pw5 For many of us, we could easily criticize the way Hollywood embellishes story lines and makes movies that glorify a situation that was not so glorious to begin with. The The Fast and the Furious was one of those movies – glorifying street racing and creating its own cult heroes. The Fast and Furious franchise is the equivalent of the 1970s leisure suit – nobody wants to admit they liked it, but they sold millions.

pw4The Fast and the Furious was one of those movies that seemed as if it wouldn’t catch on, however, it rose to fame with numerous sequels – some good, some not so good. For the most part, people couldn’t understand why it was so popular, yet we all went to watch the next version of the street racing team-turned-international crime crew just to see what would happen next. One reason for it’s popularity was Dominic Toretto, and the other was Brian O’Conner, the two characters that would begin as enemies then become lifelong friends by movie’s end.

Sadly, on November 30, 2013, we lost one those leading men – Paul Walker – to a fiery car crash in Valencia, California. Walker was a passenger in a Porsche Carrera GT when it struck a light pole and burst into flames. It hasn’t been announced or speculated what caused the single-car crash, but they do say speed was a factor. The driver was identified as pro racer Roger Rodas, who also died at the scene. Walker, 40, had been in town to attend a charity event for his Reach Out WorldWide organization. He is survived by his 15-year-old daughter.

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Photo: Dan Watson/Santa Clarita Valley Signal

Walker was one of those guys who helped bring the character and the franchise to life with both his personality and good looks, and epitomized what many people secretly wanted to be: a good guy with a little bad boy stirred in. Guys wanted to be him, the girls wanted to be with him.

He was just enough of a bad boy to make him likeable but not so much that he become public enemy number one. We watched Walker’s character, Brian O’Conner, transition from undercover police officer to international man of mystery, becoming family with the crew that he was once charged with bringing to justice. Vin Diesel, “Dom”, would begin the series as a charge and like a magnet he would suck O’Conner in – with the rest of us – and the sequels would eventually stack up. Walker was working on the F&F 7 sequel at the time of his death.

Just like O’Conner was taken in by the rogue street racers that would call him family, Walker became a household name and we all sat on the edge of our seats watching him in each installment of the Fast and Furious sequels, and we still curse Tokyo Drift for not including him. We saw one sequel bring back Letty, played by actress Michelle Rodriguez, and sadly many of us wish that this incident in Santa Clarita was just another silly Hollywood write off, where we could bring back Walker and all would be right with the world again.

Walker will be missed, and it’s a sad loss for the acting community – and automotive enthusiasts all over. We all envied the cars he drove, and are grateful that he helped make cars cool in the movies again. There’s no telling how this will affect the current sequel or the ones that follow. The show must go on, as they say, but this time the crew will be driving in the “missing man” formation. Our hearts go out to Paul Walker’s family and friends.

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