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RIP Paul Walker, Who Was Two Weeks Away from Sharing with Audiences the Finest Performance of His Career (TRAILER)

by Joe Leydon
December 1, 2013 1:57 PM
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Paul Walker in 'Hours'

Chalk it up as a tragic irony of an untimely demise: At the time he was killed Saturday in a Los Angeles auto mishap at the ridiculously young age of 40, Paul Walker was less than two weeks away from seeing how movie audiences and VOD viewers would respond to what arguably was the finest performance of his career up to that point, as a desperate father who triumphs over death. (Trailer below.)

In "Hours," writer-director Eric Heisserer’s suspenseful indie drama, Walker plays Nolan Hayes, a loving husband who rushes his pregnant wife to a New Orleans hospital just before sunrise on Aug. 29, 2005 – just as Hurricane Katrina begins its brutal assault on the Crescent City. Unfortunately, Nolan’s wife dies during childbirth. Even more unfortunately, his prematurely born daughter must remain inside a ventilator for at least 48 hours.

The New Orleans levees break, the city streets are flooded, the hospital is evacuated – but Nolan must remain behind, alone with his infant offspring, because the ventilator cannot be moved. And when the power goes out, the increasingly anxious father must maintain constant vigilance – because the hand-cranked back-up battery for the ventilator works for, at best, three minutes between crankings.

As I wrote in Variety after the drama’s SXSW Film Festival premiere last March: “'Hours' is practically a one-man show, with Walker alone on camera for lengthy stretches as Nolan passes time talking to his baby, or himself, and dashing hither and yon between battery-cranks while on beat-the-clock explorations and supply runs.” The film “capably and compellingly rises to the demands of the role,” and “gracefully balances the drama on his shoulders.”

Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not one of those snobs who dismiss the guilty-pleasure appeal of Walker’s full-throttle action-heroics in the "Fast & Furious" franchise. (Although I must admit: I enjoyed his work just as much, if not more, in a genre movie of a scarier kind, John Dahl’s "Joy Ride.") It’s just that, in "Hours," I saw him doing things -- and expressing emotions – that indicated he also was fully capable of more challenging roles in more complex movies.

And when I spoke to him at SXSW last March, I got the distinct impression that he, too, knew he’d taken full advantage of a showcase for his heretofore underutilized talents.

You can judge for yourself when "Hours" is available in limited theatrical runs and as VOD fare starting Dec. 13. In the meantime, here is some of what Paul Walker had to say about the movie – and his work in it – during our conversation.

How much responsibility did you feel toward the people of New Orleans – the people who had endured the devastation of Hurricane Katrina – while making Hours in their city?

Prior to getting to New Orleans, [Eric Heisserer] told me that our ace in the hole was the fact that a lot of the people on the crew, because we were filming in New Orleans, had a very personal connection to this. So we had built-in accountability – like, the accountability police. There had been some other Katrina projects that had come up. But this one, when they read it, the locals felt a real connection. And when I got there, I saw this consistently. Everybody was there because they really wanted to be there. They felt like they had a connection to the story.


  • me | December 4, 2013 6:07 AMReply

    And really people respect the dead. Before Paul was ever an actor his first love was cars. Respect the fact that he went doing something he loved with his friend and from what i hear co-owner of Paul's Race Team. It was a blowout at high speed. That is all it was. He time was up and the lord called him. Can't respect anyone who talks about a person who just lost his life. Show some respect for this family and loved ones and cut the gossip

  • a person | December 3, 2013 1:20 PMReply

    If they were driving "ridicuosuly reckless" I'm sure that tiny tree (although I keep hearing it was a post or something, I keep getting conflicting information) either way, would have been leveled along with the car....just doesn't add up in my opinion :/

  • Me | December 4, 2013 6:04 AM

    Ya you don't know cars to well. The Porshe is not a heavy built car at all. The car going that fast should actually been worse then what actually happened. Hear a blowout was the cause. Going 130 (rumored) and a blowout veered them off the road and then it came in contact with the tree. Even when i hit a tree with my 1991 GMC full size K1500 with a grill guard, well lets just say the tree even won that battle granted i was going above 100 mph or anything but trees are pretty solid. Unless it was a coconut tree or something the roots make them pretty sturdy. A car is never going to knock over a tree

  • JOHN | December 1, 2013 10:43 PMReply

    It wasn't an "auto mishap." He and his colleague were driving recklessly, dangerously and in the fashion that inspired young people around the world to be just as foolish with their lives. This is not a tragedy -- it was a completely avoidable, completely unnecessary car wreck that claimed two lives, and that was caused by human beings who should have known better. He could have prevented it by not glorifying the very behavior that led to his death. I'm very sorry he died. How many other people have died by trying to replicate what they saw in the "Fast and the Furious" films. I pray (literally) that he rests in peace … along with the tens of thousands of people who die in car accidents every year. But Hollywood's determination to play this up as some sort of awful tragedy is really a slap in the face to others who have lost people who died in car accidents. That his was entirely, completely, UTTERLY preventable is just a horrifying reality.

  • Antney | December 3, 2013 3:37 AM

    John- you seem to be operating with information that could not even be known right now until every aspect of the investigation in this matter has been completed and examined completely. Somehow within two days of this tragedy, and that's what it's called when there is a death- regardless of the circumstances, and there were two here, you have some amazing insight which allows you to say (but with different words) that both occupants of the car were driving it simultaneously and that there could not possibly have been ANY external influence contributing to this accident (yeah, I said it). Your insensitive, petulant rant was disgusting and I hope neither of the victims' family or friends ever become aware of it. The manner in which these individuals died, which you are apparently so familiar with, does not happen to overshadow the fact that they are dead.

    The next time you're (literally) praying -thanks for emphasizing it like that to assert your imagined superiority- why don't you wish for some compassion and common sense?

  • Washington | December 2, 2013 5:37 PM

    Your birth was entirely preventable, but shit happens.

  • Carrie | December 2, 2013 1:50 PM

    You cannot claim the he was driving recklessly. Only one person was behind the wheel, and it wasn't Paul Walker.

  • Jim | December 2, 2013 12:55 PM

    What a dick you are, John.

  • Lou | December 2, 2013 6:50 AM

    Get outta here with that shit, John.

  • Donna | December 1, 2013 6:26 PMReply

    I am very sad about the death of Paul Walker. He was a lovely person and magical, able actor. Our condolences to his family and film community.

  • VINCENT HANNA | December 1, 2013 6:42 PM

    an underrated actor imo

    Brick Mansions (post-production)
    Fast & Furious 7 (in production)
    Vehicle 19
    Fast Five
    Flags of Our Fathers
    Running Scared
    Into the Blue
    The Fast and the Furious
    Brokedown Palace
    She's All That
    Varsity Blues

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