Riddled with graphic scenes depicting hockey-puck torture and naked actors having sex on top of washing machines, the controversial crime thriller "Running Scared" is a long way from your typical Paul Walker movie. Looking back on the movie now, the affable Southern California heartthrob admits that even he isn't sure he likes the character he plays — and that's precisely why he took on the role.
"He's a bad man," Walker said of low-level mobster Joey Gazelle, flashing a lethal grin. "He's a bad man with a good heart. He does a lot of really dark, very questionable things and doesn't appear to be the nicest guy, but I think he's all justified. He's very loyal to his family, and if things were to get heavy and you found yourself in a lot of trouble, he'd be the type of guy you'd want to have as a friend."
The fast-paced flick begins with Gazelle desperately needing some friends of his own after a weapon used in a botched mob hit goes missing. When Joey's son (first-time actor Alex Neuberger) and his best friend Oleg (Cameron Bright, "Birth") vanish along with the gun, he sets out on a mission to recover them before a Tarantino-esque stable of local cops, mobsters and street thugs introduce him to their weaponry.
For co-star Vera Farmiga, cast as Joey's no-nonsense wife Teresa, the ultra-violent movie similarly represented a chance to get away from reality. "I dislike guns, I really do," the 32-year-old "Manchurian Candidate" actress recoiled. "Words are more powerful than loaded pistols, I think, in the end. [And besides,] look at the havoc that is wreaked when a child gets a hold of it."
"Wayne creates this uneasy, hybrid world where complete menace and grit and insanity meet this whimsical, fanciful comedy," Farmiga added, praising writer/director Wayne Kramer ("The Cooler"). "It's 'Scarface' meets 'Alice in Wonderland,' and it has this incredible fairy-tale quality to it that takes place in this high-octane world."
|Peep the "Into the Blue," "Eight Below" and "Running Scared" star's life and career, in photos.|
The phrase "high-octane" doesn't even begin to describe the flick's most unforgettable scene: a sexy encounter atop a washing machine (see "Paul Walker's Internet Sex Clip Isn't Video — It's A Video Game"). While one might expect such a scene from the writer/director who famously did battle with the MPAA three years ago over the number of thrusts permitted to William H. Macy in "The Cooler," Walker and Farmiga insist that it was them who talked Kramer into the steamy sequence.
The scene begins with the sight of Farmiga's exposed thong riding a few inches above her jeans. "Yeah," Walker laughed, agreeing that it's one of the most memorable film intros in quite some time. "You think?"
"I came up with that idea," the actress said of her unavoidable undergarments. "You have to [have a scene like that], because in the space of 20 seconds, you have to establish for the rest of the movie two people who are adamantly in love with each other. Despite his crookedness, she's in love with her husband. And I wanted to portray that. Even after 12 years, this woman loves her man and vice versa. And so we had 20 seconds to do that, and ... you've gotta paint that."
As for the lockjaw-inducing love scene that follows, Farmiga sounds like her character when she credits her love interest with putting forth all the effort. "I have a feeling that Paul Walker came up with that," she laughed.
"Yeah, I did," he giggled mischievously. "I do it all the time, so I thought, 'Hey let's bring a little reality ... It's realism. That's what happens. When you're in that situation, it's my wife in the movie, who I'm very attracted to, and I think we have a very good love life and it was appropriate. Especially considering [the violence] I had just been through, I wanted to taste life again."
In stark contrast to that sultry scene is a show-stopper that has Gazelle's face being held down while an evil hockey team takes aim at it. Luckily the sun-drenched leading man — who also stars in current box-office champ "Eight Below" — didn't take as much of a beating while learning to affect a New Jersey accent.
"I can do Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese," Walker proudly revealed. "You pick up on these things growing up in Southern California; it's all there in front of you. With the East Coast thing, it's more just from watching mobster movies."
Walker added that he worked with a dialect coach while perfecting his "Scared" persona, but that it really snapped into place once he walked on set opposite one of the all-time greats of gangster cinema. "The thing that helped me the most was having worked with Chazz Palminteri," he said of the "Analyze This" and "Usual Suspects" star, cast in "Scared" as a dirty cop. "About a year prior we did a movie called 'Noel' and ... to be honest, without that relationship [with Palminteri], I don't know that I would've made this movie. I think he was the one I really needed to just kind of give me that kick in the butt, like, 'Hey man, don't be afraid.' "
Now, with some help from Palminteri, the star is coming to theaters everywhere in a film very unlike your typical Paul Walker movie. But while he may not like his character, he sure does like the performance. "When you're comfortable you relax too much," the star concluded. "You are your best when you're intimidated."
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