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Why Paul Walker Signed On to The Fast & The Furious Before a Screenplay Was Even Written

Who needs a script when you've got family?

By Josh Weiss
Vin Diesel and Paul Walker stand next to each other in a scene from The Fast And The Furious

These days, it's a common occurrence for an actor to sign on to a Fast & Furious movie without hesitation. No one, for instance, batted an eye when EGOT winner Rita Moreno agreed to a small role as Dom's grandmother in Fast X (now playing in theaters everywhere).

But back in the late 1990s/early 2000s, the movers and shakers in Hollywood could not have anticipated the impressive mileage Universal Pictures would ultimately get out of the budding franchise. That's why Paul Walker's reps were totally "freaking out" when he agreed to play the role of FBI agent turned outlaw street racer Brian O'Conner in The Fast and the Furious (now streaming on Peacock) without a script in place.

"I'm like, 'It's a million bucks, I get to hang with friends, drive cars, and be cool,'" the actor told Entertainment Weekly several months before his tragic death in late 2013. "Honestly, that's all it was to me at that stage of my life. I was 25, 26 years old? F***, let's go do it!"

RELATED: Fast X: Jordana Brewster Talks Paul Walker & Bigger Finale Role for Brian & Mia’s Kids

The studio began pursuing the project after coming across Kenneth Li's 1998 Vibe article "Racer X," which took a deep dive into the nocturnal (and highly illegal) underground racing scene in New York City.

"I was a reporter at the New York Daily News and had written about illegal drag racing on local tracks, but it was a family paper so they didn't want me to write about the criminal aspect of it," the journalist explained to EW. "It was intoxicating that there was this world of kids tuning their cars, making money, and killing themselves. You get exposed to a lot of things in New York when you're a city kid, but this was one that I'd never seen before."

The in-print feature ultimately came across the desk of producer Neal H. Moritz, who was wrapping up production on The Skulls with Walker and director Rob Cohen. "I've always loved movies about subcultures and I knew Paul really loved car racing," said Moritz (he's since been a part of every Fast movie production to date), later adding: "It was Point Break, it was Donnie Brasco, with the thematic values of The Godfather, which was family, family, family."

Fast forward 22 years later and we've arrived at Fast X — now playing in theaters everywhere. Click here to pick up tickets!

The Fast and the Furious is now streaming on Peacock alongside Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Furious 7, and F9.