|By Fred Topel
In Theaters February 24
Get ready to see a whole different side of Paul Walker in Running Scared. This isn’t some pretty boy surfer dude racing cool cars. This is a street hood in over his head, fighting violence with more violence and trying to cover his tracks. The film has bloody gunshots, stabbings, slashing and beatings to earn its R rating.
“These types of movies are a guilty pleasure for me,” Walker said. “I'm not affected by violence the way that some people are. I don't know why, but I enjoy that intensity. Man on Fire would be a perfect example where you've got a lot of action, a lot of violence, but it's all justified. My mom even, I remember she was shrieking when Denzel Washington had that guy's hands taped to the steering wheel, but my mom, by my side I could just see her, and I know her well enough to know that she was like, 'Do it! Do it!'”
Man on Fire is a choice example since that film’s violence is for the sake of a little girl. In Running Scared, a criminal must recover a stolen gun from a child before the mob, or worse criminals, get him. He also has to protect his own family from the mob that would come down on him for the implicating weapon.
“There's a lot of heart to this. You may not get that initially because you might not get what the stakes really are, but by the end of it you do. He's done all these horrific things, and you're expecting him to snap on a kid, potentially kill a kid, or at least maybe even punch his kid at one point. But at the end of this you go, 'Wow. He's been fighting for his family's life.' And a lot of people are going to hate this movie. The language is terrible. My father isn't affected by too many things and he couldn't even stand the language. Language and violence. So it's definitely not for everyone, but it was quite an exercise and I enjoyed the hell of it.”
Director Wayne Kramer had a tough time casting Walker, and Walker’s agents had to fight to get him the role. Kramer cited an unofficial society of “Paul Walker Haters” on the internet who keep the actor from being taken seriously. Walker takes it in stride, because he was a once a hater himself.
“I did the same thing growing up. I couldn't stand like Keanu Reeves or Christian Slater or all those guys that all the girls had crushes on. I hated them. Even if I liked them I hated them. So that's just the way that it works. And winning them over isn't easy. Coming out of the gate with Fast and Furious I did pretty well and especially with minorities. I mean, I'm blonde hair and blue eyes and Latino and Black guys like me which is great. White guys do not though. That's just the way that it works.”
The ladies will be pleased that Walker shows his butt in Running Scared. When he first comes home to his wife, he makes a move in the laundry room which you see from behind. “You know what's funny, this is the second time that I've made it on a washing machine with my butt exposed. I did it in Varsity Blues too. I'm like, 'Man. I don't know what it is. I've got my butt out here involving washing appliances once a year.'”
Walker has no vanity or body image issues. “It's funny. It's a butt. It's not really that big of a deal.”
Making a dark film like Running Scared took its toll on Walker’s personal life. He lost a romantic relationship due to his mood during production. “Emotionally it was completely draining. I mean, I was running on adrenaline every day and I would take it home with me. I couldn't turn it off. I don't know if you've ever been in a fight, but you get so excited that you tremble afterwards. So I would go home trembling. A girlfriend of mine came out to visit and she was supposed to stay for two weeks. She stayed for four days and left. She said that it was just too intense, one to watch it, and then two, just that I was having a hard time leaving it at work.”
Now, don’t go thinking that Walker became Ike Turner because he was playing a violent criminal. He’s not that method. “I don't think that it was necessarily bad. I was just a little keyed up. I think that the real thing I think that she had a problem with was that I just couldn't relax. I was wired all night until I went asleep even though I was exhausted. I couldn't come down. I didn't really ever understand it either. This was the first time that it had happened and it was friends who were pointing it out to me. They were like, 'Man, you realize that you're still talking like you were talking today, right?' I was like, 'Wow.' So that's how it came about. I don't think that anyone once said, 'Oh, you know what, you really need to become the person.' I think that I went out and sort of became the person and went home with it and realized, 'Hey, my job is actually easier that way. I don't have to pick it up and set it down again.' I needed to do that for this one. I mean, in between setups it wasn't like, 'Oh, hey, let me hangout in the corner and small talk with people.' I'm sitting in the corner twitching and trembling, waiting to go again.”
For those of you who don’t like seeing Paul Walker get so dark, he’s got Eight Below opening only a week before Running Scared. That one is a happy true story about rescuing dogs in Antarctica.
“It worked out perfectly. I got the best of both worlds there. What's the funniest is Wayne Kramer had just actually finished cutting a trailer. They're trying to sell this movie and he gave me a copy and I went to my parents house, my mother's house and I put it in for her and obviously I was pretty excited. I mean, the first thing I do is throw into the DVD player and she's excited for me. She likes to see that I'm actually happy and feeling good about something that I did. But at the same time she's a mom and she has a bunch of grandchildren and she said, 'It would be nice if you could a movie for the kids.' No joke, two weeks to the day I got the offer for the Antarctica movie.”
Making the movie with dogs, in addition to simply returning home to his friends and family, helped Walker decompress from Running Scared. “Animals, I have a link with them. Someone told me that it had something to do with my birthday. A girlfriend of mine was really into that stuff, and she said that some Virgo's, Sept. 12 in particular, you have a connection with domestic animals. I mean, they actually figured that sort of thing out? Maybe it's true because I understand animals and have always had them. From the time that I was a little kid I always had animals around. So I actually relate and understand animals better than I do people. So it worked out pretty well. I think that the real trick would've been like the doggie politics, becoming an Alpha Male. I'm dealing with 64 dogs [because] each dog had seven doubles. I knew them all by name. I knew each and everyone of their personalities.”
Take your choice of happy Paul Walker in Eight Below on February 17 or angry Paul Walker in Running Scared February 24.