The documentary, which aired Saturday, featured interviews with his family and colleagues such as Fast and the Furious star Tyrese Gibson and director Rob Cohen. It painted the portrait of a star who wished to distance himself from Hollywood when possible.
“When Paul wasn’t in L.A. making movies, he wasn’t even in the country. He would be in the Amazon. He would be diving with sharks,” Wayne Kramer, director of Walker’s 2006’s film Running Scared, says in the doc.
At a young age, the Glendale, California, native began acting in commercials. I Am Paul Walker shows his appearance as a little boy on a dog food commercial for Puppy Formula. After his early acting years, Walker stepped away for a while and took up a fascination in cars (his maternal grandfather father was a racer) and began a relationship with Rebecca Soteros, who would later become the mother of his daughter Meadow in 1998. The documentary details how fatherhood was initially difficult for Walker.
“Emotionally I wasn’t there yet. Because I didn’t even know who the hell I was,” he says in an audio clip.
Soteros would later move to Hawaii with Meadow to study to be a teacher, while Walker tried to stay connected with his daughter while pursuing his career in acting.
“You felt his love. You felt his spirit. You felt his energy. You felt his morale. His energy. The inclusion,” Gibson said of Paul.
Paul got attached to the Fast and Furious franchise after working with Cohen on the 2000 psychological thriller The Skulls. After building a bond with the helmer, Walker knew he wanted to work with Cohen again or someone like him. According to his manager Matt Luber, the actor heard of his idea of a cop falling in love with the underground racing world, which would become The Fast and the Furious. Immediately, he was sold. “I’m in,” Luber recalled him saying.
At times, such as after filming 2005’s Into the Blue, Walker would leave his career behind for a period of time to go on trips in the wilderness and surf the oceans of the world. “He felt anxious,” his mother Cheryl Walker said of Paul’s mindset after working on the film. So when the idea of working in Spandex and a cape for multiple movies for years on end was presented, he shortly shut down the idea to his manager.
Walker died on Nov. 30, 2013, in a car accident with Roger Rodas, CEO of the actor’s motorsport company Always Evolving, in Valencia, California. Walker was in the area, just north of Los Angeles, for a car show and toy drive set up through his charity, Reach Out WorldWide. After leaving the toy drive, Walker stopped by to see Rodas and friend Sean Lee. They began talking about a Carrera GT in front of them. Excited about the vehicle, Paul wanted to give it a run before leaving for the day. Walker was the passenger in the car; Rodas, was the driver and the car’s owner and died as well.
The actor was laid to rest via a Viking farewell, something the Walker family said Meadow had mentioned his father saying was his preference. So they built a ship, loaded his ashes onto it and set it afloat. Paul’s sister Ashlie Walker told the camera as she wiped away tears that those were the brief moments of happiness during a dark time.
“Your son is not supposed to go before you. It’s your worst nightmare,” said Walker’s father, Paul Walker III.