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A chat with Paul Walker (“Hours”)

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In “Hours” (available in select theaters and on VOD December 13th), Paul Walker portrays Nolan Hayes, a man who has to deal with the consequences of Hurricane Katrina while facing a personal tragedy surrounding the birth of his daughter. The film contains elements of action, thriller and caused the actor to encounter a personal attachment to the movie. Prior to his tragic death, Walker sat down to discuss the challenges and satisfaction in taking on such a unique role, as well as his relationships with his “Fast and the Furious” castmates.

With the clock ticking away, what did you tap into as an actor to relay that urgency?

PAUL WALKER: We were probably about two-thirds of the way into the movie and it hit me what the significance of this project was to me. It was weird the way it happened. Just by page value, I was like, “Wow, this is pretty powerful.” I was crying and upset and yelling at him. I was feeling all these emotions. I realized it wasn’t about Nolan and a baby, and this beautiful girl. This is life and this machine is just this crazy thing I’ve been running for I don’t know how long. I’m just spinning it for what reason? I’m just juggling all these balls. You’re trying to make sense of it and it hit me when I was a kid. I started doing this in my early twenties. I was like, “I’m a science guy. I’m a geek. I’m into science and botany and marine sciences. I’m supposed to be outdoors and hiking. Maybe I’m supposed to be a professional guide.” I fought this for years and years and years, but at the same time, I wasn’t stupid. I was like, “I just had a child out of wedlock. It’s a good thing I’m making another movie. I’m going into “Varsity Blues,” just before I thought about leaving. I could put a roof over my baby’s head and then I could figure out my stuff. I’m in this movie and it speaks to me in a very pure and truthful level. What I didn’t realize is that this is my life. This is all of our friggin’ lives. We’re running around and cranking this stupid machine and we get flat-backed and something crazy happens to us and you look inside the box and go, “Holy shit.” So, I was about two-thirds into the movie and thought, “Oh my god, this is so therapeutic.”

How much of a physical toll was doing this movie?

PAUL WALKER: It was a walk in the park. (Laughs) It had a good balance, the physicality and the emotional component. I remember it being around midday and going, “Holy hell, I’ve got six hours left to go,” but at the end of the day…let me go back. My father was a contractor. He made me learn a different trade every summer going through high school. All of his buddies were tradesmen. My dad was like, “They can never take skill sets away from you. That’s something you’ll always have, so you’ll always be worth something, because you’ll always be able to provide a certain service.” He’s smart like that. My grandfather’s like that, too. At the end of the day, you can go, “Wow, look what I did.” Movies don’t have that. A film goes off in a canister or on a digital chip. There’s nothing to show for it. I said some things and I was trying to be cool, but that’s about it. (Laughs) That’s all you have. On this one, at the end of the day, I was like, “I experienced some stuff today. I felt some things.” I connected with Genesis. I loved that girl, working off her. I fell in love with her. It was reinvigorating. At the end of the day, I was like, “There might not be anything to show for it, but there’s something to feel for it.” So, when it came to work and getting up the next day, I was like, “Hell yeah!” I was ready to go.

Are you a strict dad?

PAUL WALKER: We’re finding a balance. She just moved in with me last year. Just when I was leaving to do another “Fast” and it’s really tearing at me, just to be honest with you, and trying to maintain a balance. Fortunately, we’re filming in Atlanta, but I come home every weekend, two weeks in a row, I came back three times. She just turned 15. I’m big with thick analogies, but I see her as this rocket ship and she’s on this launching pad. I just want to get her trajectory right. (Laughs) She’s going to be my daughter and I’m going to be her dad for the rest of our lives, so I want it to be cool. I sure as hell don’t want to be looking back and go “What if” and “You should’ve been home more.” That’s the noise in my head right now. Trying to find a balance. She’s super supportive and like, “Go ahead and do what you do.” But how significant is it, really? I mean, this is our time together. We got three years and you’re going to be out of the house. She’s like, “You talk like I’m going to be gone forever.” I’m like, “How long is it going to be before you show up at the door with Johnny.” It’s a cool time right now. We’re both kind of finding our stride. We’re really honest with each other, which is cool. She tells me what her needs are. I think sometimes she tries to be a little tougher than I want her to be. I want her to be more revealing, like, “You’re not home enough” or “You don’t pay attention enough to what I’m saying.” I want her to say those things, because I know sometimes I’m not, but I do it pretty well, I think.

Has she seen your performance in “Hours?”

PAUL WALKER: Yes, I took her the first time I saw it. It was cool to watch the reaction, because I’m proud of the work that I did, because I told the truth the whole time. There were only a couple of times where there was a take and I didn’t believe it and I would tell Eric (Heisserer) that I didn’t believe it. I was trying to force something. I was just saying words. I remember when I was talking to my agent Teresa. She was like, “How’s it going?” I said, “It’s going really well.” I was probably about halfway through it. She asked what the experience was like. I was like, “I think it’s good. I’m telling the truth the whole time.” I realize that I told her that it was kind of scary, too. I was like, “If people don’t like my performance in this, then they just don’t like me, because I’m putting it all on the line. It’s who I am.” At the end of it, I saw some people’s response and went, “Whew, thank god.” (Laughs)

How much does it help that the film was shot in chronological order?

PAUL WALKER: Huge. It played a major factor, because you could carry it from one bit to the next. There’s no, “Ok, let’s go back and figure out what’s going on. I need a reminder. Ok, script supervisor. What happened just before this again?” (Laughs) There was none of that. We were just runnin’ and gunnin’.

You also shot in the United Methodist hospital which was shut down during Katrina. How did that affect your performance?

PAUL WALKER: What really helped was that a lot of the buildings surrounding the hospital… you can still see the water line, because they hadn’t painted yet. On the inside, if you see a water line, you know darn well that they took all the sheet rock off the walls, because they have to make sure that there isn’t any mold. Black mold is nasty. A lot of people are sick down there because of it. A lot of builders. It’s kind of like the asbestos fibers with all of the old AC guys. All these guys I grew up with, all my dad’s buddies, they’re all messed up. That mesothelioma stuff is very real. So when I heard about the black mold and how it was affecting people, I was like, “Oh no.” The base of the hospital is the same thing. The water level came up almost 12 feet. At the bottom level, when you go to work every day, just the skeleton of the building, it’s reduced to aluminum and steel. When they do get around to reinvigorating the hospital, they just redo the lower levels and buff up what they want to buff up upstairs. But basically, anything and everything in the hospital, around those sick people, the last thing you want is some mold. Then, they’ll really assess what’s going on. I can’t help but think they’re not somewhat grateful that we sent in our crew, because we were going to work in there immediately, so our guys had to go in there and clean it all up. I wouldn’t want that job. (Laughs) But every morning it was like, “Wow, look at this.” It gives you that perspective every day. That reminder is right in your face on the second floor and the third floor, which was the working floor.

You’re doing “Fast 7” now. Do you guys all feel like family?

PAUL WALKER: Yeah, a dysfunctional family. (Laughs) We all love each other. It was forced. We would have never, ever hung out in life. Tyrese and I would have. Chris [Bridges] and I would’ve. Chris is one of the coolest people you’ll ever meet. He comes from a really solid family. You’d really be impressed by him. He’s an old soul and his perspective…he’s really wise beyond his years. Singularly, you’d be really hard pressed to find one person who has impressed me more than Ludacris has. Tyrese is just the sweetest person. He’s like a big kid. I think I’m Peter Pan, but he’s Peter Pan on crack. (Laughs) Vin and I are just so “east coast meets west coast” and we have different approaches to life and all that. We found a real respect for one another, but we were such opposite ends of the spectrum, it’s unbelievable. But that’s why we’ve been so successful. That’s the reason why it’s worked is because we are so different. And I don’t know if we necessarily found a stride together, because on certain days, I want to crack him in the head, ya know? (Laughs) But he looks at me and I know there are days he wants to crack me in the head, too.

Who’d win that fight?

PAUL WALKER: Oh, I wouldn’t want to tangle. (Laughs) But there are times he’ll look at me and say, “Man, I wish I could be more like you.” And I’d say, “Shit, I wish I could be more like you. “ (Laughs) It’s cool. And Jordana, I legitimately love Jordana. We met and we were little kids when we did the first one. I think she was only 17 or 18 years old. I love her so much. Michelle and I, we’ve been through it all. Michelle’s the most original person on the planet. You find anyone else like her. And she just calls it how it is. She’s just so straight up and uncensored all the time. Just be ready. (Laughs) I love her for that. She’s dope, though. She’s an original, for sure.

  

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