'Fast and Furious' action star Paul Walker died in a fiery car crash in southern California. (REUTERS)

Paul Walker, an actor best known for his role in the “Fast & Furious” series, died Saturday at the age of 40 in a car wreck. According to his publicist, he riding in a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT with his friend Roger Rodas, who was driving, when the car left the road and crashed into a lamp post and a tree. The car burst into flames, and both men were killed. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told the Associated Press that speed was a factor in the accident, but that investigators were still unsure why the car went off the road.

Bilge Ebiri fondly recalled Walker’s knack for playing an ordinary, relatable person in a dangerous situation:

For all his good looks, he never seemed to be posing. He was always in the moment, and always seemed to have an instinct for what an average guy might actually do, how he might move and act, in these situations. So much so that I sometimes find myself re-casting certain other films with him. Would the terrible Johnny Depp vehicle Nick of Time have worked better with Walker’s brand of average-guy agitation? What about Paycheck, starring Walker instead of Ben Affleck? Or the recent Runner Runner, with Walker instead of Justin Timberlake? These are all acclaimed, very good performers. And yet, I bet Walker could have trumped them all in these particular roles. . . .

As the Average Joe at the heart of [the “Fast & Furious” films], he provided the perfect foil for the series’ flamboyant hot-rodders, the fast-talking outlaws and outsize tough guys? With Paul Walker there, everyone else could go big, brave, and a little ridiculous. To put it another way: Even the craziest sandwich needs some bread.


In May, Walker spoke with Entertainment Weekly and talked about his past. “I’ve been on my own since I was 16,” he said “I didn’t even have my own place until I was 32 years old. I literally lived out of bags for 16-plus years.” He said he enjoyed the sense of stability that came from spending time with his daughter, 15. She survives him, as do his parents and his three siblings.