Typecasting… it’s the bane of many a Hollywood actors’ existence (and the fear of many more).
It crippled Christopher Reeve’s career long before the accident that crippled his body. His TV-Superman predecessor and namesake George Reeves committed suicide in an alcoholic haze because he believed he’d never be offered another character who didn’t have to wear his underwear on the outside.
And with movies like Fast and the Furious and Roadkill under his belt — where those piercing blue eyes melt hearts on and off screen — isn’t Paul Walker in similar trouble of only ever playing the hunky leading man?
Appearing at the end of the month in Furious follow-up 2 Fast 2 Furious, it’s not a quality Walker sees in himself.
“I don’t think of myself as a cool guy,” Walker says from Melbourne, where he’s winding up a whirlwind publicity tour. “I’m just a regular guy, but for whatever reason people are placing me in roles portraying cooler people. To be honest with you I think of myself as a bit more of a goof than anything.”
Does that mean we’ll see Paul play off-kilter characters instead of the dashing hero in future — the sort of role Steve Zahn played as his brother in last year’s Roadkill?
“No question,” he says, “Fast and the Furious has been huge for me as far as getting my face out there, but it’s also given me a bit more freedom and I plan on taking advantage of that. There’s a place for making fun movies that are about the eye candy and going out and losing yourself, and I think I’d get a bit burnt if I just did that all along.”
Asked if he has a preferred genre or style in mind, Walker seems to have a handle on his craft as well as a plan for where he wants to go.
“I just want to work with people who are better than me,” he says, “I worked with Frances O’Connor not too long ago in Timeline which will be coming out later this year and that’s the direction I want to go in.
“I’m not so much after leading man roles as much as quirky stuff. I’d really like to work with Steve Zahn again — Roadkill is the favourite of my films. I want to mix it up, and I haven’t been in the game that long so I think I have that option.”
And mixing he will be. After nine months away last year, Walker’s looking forward to spending time at home with his family, then he’ll be prepping with John Dahl (Roadkill’s director) on another project. And with more offers coming in and films in development, the sky will soon be the limit.
But first, the pressure’s on. Because of little known co-stars and the conspicuous absence of both Vin Diesel (legend has it he was thought a shoe-in to reprise his role until he asked for $20 million) and original director Rob Cohen, the weight of 2 Fast 2 Furious rests squarely on Walker’s shoulders.
But Officer Brian O’Connor (Walker) is reassuring that director John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood, Shaft) is going in a new direction. “Everyone was concerned at one point with Vin not coming back but it seems to be doing fine with the people who’ve seen it,” he says. “This movie is a lot funnier than the first one. It’s really like comparing apples and oranges. It has more of an organic feel and I think it’s a lot more fun.”
“Basically the cars are the stars and it’s about losing yourself in the fast pace of cars zipping around. I can’t give too much away, but even though you don’t see as much of that whole underground street racing culture, it still plays a big part. And it’s more of a buddy movie — like a young version of Lethal Weapon.”
It must have been fun sharing the screen with Tyrese Gibson and a fleet of the hottest souped up Japanese street imports; Walker says that although he himself was disappointed at Vin Diesel not returning, he wouldn’t change the experience and ‘had a blast’. But the question remains; will Paul Walker’s career stay as fast and furious as it looks from here?