Vin Diesel has been doing a lot of press in recent days for his upcoming blockbuster Furious 7, and throughout it all, Paul Walker has clearly been on the top of the actor’s mind. When I met up with Diesel Monday afternoon in a lot adjacent to downtown Los Angeles, he suggested we do the interview leaning over the top of the black 1970 Dodge Charger his character Dominic Toretto drives in the Furious films, which Universal had brought in for the junket. “This is how Paul and I used to do it on set,” Diesel told me. “We’d stand like this so no one knew we were talking.”
Walker’s tragic death from a car accident in November 2013 hit Diesel hard. The two had become best friends in the years since they first paired up for 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, and went on to star in six more films together. Diesel, now 47, was understandably emotional, and at a couple points got choked up while discussing his late co-star in our interview, which you can watch above.
He talked about their very first meeting — during a “disastrous” read-through for the first film — as well as the day that sealed the two men’s friendship. It occurred amid filming of 2008’s Fast & Furious in 2008, and while shooting a tough fight scene, Walker could tell something was bothering Diesel. The two talked it over, and Diesel revealed the source of his unease: The actor’s girlfriend, Paloma Jimenez, was about to give birth to their first kid — a daughter named Hania — and Diesel was conflicted about heading to the hospital, as he knew the paparazzi would chase him there.
"[Walker] told me to go into the hospital and be present, and said, ‘Don’t listen to all those other people who will tell you to stay out of the hospital delivery room," Diesel recalled. “‘Go in there, be present, cut the umbilical cord, and it will be the best day of your life.’ And he was right. And when that happened, he went from just basic friend to a brother."
"We were each other’s lifelines," he added. "Whenever we had problems, we had each other."
Walker died on November 30, 2013 at the age of 40, halfway through the shooting of Furious 7 (the filmmakers debated whether to finish the movie, and eventually brought in Paul’s brothers Cody and Caleb Walker to finish his scenes). The new movie closes with a poignant send-off to the late actor that has left audiences at advance screening in tears. Diesel’s ongoing personal tributes to Walker extend beyond the screen, though, and go right back to the hospital room. He announced on Monday that, in honor of Walker, he and his girlfriend named their newborn daughter Pauline.
Furious 7 opens everywhere April 3. Watch an inside look: