In 2013, the world was left shaken by news of Paul Walker’s tragic death. Now, nearly five years later, the globe is revisiting that heartbreaking moment in the tear-jerking documentary, I Am Paul Walker.
The emotional film documents the life of Walker, who rose to international fame through his portrayal of the fictional Brian O’Conner – a character in the hugely successful Fast & Furious franchise.
Walker first featured in the film series in 2001 with the franchise’s initial release, The Fast and the Furious. He then went on to reprise his role as O’Conner, a cop turned fearless street racer, in 2 Fast 2 Furious in 2003. But it was five years before he’d return to set for the third film in the series, Fast & Furious, which was released in 2009.
By now, Walker’s appearances in the franchise had made him a household name. This notoriety was only intensified by the release of Fast Five (2011) and Fast & Furious 6 (2013). Thus, fans could barely contain their excitement for the release of Furious 7, which was scheduled for September 2014.
However, this excitement quickly turned to horror in November 2013 when, during a Thanksgiving break from filming, Paul Walker was killed in a fatal car accident in Santa Clarita, California.
Watch the trailer for ‘I Am Paul Walker’. It’s almost certain to bring a tear to your eye…
The traumatic incident occurred whilst Walker was attending an event for his charity, Reach Out Worldwide, which was collecting donations for victims of Typhoon Haiyan – one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded. At approximately 3:30 pm, Walker and his business partner, Roger Roda, left the event in a red Porsche Carrera GT which the pair co-owned.
Shortly after their departure, the vehicle collided with a concrete lampost and two trees. It immediately caught fire with the flames furiously engulfing the sportscar within seconds.
Autopsy reports revealed that Rodas died of multiple traumas whilst Walker died from the combined effects of trauma and burns. Both bodies were burned beyond recognition.
The exact cause of the vehicle’s crash is highly debated. The police found no evidence that Rodas and Walker had been drag racing – a popular theory that first hit the headlines. They also found no alcohol or drugs in either man’s system and mechanical failure of the vehicle was ruled out.
It was eventually concluded that the cause of the accident was the result of the vehicle’s speed – investigations found that the Porsche had been traveling between 80mph and 93mph at the time of the crash, despite the 45mph speed limit on that particular street – and the age of the tires.
Walker’s death put an immediate hiatus on filming for Furious 7, with many speculating that the film would have to be scrapped and entirely rewritten.
Shocked by the news of Walker’s premature death, his Fast & Furious co-stars all paid tribute to their “brother” with Vin Diesel and Tyrese Gibson being particularly open about their pain and grief over the tragic loss.
Production for Furious 7 continued in April 2014, with Vin Diesel announcing that the team had chosen to continue with the film in order to honor Walker’s legacy. “I always feel like he’s looking down on us so we didn’t want to let him down,” he said at CinemaCon.
Furious 7 was released on April 3, 2015, after Walker’s brothers offered to step in and complete their brother’s scenes with the assistance of visual effects to recreate Walker’s likeness. The film generated more than $1 billion at the box office (against its $190 million production cost) making it the seventh highest grossing film of all time at present.
It was the last film in the franchise to feature Walker, with his character retiring from the world of street racing, heists and espionage.
Whilst Walker’s legacy still lives on in the Fast & Furious films – in the eighth film, The Fate of the Furious, Vin Diesel’s character names his child Brian after Walker’s character – there is still a great feeling of loss for those who followed the franchise loyally.
And while the final farewell of Walker’s character in Furious 7 was a chance for his fans to grieve and say goodbye, for many, his death is still difficult to comprehend.
However, the release of I Am Paul Walker may change that. The documentary will feature footage of the actor’s early life as well as clips from his time in the spotlight. It will also feature interviews with those who were near and dear to the California-born star – from childhood friends to the film icons he starred alongside.
I Am Paul Walker is set to air on the Paramount Network on August 11 at 9 pm. It is guaranteed to be a tear jerker, so ensure you have your tissues at the ready.