TM Fall 2000- Cover
Paul Walker has gone from living in garages to cruising in Hollywoods fast lane, thanks to She's All That, Varsity Blues and The Skulls. And the ride will only get more intense after his next film, Squelch, comes out early next year. But Paul, a surfer boy at heart, takes it all with a grain of sand. The athletic 27-year-old star has just breezed into an offbeat diner in L.A., accompanied by Bliss, a pretty blonde who vanishes within seconds. Clad in a T-shirt, mesh shorts and sneakers, Paul looks like an off-duty American Eagle Outfitters model. He's friendly, but it's a perfect summer day and you get the distinct impression that this Southern California born-and-raised dude would rather be doing many other things besides this interview--like, say, surfing, driving his sports car or testing his limits at some extreme sport. He confirms this suspicion by volunteering, "Don't take it personally, but this interview is going to be a struggle for me."
It seems as if not much else has been a struggle for Paul Walker. As a toddler he did TV commercials, then segued into TV shows by appearing on "Highway to Heaven," "Charles in Charge" and "Who's the Boss?" While in high school, he spent a year as a regular on the syndicated sitcom "Throb," but then took a break from showbiz to attend nearly every community college you can name in Southern California with the goal of becoming a marine biologist. But by the time he was 20 years old, Paul went back to acting, this time on the soap "The Young and The Restless." Next he took a stab at the movies with Tammy and the T-Rex (with Denise Richards), which was such a disappointment it caused Paul to want to take another break from the biz. This time his hiatus lasted four years. At age 25, he was broke and living in a San Clemente, California, garage when he was contacted by a casting director he had known from his years as a kid star. The guy gave Paul a pep talk that ultimately propelled the actor back into the game.
Within months of returning to the Industry, Walker landed Pleasantville and Meet the Deedles. He gained notice as Freddie Prinze Jr.'s buddy in She's All That, and both Varsity Blues and The Skulls helped him garner a tremendous fan following. With his new movie, the road thriller Squelch, Paul's taking on his biggest role to date opposite Leelee Sobieski. And next year he has his first full-blown starring role in the car-racing drama Redline.
Stephen Rebello: So, how's your life right now?
Paul Walker: Unbelievable. I'm leaving for Milan this week because Hugo Boss is paying for me and a guest to fly first class to Italy to stay at a fancy-schmancy hotel just for basically sitting and watching his fashion show. I want to go to the ocean while I'm there.
Q: You've become incredibly popular in Hollywood in the last year. Is the attention uncomfortable?
A: I'm not crying about it, but the last couple of years have been a bit overwhelming. It feels good but it feels so wrong at the same time. I keep thinking "Why me?" [Laughs] And I answer, "Because it's supposed to happen." Call it destiny, God or whatever--I wanted it to happen and it has. It'll last as long as its supposed to.
Q: How do you feel about the movies you've done so far?
A: Nothing has turned out like I thought it would. I think I'm getting better. I look at scenes and think, "You overacted." You can be shooting a movie and think you're in the zone, really feeling it, then you see it on-screen and it's like you were forcing it.
Q: You're kind of a nomad, aren't you?
A: It's just the way I am. In the last four years, I haven't lived in one place for more than three months straight. Right now, I'm staying with a friend. I don't know what my problem is. I'm a free roamer. Maybe it comes from growing up in Southern California. I lived out of garages for a while.
Q: Why did you do that?
A: I just liked it. My friends used to call me The Vagrant. Now they call me Hollywood, Movie Star, Big Shot--lame stuff like that. For the most part, the guys I hang out with now I've known for a long time. I don't care too much for most people I meet here. But I've managed to pick up a few new friends along the way. Scottie Caan is a good friend of mine. So is Josh Jackson. Erik MacArthur is also a good kid.
Q: Why don't you like most of the people in L.A.?
A: I love the Industry, I love making movies. But after talking to someone for 20 minutes, you realize all you've been discussing is movies. It's like, "Don't you have any other interests?" And usually the answer is no.
Q: What are your other interests?
A: I like to surf and hike. I like to be outdoors. And I love photography. I'm considering going to art school. I have an F100 35mm Nikon and I'm getting a Mamiya 645. I shoot people, animals, buildings, sailboats and sunsets. I don't think I'm very good, I just like doing it. My father was a photojournalist and still has a darkroom.
Q: What cool stuff do you spend your money on?
A: My food bill is insane. [Laughs] I eat out four or five times a day--that's a mortgage on a half-million-dollar home. A lot of my buddies are, like, broke, so it's always like, "Aw, here ya go." It's kind of like a community fund. That's why I need to make more money. [Laughs]
Q: Do you ever catch yourself getting too into the trappings of success?
A: Yeah. Sometimes, when I'm wearing really nice clothes and driving around in my black Porsche 996, I feel like that guy. I get angry at myself because I like it too much. Sure, it's cool but the bottom line is, the car's got a steering wheel, four wheels and a motor. I didn't get it because it was a Porsche; I got it because I like to drive 150 miles an hour on the freeway as safely as possible. And you don't want to do that in an SUV. I always try to keep it really real. I don't want my brother, Cody, to be disillusioned by all this.
Q: By seeing his brother's fame, you mean?
A: When the poster came out for The Skulls and my name was next to Josh Jackson's, my brother thought it was cool, which it was, but I reminded him it was just a piece of paper with my name on it. He has a good grip on things. He excels at everything. He has girls swooning over him while he's playing basketball and he's totally oblivious.
Q: Did you have girls swooning over you at age 12?
A: I was totally aware of it and I was running all recess long from girls. They were aggressive. The chasing stopped around fifth grade but then it started up again a few years later.
Q: So the attention must be even more intense now that you're famous.
A: I used to think that girls always found me attractive if I just turned up my charm. I can schmooze with the best of 'em. Now I'll be thinking that everything's going well and 90 percent of the time, the girl will snap her fingers and go, "You're that guy from the movies, aren't you?" and I'll be like, "Oh, man." So I think maybe I wasn't doing that well. Maybe she recognized me from the very beginning and just liked me for the fame. That really bums me out. It's like if they think I'm like the guy in the movies, they may not even care to notice the rest of me. I'd rather have someone not want to have anything to do with me because I'm an actor, then I win her over.
Q: So you dont date too many actresses?
A: I won't deal with them. They scare me. I've met a few I admire, like LeeLee Sobieski. I like Selma Blair alot, too. Marley Shelton is really sweet. On the surface, most of the girls seem super-confident and they carry themselves like that. But, underneath, you find someone who's really vulnerable and insecure because this buisness puts people throught the ringer. The things they hear about themselves really affect them. I feel for them, but I dont know if I can deal with them.
Q: What things wouldn't you give up for a girl?
A: Im terrible. Bad. I don't even know if we should talk about this stuff. I love girls, bottom line. I wouldn't give up too much of my time for a girl who requires too much time, who dosen't really understand that im a "toys r us" kid. If she wants to play, then right on- it's going to be awesome because we could do alot of stuff together. But the second anyone tries to give me structure, no way. I wouldn't give up being a kid, and I want to be with someone who enjoys being a kid, too. I want to be the spokesperson for Toys "R" us. Im the guy who dosen't want to grow up.
Q: You don't see yourself getting married anytime soon then?
A: I'm 27 but Ill always be hhappy like this. I wonder if it's just because people keep telling people that they need to grow up. On the other hand, I might feel this way because Im up-and-coming, some people find me attrictave, things are good, and I have a bit of money, I drive around in a nice car. I'm at the top of my game right now. Maybe when I get older things wont look as good. (Laughs) I might not be able to get a date for the life of me.
Q: Who do you think you'd have chemisty with on screen?
A: I love Sophie Marceau and Julia Ormond. They're insanely beautiful and I think they're good actresses, too. I'm really excited to work with Jordana Brewster on Redline, my next movie.But Im told its not a good idea to get involved with someone your working with. I haven't done that yet. I If things run amok, you think, oh no, we've got to work together for another couple months.
Q: You named all brunettes.
A: Oh, Im not prejudiced. I like blonds and redheads, too(laughs.)
Q: What was it like for you shooing that April 2000 cover of vanity faire magazine, being saluted star of tomorrow?
A: I was hysterical the whole time. I had just finished working on Squelch with Leelee(Sobieski) and Steve Zahn and Id planned a trip with nmy friends to surf and have a good time in Costa Rica. My pubicist called saying she didnt think I hould go because of this Vanity Fair thing, which was going to be shot in Maimi. They were considering at least four other people besides me and it was probablly a coin toss between me and someone else, like, "We need andother blond on the cover." (Laughs)
Q: How did you jell with the other people being photographed?
A: I'd worked with Marley Shelton in Pleasantville and shes just really cool. I ended up liking Chris Klein a hell of a lot- a really funny guy. Penelope Cruz I have a bit of a crush on- She's hot. I have this thing for accents. She looks even better in person. Wes Bently is a cool kid, too.
Q: Nobody was throwing Attitude?
A: You have to understand that alot of that comes from being scared. It's like, "Oh my God, they're, like, dubbing me as possibly being one of the people of tomorrow." It's scary.
Q: What did you think when Leelee praised your naked body in a Movieline interview just after she finished filming Squelch with you?
A: I was flattered- especially coming from Leelee. I like her alot. After that story came out, we unexpectedly ended up doing reshoots for Squelch and there was a bit of awkardness at first, but i ran right up to her and hugged her sayin', "Thank you SOO Much!!" I thanked her maybe a hundred times because it was flattering.
Q: You get along well with leelee?
A: I love her. Everythings blown up for her and I hope she stays how she is. She's got a good head on her shoulders.
Q: So, how's the movie?
A: I play a meek, mild guy, more introverted than guys Ive played before. It's basically two brothers and a girlfriend taking a road trip across the country and after we pull a prank on a psycho truck driver and make him mad, he chases us.
Q: What made you want to go into the acting buisness?
A: I didnt. My parents did. I did it from when I was two and when I got older, I didnt want to do it for a while. I only started acting again because I was desperate- I didnt have any money.
Q: Do you take hard when you dont get a job you really want?
A: I was really bummed out that I didnt get the part of Anakin in Star Wars: Episode II. But there were rumours circulating so I don't know how close I came to actually getting it. Josh Jackson was apparently in talks to play Anakin, too. (Laughs) You cant say anything, but a part of me was thinking "You Bastard! You better not get the part over me!" At the same time, you'd be happy if he does get it rather that Hayden Christensen, some no-namer from Canada. He'll probably be good, though. Well, at least he'll show up on time and know his lines.(laughs)
Q:What else have you auditioned for?
A: Pearl Harbor. My grandfather was a Pearl Harbor survivor so It would have been cool to do that movie, but I think I was too cocky for them. I threw alot of attitude. I was feeling really confident that day when I met (producer) Jerry Bruckheimer and (director) Michael Bay. They asked "So what kind of movies do you want to make" and I said, "Movies that I like." They both had a smirk on their faces the whole time I was in there. I got out of the meeting and called Scott Caan because he'd just finished doing Gone in Sixty Seconds with Bruckheimer. I said, "I think I may have pissed him off," and he was like, "Aw, dont worry dude, they loved you." (Laughs)
Q: Tell me something fun you've done in the last week.
A: I went to the Blink-182 show and was in the mosh pit having a good time. I was really fustrated because no one was even bodychecking me. I must really look old. These guys around me were all tatted up and we were elbowing each other- for me, It's all about beating each other up, taking it out on each other. I dove off the stage a couple of times. Security had already warned me and they were going to take me out. So, anyway, I was in the pit and Im slamming in one direction and I cut to go the other way, but the floor was wet, so when I went to push off, I rolled on the inside of my ankle. Everythings black and blue. I've had alot of Advil, but I should get it X-Rayed.
Q: What things wouldn't you give up for your career?
A: Surfing- I need it to feed my soul.
Q: What are your plans for 2001?
A: I've put together a production company and we've found a couple of really good scrips, one of which I might be doing next year. I want to be proavtive, not sit around waiting for the kind of movies I want to do.