Paul Walker, actor with ties to Lubbock, dead at 40

Reported by: James Eppler
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Updated: 12/02/2013 6:09 am

On Twitter: @JamesEppler

Paul Walker never got to make a western. It's something he really wanted to do, and now with his tragic death, it's a dream that will go unfulfilled. He was killed Saturday in a fiery single-vehicle crash. He was a passenger in a Porsche investigators say was speeding, and the driver was also killed. Walker leaves a 15-year-old daughter behind. He was 40.

When I interviewed him in 2003 for "The University Daily" at Texas Tech, he was promoting his new movie called "Timeline." I asked him if there was one thing he'd like to do with his career - a way to stretch himself as an actor - what it would be. 

"A Western," he said without hesitation. He said he liked the idea of wearing a hat, slinging six-guns and riding a horse. I've wondered since then if his interest in Westerns grew out of the time he spent here in Lubbock and other parts of Texas.

When I was in high school here in Lubbock at Trinity Christian, he dated the older sister of a guy named Lee Ellis, who went to my school. Bliss Ellis was a 1996 graduate of Coronado High School. The couple even came to one of Trinity's baseball games in early 2000 to see Lee play.

At the time, Walker was best known for his work in "Varsity Blues," a 1999 MTV-produced movie about small town Texas high school football, which shot in several locations across the state. Apparently, Bliss was an extra on the set, which is how they met.

They dated off and on for a few years. You'll find numerous pictures of them together online.

Walker spent enough time in Lubbock that there are plenty of people who remember meeting him. On hearing of his death this weekend, a couple of my friends from high school posted some of their remembrances of him on Facebook:

Ryan Highly: "In college I was out at Orlando's with my girlfriend (now wife) and ran into the Ellis family. I went over to say hello, not seeing Paul. Paul turned around, said hello and asked how we were doing, at least acting as if he recalled watching me play ball at Trinity and was extremely kind and non-assuming. I walked out thinking I had scored big points with my girlfriend until she crushed me with a, "who was that?" So, it might not have scored me any points but Paul seemed to be a very genuine guy the few times we met and it is sad to hear of his passing. I pray God's grace for his family and friends."

Jerod Simpson: "I met him back then too, a totally nice and approachable guy. He was just about to make the first "Fast and Furious" movie and I remember him being excited about making it."

Brittany Morrow Douglas: "I had the opportunity to meet Paul on one of his visits to Lubbock. He was such a very kind hearted person! So sad about his passing..."

David Snell: "I met him in a bowling alley about 10 years ago. Very nice dude."

Katie Couture: "I ran into him once at a baseball game when I went to Trinity. He seemed sweet."

As for me, I never met him face to face, but he was kind and amiable in our 10-minute phone interview in 2003. 

I'm not going to pretend that I always admired him as an actor because, frankly, I didn't like a lot of his movies. But a few of them do stand out for me: 

"Running Scared" (2006): This is, by far, my favorite Walker performance. As a low-level criminal put in an impossible situation, he really got to show some range that we hadn't seen from him before. 

"Varsity Blues" (1999): I've been a big fan of this movie since its release, and I still think it's underrated. Walker's work as a star quarterback sidelined by injury gave this movie some emotional gravity.

"Joy Ride" (2001): This is just a super fun thriller, and I liked Walker and Steve Zahn's work together.

"The Fast and the Furious" (2001): The original, and still my favorite, even if it is a shameless rip-off of "Point Break." I do admire how the series has reinvented itself with movies 5 and 6. 

"The Skulls" (2000): It's not a very good movie, really, but it will always hold a special place in my heart because it's the movie I took my wife to see on our first date in high school.

Walker was in the middle of shooting "Fast 7" when he was killed. According to "The Hollywood Reporter," he was to report back to the set of "Fast 7" in Atlanta this week. The movie will be delayed, and the director, producers and studio execs are trying to decide how to proceed in a way that honors the late actor.

His last completed performance was in a movie called "Brick Mansions," due out next year. 

And you know what? I really would have liked to have seen that Walker Western.


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1stSSPZ - 12/2/2013 7:32 PM
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So what? What makes an actor such a great or important person? What about THIS man that none of you heard about?¬if_t=like
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