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SXSW: 'Hours' Star Paul Walker on Finally Getting Serious About Acting and Driving Vin Diesel "F*cking Crazy"

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire March 19, 2013 at 5:08PM

Despite the massive worldwide success of the "Fast and the Furious" action series (the sixth installment comes out this summer), its headlining star Paul Walker hasn't emerged as a Hollywood star independent of the franchise. As he revealed to Indiewire at the recently wrapped SXSW Film Festival in Austin (he was there in support of his indie thriller "Hours"), much of that has to do with the fact he didn't want to become one in the first place. Now as a newly single father, Walker is set on changing that tune.
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"Hours"
SXSW "Hours"

Despite the global success of the "Fast and the Furious" franchise (the sixth installment comes out this summer), Paul Walker hasn't emerged as a Hollywood star. As he told Indiewire at the recently wrapped SXSW Film Festival (supporting his indie thriller "Hours"), much of that stemmed from not wanting to be one in the first place. Now? Not so much.

Aside from "Fast & Furious 6," the actor will be appearing in action-comedy "Pawn Shop Chronicles," the thriller "Vehicle 19" and "Hours," which is the directorial debut of "Final Destination 5" screenwriter Eric Heisserer and is the story of a father (Walker) struggling to keep his baby girl alive in a flooded (and deserted) hospital during hurricane Katrina. Walker also recently signed on to topline "Brick Mansions," an action pic from the makers of "Taken," based on the popular French thriller "District B13."

In our interview, Walker candidly explains why it took him this long to get serious about his craft, reveals his surprising side job and talks about life as a single dad.

So I read on IMdB you executive produced "Hours"...

Yeah. What does it really mean? I mean it’s, you got a little more of a voice. The thing that I like though, you just have more control of the tone.

Is this a passion project for you?

Yeah, it was something I just connected with, I felt like it was pure. It wasn’t trying to be anything more than what it was. I mean, it’s pretty fucking simple. The thing I liked about it is if you just go and you tell the truth, then anybody that has a heart I’d like to think can go ‘Oh I relate’ or get a sense of whatever it is. To me I just like the purity of it. I’m always doing the big action thing, running around and being cool guy, which is fun from time to time. It was nice just being honest and tell things from the heart, I guess.

"Hours"
SXSW "Hours"

Was it a grueling shoot? It looked it.

I think emotionally it beats you up pretty hard. The thing that's nice is you can just trust it and live it and be in it every day and I’m good. I know the story, like I said, it’s pure. The thing I didn’t realize though, like I said, you’re emotionally invested and just living it every day, and the victory is my victory -- because we shot it in sequence. At the end it was pretty emotionally draining, but I was like, ‘I fucking won!’

To me the way I was raised, everyone’s all military in my family and we’ve always posed questions. From the time I was a little kid my father, my grandfather, my uncles were always creating hypothetical questions, like ‘How would you react if this happened?’ ‘How would you respond to?’ y' know. I mean something as simple as a guy coming up to you, you know the bank teller, the guy putting a gun up to your head. So with something like a disaster,  it’s like ‘Oh shit I know this.’ You want to think that if you were tested or challenged in a way like this, especially because I’m a father, you know that you would react, you do whatever it would take to make sure that your baby made it through it. And you would just pray you have the strength, you have the determination, the willpower to see it through. So in a way I got to go and do it.

Was it your idea to shoot it chronologically for performance sake?

No, it was Eric’s. But it’s challenging. I think it was just better for tone and headspace. You know, Eric has never directed before but he’s a sharp guy and he knew that he wanted to have everything working in his favor. He was overprepared -- and that also gives you a lot of peace of mind. And I realized going into it, we sat down in our first meeting, I was like, wow. I mean you’ll see he’s just a real guy, no bullshit pretense, he’s just a real dude. He knows what he knows and he loves what he loves and he has opinions. And he’s a good team captain because tone is really important to him and I say tone -- not just what we’re seeing on the paper. The work environment is healthy, it’s a constructive environment. Some guys rule by fear and other ones rule by, I think, having a good heart and sensibility. He’s one of those.

Were you wary of the film exploiting the Katrina tragedy for the sake of thrilling people?

I don’t look at it that way. There’s some people that’ll probably say that, but some people will say anything. To me I was just like 'Oh it’s a pure story.' But it wouldn’t have mattered, the circumstances could have been anything, some guy in the middle of nowhere. It just worked. With all the incentive and everything going on in New Orleans, it was kind of perfect. When he wrote it it was just a little short story and then it morphed into this feature film. But I don’t know... I never thought of it that way.

And you shot it in New Orleans, right?

Yeah that’s what I’m saying, because the incentive, all the tax incentive filming in Louisiana, all over the south. And it was cool because I’d never been there before. It was fun because the majority of the crew was like 'Ah fuck I was here, I was going through this,’ ‘Man it was like that,’ ‘This is what I experienced.’ So for a lot of the people that were there it was personal.

What was it like to share that experience?

I think sharing the experience with them you just saw their work ethic, I think it brought maybe a little more accountability. I think we had just a hardworking crew and the people there were just into it, you could tell they were excited. It’s a contagion, it’s a nice flow, it’s this reciprocating thing, you just see everybody busting ass and going on a little further. We’ve got unions, we’ve got grips, we’ve got guys working electric. You know, there’s nobody going ‘Oh, that’s my department.’

This article is related to: South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW), Paul Walker, Hours, Interviews