Universal Pictures

Remembering Paul Walker's Poignant First Performance In 'The Fast And The Furious'

Ride or die.

"I like the tuna here."

There's a scene in "Furious 7" that recalls the moment fresh-faced LAPD undercover cop Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) first laid eyes on Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster). It's a scene that fans of "The Fast and the Furious" know by heart: O'Connor walks into Toretto's Market and orders himself a tuna sandwich. The sandwich was awful; the company was not.

In "Furious 7," there's a heartbreaking moment between Mia and Brian -- made even more devastating by Walker's real life passing -- in which the infamous tuna sandwich is mentioned as Brian reflects on the day he met Mia. He tells her that was the moment his life changed.

Universal Pictures

It was hard to tell at the time, but that was the moment Walker's life changed too. "The Fast and the Furious" was a blockbuster hit no one saw coming. Released in 2001, the high-octane flick followed a group of illegal street racers, their burly leader Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and an undercover cop who immerses himself into their world of Race Wars and engine grease to figure out who's behind a string of truck hijackings. It was a fun, rubber-burning thrill-ride that didn't take itself too seriously -- something that all "Fast" movies have in common.

"The Fast and Furious" will never be considered the best film in the franchise. There's far too much plot, too few explosions and not enough of The Rock for that title. But the racing sequences are exciting and sometimes, even unpredictable. And the film wears its heart unabashedly on its sleeve. If you don't find yourself tearing up when Tran kills Jesse, then you're pretty much a monster.

Walker's exuberance for high-speed engines was a brilliant match for Diesel's stoic performance. And together, they were a perfect team of unlikely heroes, even if they did get off to a stalled start at the beginning. Because in the end, you never forget your first ride.

Universal Pictures

For Dominic Toretto, no bond is greater than family. It's an underlining theme in every "Fast" film to date. And Dom's OG crew of small-time criminals in "The Fast and the Furious" is where is all began: Leticia "Letty" Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) -- Dom's girlfriend and badass in her own right -- Vince (Matt Schulze), Leon (Johnny Strong) and Jesse (Chad Lindberg). They were Dom's familia, and 1327 was their home.

Brian started the franchise as the outsider, but it didn't take long for him to become part of Dom's family, too. Sure, his romance with Mia expedited his initiation into the fam, but TBH, Brian O'Connor would have become Dom's brother regardless. Brian had the chance to arrest Dom and he didn't. Instead, he let him drive off to Baja with his ten-second car. And in the world of "The Fast and the Furious," there's no greater act of love than that. They were kindred spirits. Plus, how could Dom even resist those piercing baby blues?

Universal

"The Fast and the Furious" did more than kick off an awesome, successful franchise; it created a family. And it's a family that millions of fans feel a part of. And at times, "Furious 7" feels like a homage to the franchise's humble roots in the streets in east LA -- where Brian O'Connor first walked into Toretto's Market and asked Mia for a tuna sandwich.

Make no mistake: "Furious 7" is a beautiful goodbye to Paul Walker. Because "The Fast and the Furious" isn’t just the role that defined Walker's career, it was how he lived his life. One quarter-mile at a time.