TMZ.com reported the shocking news earlier this evening that actor Paul Walker, best known for his roles in all but the third "Fast and Furious" movie, was in a fiery car crash (unrelated to the shooting of Fast and Furious 7) that killed him and one other passenger.
Walker was reportedly taking friends for test rides in his new Porsche GT in Santa Clarita, when the driver lost control and slammed into a tree that sent the car bursting into flames, killing Walker and one other passenger. It's still unclear who was driving at the time.
The 40-year-old actor had been appearing in various movies and TV shows since the mid-80s but his real breakthroughs came in the early 00's when he was teamed with director Rob Cohen, first for The Skulls and then the first The Fast and the Furious. Walker returned for the sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious, but then bowed out of the series, returning six years later for Fast & Furious 4. That movie relaunched the series to the blockbuster status that it's enjoyed for the last three movies, while Walker has appeared in smaller, independent projects in between.
Walker was in the middle of shooting Fast and Furious 7 with Vin Diesel and new director James Wan and it's undetermined how much more Walker had to shoot on the film or whether rewrites and changes will have to be done.
Walker will next appear in the indie thriller Hours, a passion project of his written and directed by Eric Heisserer, that premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and was due for a limited release on December 13.
This may be one of the most shocking deaths in recent memory, reminding us of the death of Heath Ledger months before he would achieve his greatest success playing the Joker in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. It's a huge loss to the industry, especially the popular "Fast and Furious" franchise, which he helped to nourish.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and colleagues. UPDATE: Paul Walker's official Facebook account released the following statement: It is with a truly heavy heart that we must confirm that Paul Walker passed away today in a tragic car accident while attending a charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide. He was a passenger in a friend's car, in which both lost their lives. We appreciate your patience as we too are stunned and saddened beyond belief by this news. Thank you for keeping his family and friends in your prayers during this very difficult time. We will do our best to keep you apprised on where to send condolences. - #TeamPW
Universal Pictures sent us the following statement: All of us at Universal are heartbroken. Paul was truly one of the most beloved and respected members of our studio family for 14 years, and this loss is devastating to us, to everyone involved with the FAST AND FURIOUS films, and to countless fans. We send our deepest and most sincere condolences to Paul's family.
We've also posted our interview with Paul from just two weeks ago. He told us how proud he was of his upcoming film Hours and it's one of the last times he talked about Fast & Furious 7.