Paul Walker (right) with co-star Tyrese at a “2 Fast 2 Furious” premiere in 2003. | Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Coming off the success of “The Fast & the Furious,” Paul Walker was offered the role of Superman in one of the many attempts to reboot the Man of Steel franchise — and turned it down. In this 2003 interview with Sun-Times contributor Cindy Pearlman, promoting the high-octane movie’s first sequel, he explains why:
The star of “2 Fast 2 Furious” prefers to live his life in the slow lane. Paul Walker insists that he is the most low maintenance of all movie stars.
“I’m no Ben Affleck, but I’m doing OK,” reports the handsome blond hunk who recently turned down the chance to be the new big-screen Superman.
“Yes, I could have made a gazillion dollars on that franchise. I could probably have bought my own fleet of jets or my own island,” he said jokingly. “You know what? I don’t need it. My favorite brand of running shoes costs $23. I rarely pay more than $40 for my jeans. Throw in a T-shirt and that costs me $20 or $10 if I buy it on the beach. I don’t need a gazillion dollars to manage that kind of lifestyle.”
Hang on, a down-to-earth young actor who hasn’t been seduced by all the spoils? If Walker keeps this up, he’ll probably get tossed out of Hollywood.
He doesn’t even date a new woman every other week or roll through town with an entourage.
“I’m not a party kind of guy,” he said apologetically. “I do like to go to barbecues or take trips to Mexico with my buddies.
“I know I sound like a broken record, but 10 years ago I was living out of a garage and pan- handling, so just being a little comfortable is more than good for me. In fact, this is heaven.”
Walker also found it a bit heavenly to return to the driver’s seat for one of this summer’s big sequels. In “2 Fast 2 Furious,” opening Friday, he’s back in the action as the young undercover cop Brian O’Connor. This time around, he hits the mean streets of Miami to prove himself to his FBI bosses, who feel like he threw one of their largest investigations when he let Vin Diesel go the last time.
Since O’Connor blew his own cover, he has one last chance to bust Carter Verone (Cole Hauser), a flashy business type who runs an international money laundering cartel linked to … you guessed it: illegal street racing.
Also along for the ride are Tyrese, Eva Mendes, Ludacris and James Remar. John Singleton calls the shots.
Noticeably absent is Diesel, who opted out of the sequel. For months, there has been word that Walker was a bit upset with Diesel’s decision.
“Part of the so-called controversy is my fault because I got really pissed off when Vin announced he wasn’t coming back,” Walker admitted. “I guess I thought the movie wouldn’t get made, but it did. So I was wrong to react that way.”
Walker enjoyed working with Diesel on the first film. “I want to make it clear that Vin and I got along really well on ‘The Fast and the Furious.’ There is absolutely no truth to the rumors that we fought, which is why he didn’t come back.”
Walker had to settle for hanging out with rapper Tyrese on the set, and admits that the combination of two young guys and all those cars led to some fun moments.
“There’s a great fight that Tyrese and I have in the beginning of the movie,” he said. “John Singleton told us he was not bringing in a stunt choreographer. He wanted to leave it up to us so it would look more natural.
“One day we decided to rehearse the fight in my room,” he said, laughing. “Let me just say that Tyrese is from Watts. I’m a surfer boy. He has 40 pounds on me. Tyrese thought I was an easy mark, and that he’d deck me instantly.”
Too bad Tyrese didn’t know that Walker has studied martial arts his entire life.
“I put him in chokes and scissors that he didn’t know how to handle,” Walker said. “We were like two big kids. We practically gave each other whiplash once a day.”
In the end, he thinks the sequel is better than the original film. “This one has more of a sense of humor. Tyrese is really fun, while Vin was dead serious.
“I also think the production values are much greater in this film. We did ‘Fast and the Furious’ for $40 million. This one cost about twice that much, but to John Singleton’s credit, the money is up on the screen.”
“We used very expensive cars and blew up more of them this time. The driving sequences are also way more spectacular.”
But then, Walker always has been a driven actor.
Now 29, he was born in Glendale, Calif., and started doing commercials as a child. During the ’70s and ’80s, he had guest spots on series television, including “Charles in Charge,” “Highway to Heaven,” “Who’s the Boss?” and “Diff’rent Strokes,” to name a few.
He also had a role on the soap opera “The Young and the Restless.” His big-screen debut came in the kiddie flick “Monster in the Closet” (1986).
He took time off after high school to major in marine biology at a California community college. Then Hollywood came calling, and Walker landed roles in the films “Pleasantville” (1998), “She’s All That” (1999), “Varsity Blues” (1999), “Brokedown Palace” (1999), “The Skulls” (2000) and “Joy Ride” (2001).
When he’s not looking after his 4-year-old daughter Meadow, he likes to surf the waves off Malibu Beach. “Surfing soothes me, it’s always been a kind of Zen experience for me,” he said. “The rest of the world disappears for me when I’m on a wave.”
He can also be found behind the wheel of his Porsche, ’67 Malibu or Ford Diesel truck.
Is he a fast and furious driver?
“Oh, I used to be a lot wilder!” he said. “I’ve had to curb my enthusiasm for speed since making these ‘Fast and Furious’ movies. There’s nothing cops would like better than to give me a speeding ticket!”
Distributed by Big Picture News