Paul Walker Dies in Car Accident at Age 40
UPDATED: The actor was shooting "Fast & Furious 7" for Universal and also was starring in the upcoming "Brick Mansions" and "Hours."
Paul Walker, best known for his role in the hit Fast & Furious movies, died Saturday afternoon in a car accident in Valencia, Calif., The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. He was 40.
TMZ was the first to report the news of his death.
The L.A. County Sheriff's Department said that the crash happened around 3:30 p.m. in the 28300 block of Rye Canyon Loop. "When they arrived, deputies found the vehicle engulfed in flames," a statement read. "The Los Angeles County Fire Department responded, extinguished the fire and subsequently located two victims inside the vehicle. The victims were pronounced dead at the scene."
As of 8 p.m., the road was still closed, and two Los Angeles local TV stations had sent news vans to the location.
Walker was in what police described as a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT when the single-car accident happened. The car reportedly burst into flames, with one of Walker's friends telling the local newspaper they "went through fire extinguishers" in a futile bid to fight the blaze. "We tried, we tried," Antonio Holmes told the Santa Clarita Signal.
Walker was the passenger in the car; AM radio station KHTS reports Roger Rodas, the CEO of Walker's company Always Evolving, was the driver and the car's owner and died as well. Walker reportedly owned a pair of high-performance car companies in Valencia.
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. In 2010, he flew to Chile to help those injured in the 8.8 magnitude earthquake and earlier was involved in the effort to assist survivors of the earthquake in Haiti.
He is survived by his 15-year-old daughter, Meadow.
Walker was reprising his role as Brian O'Conner in Universal's Fast & Furious 7 for director James Wan. The movie had recently begun filming in Atlanta and was set to move to Abu Dhabi in January but was on a break from shooting for the Thanksgiving holiday. The seventh film in the blockbuster action franchise has been slotted to hit theaters July 11.
The blue-eyed Walker, who described himself on his Twitter page as an "adrenaline junkie," did many stunts in the Fast & Furious movies himself. He starred in a 2010 National Geographic Channel series Expedition Great White, on which he spent 11 days as part of a crew that caught and tagged great white sharks off the coast of Mexico. His hobbies included riflery and archery.
Walker was starring in the upcoming Brick Mansions, now in postproduction. The film, from EuropaCorp and Relativity Media, is an English-language remake of the 2004 French action movie District B13. Meanwhile, his Hurricane Katrina drama Hours is due out in theaters Dec. 13.
Walker's official Facebook fan page posted a statement just after 7 p.m. Saturday:
"It is with a truly heavy heart that we must confirm that Paul Walker passed away today in a tragic car accident while attending a charity event for his organization Reach Out WorldWide. He was a passenger in a friend's car, in which both lost their lives. We appreciate your patience as we too are stunned and saddened beyond belief by this news. Thank you for keeping his family and friends in your prayers during this very difficult time. We will do our best to keep you apprised on where to send condolences. - #TeamPW"
Universal issued a statement at around 7:45 p.m.:
"All of us at Universal are heartbroken. Paul was truly one of the most beloved and respected members of our studio family for 14 years, and this loss is devastating to us, to everyone involved with the Fast and Furious films, and to countless fans. We send our deepest and most sincere condolences to Paul's family."
A statement from Relativity president Tucker Tooley echoed the sentiment:
"We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the sudden death of Paul Walker. Paul was an incredibly talented artist, devoted philanthropist and friend. Our hearts go out to his family, and our thoughts and prayers are with them."
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson took to Twitter to express grief:
All my strength, love & faith to the Walker family during this heartbreaking time. We find our strength.. in his light. Love you brother.— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) December 1, 2013
Walker was born on Sept. 12, 1973, in Glendale, not far from where he perished. He was brought up in a traditional Mormon family and went to Village Christian High in Sun Valley, Calif. His mother taught him how to drive, and his first car was a 1986 Ford Ranger pickup truck.
He starred in a commercial for Pampers as a toddler, made his TV debut on the family drama Highway to Heaven in 1985 and a couple of years later scored a role in the syndicated sitcom Throb as the 12-year-old son of a divorcee who gets a job at a record company.
Walker appeared in such shows as Who's the Boss?, The Young and the Restless and Touched by an Angel and in the 1998 films Meet the Deedles and Gary Ross' Pleasantville before attracting attention by starring as a gutsy high school quarterback who suffers a career-ending knee injury in Varsity Blues (1999).
After roles in She's All That (1999) and The Skulls (2000), the handsome Walker joined the cast of 2001's The Fast and the Furious, which was loosely based on a magazine article about street clubs that race Japanese cars late at night. His character, O'Conner, was an undercover police officer.
Walker described how he came to the film in an interview in May with Motor Trend magazine.
"I love Donnie Brasco and Days of Thunder, so after I did The Skulls, I was like, 'I want to be either an undercover cop or I want to race cars!' " he said. "Universal came to me with a newspaper article about street racing in L.A. and I was like, 'Are you kidding me? I grew up doing that right off Peoria in Sun Valley.' They asked if I wanted to do it. There wasn't even a screenplay, there was nothing, but I was like … 'F-- yeah, I want to do it!' "
The movie grossed $207 million at the worldwide box office and sold a huge number of DVDs for Universal.
Walker returned for the 2003 sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious but sat out the next installment before returning to reignite the lagging franchise with 2009's Fast & Furious.
"I did get sick of the endless questions about why I wasn't in the third one," he once said. "The fans were really ticked off. It was as if I had let them down."
Walker then stuck around for 2011's Fast Five and this summer's Fast & Furious 6 (2013) -- which raked in nearly $789 million around the globe.
His other credits include Flags of Our Fathers, Eight Below and Into the Blue.
Below, check out THR's behind-the-scenes video for a 2011 "Rule Breakers" shoot featuring Walker.