Like many people, when I heard the tragic news on Saturday that Paul Walker and race car driver Roger Rodas lost their lives in a car crash I thought that it was a joke, a social media hoax. How many times have we see the death of a celebrity trend on twitter only to find out later that it was just some random jerk playing a trick to get attention? Although, I did my best to find as my sources as I could even looking to my colleagues who are close with Paul to find out the truth.
Unfortunately the truth was confirmation of the horrible news. Even though I didn’t know Paul personally even I felt heavily stung by his passing. I was even more sad for my friends and mentors RJ de Vera and Craig Lieberman who both knew Paul personally as they worked with him on the first few Fast And Furious movies. During my career I started to meet more and more people who have met and touched by Paul. Everyone in our industry liked him, even if they didn’t like the movies. Why? Because away from the cameras and lights Paul Walker was still every bit the car nut as all of us were in the most genuine way possible.
The main thing I got from everyone who has ever interacted with him is that he was a very casual, friendly, and humble guy who just loved surfing, cars, and racing. He really was one of us. He just also happened to be a talented successful actor. Yet, he never let Hollywood get in the way of just being who he was and hanging out with people who shared the same loves as he did. I can wax poetic on how the portrayal of his character in the fast and the furious series represented the growth of enthusiasts as the films went on but I don’t think that would really suit his memory. He really was just a casual tshirt, jeans, and chuck taylor wearing guy who was friendly, kind, and accessible.
I think Craig Lieberman described it best on his Facebook page when he said:
“Meeting him for the first time on-set when I handed the keys to my Supra over to him, we got to know each other a bit. It was clear that he was a car guy but he was just starting to delve deeper into the car hobby. We talked several times during the filming of the first two films, mostly about cars, car parts, car capabilities and such.
The two fondest memories I have of him came from two separate events: at one point, Universal teamed me up with Paul to go to a couple of events at which my car would appear along side Paul, who would be signing autographs. While killing time at a hotel lounge, I met Paul’s ex girlfriend and his daughter, Meadow, who was about 3 at the time. I was surprised to learn he was a father (he was in his late 20’s back then) as he seemed to be living the dream life. But more surprising was how much he really loved his daughter…I could see by the look on his face that he enjoyed being a dad even more than he loved cars.
The second memory came on set for 2 Fast 2 Furious down in Miami. During some time between takes, I saw Paul for the first time since shooting began on that film. He remembered me (which was a shock) and he thanked me for offering up my Skyline (was he kidding? I was getting paid for it!). During that conversation, I asked him “so you’re back for another one?” Paul replied “Hey, I’m just a surfer who’s lucky enough to get paid to be in movies. I have the greatest job in the world…I drive cool cars, meet cool people, go to cool places and I get a paycheck. Life is good.”
I never saw Paul get swept up in the whole Hollywood scene of partying, scandal or anything remotely controversial. I always admired that about him.
I don’t think Paul would take much credit for the role his movies played in breathing life into our beloved car hobby and whether or not you like the movies, I couldn’t imagine a better Ambassador for our hobby.
Thanks for the memories.”
I think we also should not forget how much of a philanthropist Paul Walker is. Before this tragedy it was not common knowledge that Paul Walker actually founded an organization called Reach Out World Wide (ROWW) back in 2010 when he volunteered as a relief team member responding to the earthquakes in Haiti. Paul saw a need for a better way to get skilled responders, equipment, and technicians to areas that have been devastated by natural disasters; so he started his own and that’s what Reach Out World Wide was about. Since founding the organization ROWW has been able to help countless people at home and abroad. In fact, before the accident that took is life Paul Walker was at an event held in collaboration with ROWW and the shop that he owned with his friend Roger Rodas that organized to raise money for victims of hurricane Haiyan in the Philippines.
Roger was every bit the car guy and humanitarian as Paul was which is probably why they got along so well. Roger was also a very highly educated and experienced business person whom specialized in finance but still cared about his family and fellow man more than anything else. Roger was also very passionate about education and actively participated with the Asomugha Foundation, a group dedicated to helping children in Africa get a quality education.
The world lost two great guys on Saturday. Friends and people close to them would prefer that we honor their memory by following in their philanthropic example and to donate to ROWW at ReachOutWorldWide.org and to the Asomugha Foundatation at AsomughaFoundation.org so that their legacy of helping others in need can continue on.
We will press on as usual because we think that’s what two guys like Roger and Paul would want us to do but we just wanted to take the time to honor these guys who have done a lot not just for our hobby but for people all over the world through their efforts. Our condolences to their families and friends.