Paul Walker's brothers open up about his tragic death and how the family is dealing with it
Paul Walker's sudden passing on November 20, 2013, left Hollywood in shock. Only 40-years-old at the time, the actor was a passenger in a single-car crash alongside friend and driver Roger Rodas. The actor had made his breakthrough as a star in 'The Fast and the Furious' franchise and was raising his teenage daughter Meadow River, before the accident cut short the family's happiness. Even five years later the family is still struggling to come to terms with his death. In a bid to open up about the tragedy, the actor's close friends and family have contributed to 'I Am Paul Walker,' a new documentary about the star. Featuring intimate home videos and extensive interviews, it offers audiences a chance at knowing the actor as he was away from the big screen.
Paul's younger brothers, Cody and Caleb, also recently opened up to E! News about what their life has been like since his passing, the actor's secret hopes and dreams for Meadow, and how his co-stars on 'The Fast and the Furious' coped with the death. Here are a few excerpts from the conversation:
Why was it important for you both to get involved in this documentary?
Cody: Paul is a lot of things to a lot of people. [His death] had its toll on our family and people that were close to him. Typically you know when you have these big [family] reunions, it's for a funeral or a wedding and the last time, sadly, a lot of us extended family got together was when Paul passed away. So this is bringing people back together again while at the same time honoring Paul and all of the wonderful things he did because he did so much for so many people...
Caleb: He kind of forgot about himself sometimes, he took care of so many other people around him. That's one thing that kind of eats us up… he had such a big heart but he wouldn't always find time for his own well-being.
Has the documentary succeeded in bringing Paul's family back together?
Caleb: Last night we got to see it with 100 of our family and friends.
Cody: The screening was incredible. I would love to go on about how it's been nothing but rainbows and sunshine for the last four years but that would be a lie… [The screening] was a family reunion and the documentary paints such a beautiful picture of who he really was. The movie star, that's the part that everybody kind of hones in on and wants to talk about, but it doesn't define Paul at all.
Was Meadow at the family screening?
Cody: She was not.
Has she seen the documentary?
Cody: She was.
What was her reaction to it?
Cody: Paul was a lot of things to a lot of people and it's tough because being the daughter that grew up in a non-traditional type of household with a dad she had to share the world with is really difficult. She's dealing with it in her own way as everybody has done.
Caleb: I think she'll be proud of it.
Why wasn't she involved in the making of the film?
Caleb: She's a reserved young lady. She's on the shyer, more reserved side. Maybe she needed a few more years, who knows. But we totally respect that. Obviously, we would've loved to have her in it, but she wasn't ready.
You've both said you wish Paul had more time because there were other things he wanted to accomplish, outside of acting. If he were alive today, what would he be doing?
Caleb: He had mixed emotions about the industry. Parts of it, he liked, other parts, he didn't. He was actually starting to really enjoy the challenge of certain roles. I believe he'd still be acting, he was just getting to a point where he was able to be more selective. He loved the Fast family, and that wasn't going to go away.
He had his daughter, Meadow [now 19], living with him for the last year of his life. How did that change things for him?
Cody: It was a huge conflict for him because he was so excited when she came to the mainland because she grew up in Hawaii. He had just signed on to a major three-movie deal to a whole other franchise and wanted to immediately pull himself out of it but it was too late. He would always say, "I only have five more years until she graduates high school. Four more years…" He was really starting to figure that out.
What was Paul's life like during that last year?
Cody: It was hectic. He was in the middle of filming Fast 7…He was trying to figure out how to navigate being a dad.
Are you two close with Meadow?
Caleb: Not as close as we would like to be.
Cody: She grew up in Hawaii. We would see her for all of the holidays but otherwise, to be truthful, we didn't see her all that often. We're here for her 100 percent. Whenever she's ready, she has a family that loves her. Things take time. Everybody deals with things differently. I think that's all that it is.
Who was Paul to you?
Caleb: He was just a good big brother to me. I still struggle to fill in his shoes, now that he is gone. That's the hardest part. He was such a great person and such a dynamic personality. I learned a lot from him.
Cody: Paul was Peter Pan or like a Lost Boy or something. He was a big kid and he never grew up. And that's what was so fun about him…It was always fun.
Caleb: He was proud of that. He was proud of being just a big kid. He really was.
Cody: He was 19 at heart always, always.
Tell us about Paul's last day.
Caleb: It was just a spooky day, looking back at it… something must have come over Paul where he felt like he needed to put things in order. He had a ground-breaking kind of come-to-Jesus [conversation] with my mom that day about how he was going to map out being with Meadow and deciding on the films he was going to work on. It was great because he had that really positive talk with my mom for about two hours and then he gave us both a call and kind of recapped it and was all pumped up.
Cody: I was living in Oregon at the time and he was going to put a trip together to go crabbing and fishing. He called me right after [and said], "Meadow's living with me now. I want to retire mom. I want her to be full time for Meadow. I want her to go to the same high school you went to." Like the whole nine. It was awesome. He was on his way to the toy drive where ultimately the accident ended up happening.
Caleb: I was on the toilet when I picked up, to be honest with you. You don't always pick up the phone when you're in the bathroom but I'm very, very thankful I answered that phone call.
What did he say to you when he phoned you?
Caleb: Paul would get really pumped up about family dynamics. He would get really excited about the goals and you know, "Let's take care of mom," and, "This is how we're going to be there for Meadow." Every once in a while he'd kind of put things together in how he could help out the most. He was excited about that.
How much of a support have Vin [Diesel] and the rest of the Fast family been to you both since Paul's death?
Cody: After the accident, it was [Vin], Tyrese [Gibson], and Michelle [Rodriguez] that immediately flew to my mom's house. And they were there for a couple of days. Over the last five years, they've shown nothing but support for Paul's foundation. Vin has been extremely protective of the family.
Caleb: We call him our godfather. He's definitely been there for us when we needed him. We are very thankful for him. Tyrese has invited us over to the house. Tyrese is hilarious. He's just so dynamic and always there for us.
Cody: Tyrese has done so much for the family and for the charity [Reach Out Worldwide] as well.
Caleb: You really see the true relationships that Paul built with them the most, to levels we were blown away by…
Cody: In ways that we didn't understand until we were brought on to help finish Fast 7. We had conversations with each of them…that's when we realized, it's not just a movie. It's something that's been going on for 15 years. They had their ups and downs but in the end, they were on the same ride together and shared a lot of intimate, private things with each other. It was eye-opening to know that.
Do any of the cast keep in contact with Meadow?
Caleb: They all check in on her.
Cody: Vin and Tyrese for sure do.
Do you ever feel Paul's presence around now?
Caleb: He's kind of a joker. Paul would pull practical jokes on you all the time you know. He had the opportunity to throw you off your boat when you weren't looking…he was all about the laugh. When we were out on the water—and I think I anchored the kayak the wrong way and all of our gear goes scattering, and we're swimming trying to get it so it doesn't drop to the bottom of the ocean…And then we looked at each other and got back on the kayak and we're like [he laughs], "Paul did that!"
Cody: For sure. One hundred percent.
When you look back, do you think he knew he was going to die young?
Caleb: He liked to live life on the edge a bit, that's for sure. He understood there was a bit of a risk involved but he wasn't afraid of it. Not to say he wouldn't want to be here right now and see his daughter grow up and get married and have kids but there is definitely an irony there. The frustrating thing is, that day when he passed, it wasn't even really on the edge… it was just a freak accident that took him.
It's Paul's birthday in September. Is there anything you do to remember him?
Cody: Just get in the water. He wasn't really a formal kind of a guy…knowing him he would just want you to be doing something fun that you enjoy doing with him. It's not a day to be sad. He wouldn't want you to be sad. He would just want you to be with family and friends.
Caleb: We're just trying to live the life that Paul would want us to live. And just be happy and look forward.