“Oh you mean White Chocolate? (laughs) Let me tell you, the sistas loved them some Paul! ” -Will Packer
Hollywood lost one of its bright and shining stars November 30, 2013 when actor Paul Walker, 40, was killed in a car crash along with friend and business partner, Roger Rodas. While Walker was known for his striking surfer-boy looks, his laid back charm and open heart earned him millions of fans worldwide. Even with stardom from the multi-billion dollar “Fast and Furious” franchise, Walker was equally passionate about the world he lived in, as witnessed by his charity work with the Reach Out Worldwide organization, where he volunteered in relief work in Haiti and Chile.
One of Walker’s most memorable roles was in 2010’s summer hit “Takers” as John Rahway, a sharp-dressed, no-nonsense bank thief. His onscreen chemistry with partner in crime Idris Elba, helped to make “Takers” the #1 movie in America when it opened August 27th.
The Urban Daily spoke with “Takers” producer Will Packer, who shared fond memories of the recently departed actor and what Hollywood, and the world at large, could learn from the actor/humanitarian.
TUD: How did you first meet Paul?
Will Packer: I met him during pre-production of “Takers” – we had always wanted him for the project, he was our first choice. What I remember most about meeting him is that he was so grounded. Working in Hollywood, you come across all types of personalities and ego, that they seem to have an air of entitlement about them. But Paul was the absolute opposite. From the beginning to the end of shooting the movie, when Paul was around, he always felt like your homeboy. He really was one of the true genuine spirits in Hollywood.
How much input did Paul have in developing his character?
All my films are very collaborative and Paul was very influential in the way that (his character) John walked and the way that he dressed. What you see on screen, all that swag, is what Paul brought to the role. I mean the character was written well on the page, but he wanted to make it clear that he and Idris’ character were the leaders of the crew. Paul’s character wasn’t the most outspoken, but he was very calculating, always thinking ahead.
Quite a few box office analysts said that “Takers” wouldn’t do well opening weekend and predicted that “The Last Exorcism” would be the #1 movie. How did it feel seeing “Takers” winning that weekend box office?
I loved it. People really underestimated that film. They were not expecting much from it, but I knew there was an audience out there who wanted to see it.
Was there ever any desire to make a sequel?
The way the story was constructed, it really lent itself to having one. There was even the thought of a prequel, where we could get all the original cast together but it never came to fruition.
What would you like people to know about Paul both as an actor and a person?
He was not “Hollywood.” When you think about the negative stereotypes, for someone who was part of one of the biggest franchises in the world, he was not driven by material things. He loved his daughter, that was very evident to anyone who met him. And he treated everyone -whether it was a production assistant or an intern – the same. That was really refreshing to be around.
What’s been so amazing is the outpouring of love and support from the African-American community with the news of Paul’s death. What do you think accounted for his crossover appeal with Black fans?
Oh you mean White Chocolate? (laughs) Let me tell you, the sistas loved them some Paul! That’s one of the things I would hear over and over again. There was a star, not an actress but a celebrity in a different industry, who didn’t care about anyone else I worked with except Paul. She demanded that I introduce her to him at one of our “Takers” premieres. She was genuinely nervous and antsy about meeting him -he had that effect on women. Obviously his physical traits are what people will remember about him. But it was his interior that really made Paul who he was. I was really blessed to work with him and as I see the outpouring of affection for him, I think about how fortunate I was to know him.
VIDEO: Paul Walker Admits He Has a Crush on TLC’s Chilli (courtesy VagrantTV)
What I really admired about Paul was his willingness to be part of projects with casts of color. What can Hollywood learn from him in terms of diversity?
Paul was Paul and he didn’t judge you based on your background or your ethnicity. Paul was a human being and treated everyone with respect no matter where you came from. We all, and not just Hollywood, could learn from him. In the shadow of Nelson Mandela’s passing, who was all about equality and love for humanity, I feel that Paul really embodied those ideals. He practiced those beliefs every day.
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