Paul Walker’s only daughter Meadow Walker provided inspiration for one of his last roles, as a man in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
In “Hours,” Walker’s character Nolan Hayes loses his wife during childbirth after she goes into early labor. Everyone evacuates the hospital except for Hayes, who keeps his baby alive on a ventilator through a hand-cranked battery.
Director Eric Heisserer said that he was looking for a while for the actor to play Hayes, and found that Walker was that actor after meeting him in person.
“I had, I think like a lot of people, an image of who Paul was as an actor just based on his character in the Fast & Furious franchise, so I saw him as this sort of like handsome, chiseled jaw kind of action hero,” Heisserer told E! News. “Fifteen minutes into [our first] meeting I realized he was perfect for the role, largely because he identified with the character a lot. He had talked about the memories of when his daughter Meadow was born, and how it wasn’t a pitch-perfect birth; he had gotten all worried and caught up in the anxiety of that moment, and he could connect with that.
“He spoke emotionally and passionately about it, and one of the things I learned about him as an actor early on in the process was … the more honest he could be about the performance, and therefore the closer to his own personal experience, the better performance you’re going to get out of him. So that’s how we started off the interesting journey that we had.”
Walker’s famous patience and compassion was also on full display during the whirlwind 18 days of shooting.
As a first feature, they talk about you don’t want to make a movie that deals with water, children or animals, and wow, I just went for the trifecta,” said Heisserer. “The way that Paul looked at the end of the movie was the way we all looked, really. … If you put in an actor who had an ego that got in his way, or any sort of behavioral problems, one temper tantrum would’ve just derailed us really bad, but Paul was magnificent. He spoiled me, really. … It’s kind of a gift [from] an actor when they deliver a very sublime performance; it charges everybody up when they realize they’ve got something that’s working, that’s valuable, and that was a great surprise.”
Heisserer said that one thing he learned from Walker is that you shouldn’t treat people based on meritocracy, or how much they’ve accomplished.