relationship to the series. He’d just be like, yeah, we had to think about whether we wanted to continue with that. And we had to think about 4–and also 7. Or yeah, Vin makes a lot more off these films than I do. In the beginning, he was way more into negotiating his contract. I didn’t think about that kind of thing, but that’s okay. Or, with respect to Fast 6, he didn’t hesitate to point out that he wished the films would come down out of the crazy, and really get into what amazing things real, physically grounded cars are capable of. But the films are hyperreal–and that’s what works for them, so it’s just fun to come out and drive. He’s also made jokes about the movie titles (“We should just call the next one Fast: What the Fuck!”) and the longevity of the franchise (“By the time this ends, we’ll all be in wheelchairs… No, I’ll have a walker. Get it???” —We get it, PW. We get it!) But it wasn’t ever a bitter realism. It was just very self-aware, very at peace with things being what they were, and him being who he was.

He never bullshit anything.

When he’d Tweet dumb things or tell you “ni ni from Cali!”, you knew he meant it.

Be good.

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