Director Wayne Kramer also replied in the early morning to my message about Paul Walker‘s sad passing. He referred me to his Facebook tribute:
“It’s truly been a devastating day for Paul Walker’s family, his friends and his fans all over the world. I still haven’t begun to process it. It doesn’t seem real.
“I had the great privilege to work with Paul twice, most recently last year on a little seen film called Pawn Shop Chronicles (which came and went) and in 2004 on a film I hold closest to my heart, Running Scared (’06). A filmmaker could not ask for a better or more supportive collaborator than Paul. So many people who knew him will talk about what a great human being he was, and they would be right — everybody who met him instantly loved him — but I want to talk about what a great actor he was.
“Both times I directed Paul he brought an absolute commitment to his craft and would be very hard on himself if he didn’t think he was getting there. He was a natural athlete and could deliver a precision action performance take after take, hitting very difficult camera marks in sync with extremely complicated camera moves. During Running Scared, he spent seven days shooting a grueling action scene on a real ice rink and on at least five of those days he had his face pushed down into the ice, to the point that his flesh was literally stuck to the surface of the ice…and he never ever complained about it.
“It was an absolute joy to work with him every single day on that film. Like a little kid, he was excited to conspire with me on those very scenes that we knew would get a strong reaction from the audience.
“Judging from what I experienced and from what others have told me, Paul was always the great unifier on set. He went out of his way to accommodate both actors and crew members. I’ve also never seen him refuse an autograph to anyone. We shot one of the final scenes in Running Scared in a working-class neighborhood in New Jersey and by the time production wrapped, there must have been a few hundred kids mobbing him for his autograph. He stayed and signed for every one of them.
“We visited a neighborhood Italian restaurant one night during shooting, and I swear about five grandmothers came over to our table to marry their daughters off to Paul. He barely got a morsel of food in his mouth that night because he was too busy auditioning future wives and ‘grand’ in-laws (if there is such a word). He always had time for his fans and had he lived long enough to no longer be the cool movie star, I can guarantee you he would have rather gone hungry than sell his autograph to fans.
“It always pained me when critics and internet talkbackers slammed him as an actor because I knew the truth about the guy: he was fucking awesome in every way. And he was just coming into his own as a strong leading man. I always told Paul that his most exciting years were going to be his 40s and 50s, and even beyond, as a masculine American tough guy in the vein of Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. We talked about how Paul was going to be my Lee Marvin and we were hungry to make those kind of films that could show Paul in that light. In some alternate reality somewhere, he’s still on that career trajectory and I’d love to be there to see the work because it would be something to experience indeed.
“For every anonymous internet hater who bagged on him, there were great actors and directors who made a point of letting him know how amazing he was. Kevin Costner was a fan and wanted to do a western with Paul. Vincent D’Onofrio (whom I recently worked with) made a point of telling me how much he dug Paul as an actor. Quentin Tarantino called Paul after seeing Running Scared to tell him how much he loved Paul’s performance. Sylvester Stallone was a fan of Paul in Running Scared. Walter Hill and Brian De Palma offered him projects a few years back.
“Paul was very discriminating with the films he picked. He chose to make them for personal reasons, regardless of the quality of the finished film or the reputation of the director. And once he signed on, he was there one thousand percent for his directors. We shared the same taste in material. Usually dark and extreme, but with a lot of soul. Closer to the films of the ’70s and ’80s (which almost no one makes anymore).
“What kills me about the way Paul died (and I know he wasn’t driving) is that Paul was an amazing driver. He was every bit as good, if not better, than the stunt drivers he worked with. I’ve been on the set where the stunt drivers couldn’t nail it and he had to do the stunt for them. Paul had a great stunt double on Running Scared, his good friend Oakley Lehman – only Paul did all of his own stunt work. I think Oakley did some second unit stand-in shot,s and one real stunt where Paul gets slammed to the ice by one of the Russian hockey players. Nothing makes a director happier than to hear his star is having a great time on a film he’s directing – and I got to hear that every single day from Paul on Running Scared.
“Pawn Shop Chronicles was the same thing, but we had a much shorter schedule. I remember this crazy scene in Pawn Shop when Paul puts on this clown mask that he’s brought to a meth lab robbery and scares the shit out of his partner in crime (Kevin Rankin). This came at the end of an eighteen-hour day and nobody was in a particular good mood, but the moment Paul started his clown mask schtick, the entire set was in hysterics. I looked over at Jimi Whitaker, my DP, who was operating the camera and he was almost convulsive, trying his hardest not to ruin the shot.
“Paul would do whatever it took to get you the moment you wanted. Still wearing that clown mask, he charged across the set of this meth lab, while Lukas Haas was blasting him with a shotgun (loaded with blanks) and threw himself into a tiny floor level kitchen cupboard – and to this day I don’t know how he managed to fit in there. It’s one thing to draw up crazy storyboards and action scenes, but you need a game actor like Paul Walker to bring it to life for you. And he always did. I have never been disappointed by Paul as a filmmaker.
“Paul was an intensely private person. He didn’t interact that much with industry people between films. He was doing some of the most amazing shit in ‘real life’ and living his life to the fullest like no one else I know. The guy swam with sharks, hiked through jungles, visited some of the most extreme and exotic places on the planet. He flew to Haiti right after the earthquake, and gave back in so many ways that he never talked about. He was an iconoclast that the world didn’t really know outside of the Fast and Furious films.
“He may not have taken his career as seriously as he might have liked when he first started acting, but about ten years ago he started getting really focused about acting and looking for better opportunities. They didn’t always find him and I’m convinced we were robbed of some truly great performances. I feel like I’ve lost my true partner in crime. I only wish we had made more films together.”