Away from the bright lights and flashy cars of "The Fast and the Furious" series, Paul Walker was an actor who wanted to tell honest stories.
In a November 14 interview, just weeks before he and friend Roger Rodas were killed in a fiery car accident in California, Walker said his newest film, "Hours," was a rare opportunity for him to be truthful on-screen.
"I'm used to being one of the guys and joking around," 40-year-old Walker admitted. "I don't know how good I am with being vulnerable on camera and stuff. The first couple of days were like walking around naked in front of everyone.
"When we first made it I thought that this would be a fun journey, but I didn't know if anyone would see it because it's definitely not a commercial movie. It was pretty selfish; it was something I wanted to prove to myself. During filming, my agent asked me how it was going and I told him that I was telling the truth the entire time and there was only one or two times where I didn't actually believe what I was doing and that's when I told Eric (Heisserer, the film's director) to scratch the take.
"If they don't like this, then they don't like me."
"Hours" is the story of Nolan (Walker), a father who loses his wife during childbirth and then must care for his newborn daughter who is bound to a hand-cranked, battery-operated ventilator in an abandoned, powerless New Orleans hospital. While he endeavors to find help, Nolan must fight the elements and looters, all while making sure the ventilator stays charged.
With a legacy in high-octane action flicks, Walker admits he was ready to try different roles, and "Hours" is a small-scale film that shows the actor sans his trademark smile and swagger.
"It's cool to have a movie open number one," Walker said of past "Fast & Furious" successes. "I've had it happen many times. This is just a different feeling. I don't know if it's more satisfying- I think it's more meaningful."
It was during filming that Walker came to realize he shared a lot more in common with his "Hours" character than he originally believed.
"When I finally had that breakthrough, I realized that this is my life," Walker explains. "I got my daughter living in Hawaii, I've got a career in L.A., I live in Santa Barbara. No matter where I'm at, I feel like I have to be somewhere else. That's me cranking that damn machine. Am I being the father I need to be? I wasn't ready for it. Child out of wedlock- I was 25. Somebody just decided I was a movie star. I didn't want to be a movie star. I didn't ask to be a father. But that started me on it, cranking away."
Walker's tragic passing shocked both his fans and the entertainment community, who praised his philanthropy as well as his on-screen work. His charitable organization, Reach Out WorldWide, has completed works all over the world, from providing earthquake relief in Chile to giving baby formula and tents to the people of Haiti. A former marine biology student, Walker even embarked on a research expedition with National Geographic to study great white sharks.
At the time of his death Walker was filming the seventh installment of the "Fast and the Furious" series. According to a statement from Universal Pictures, production on the movie has since been shutdown for "a period of time" so "all options" can be assessed.
However his death is ultimately handled on-screen, it was a reenergized Walker who came to the "Fast & Furious 7" set after completing work on "Hours."
"In doing ["Hours"], I realized I want to do movies where I get to go out and tell the truth more," Walker said of the movie. "It doesn't mean it has to be heavy and emotional- it could even be a comedy. I like being cool on-screen, but it's healthy and rejuvenating to do something like this. It's a different kind of courage."
"Hours" is in select theaters and available On-Demand on December 13.