EXCLUSIVE: When they help build a Hollywood star career, agents and managers know it can all end in a moment. That usually comes in the form of a phone call, informing them that client has dropped them for another rep. While that is hard to bear, I have been imagining how much worse it has been for Luber Rocklin Entertainment’s Matt Luber. His 18-year run with Paul Walker ended with a Saturday phone call as Luber and his daughter were leaving a sports bar to attend a college football game in Phoenix. That is when Luber learned that Walker had died instantly at age 40 in a tragic car crash.
Understandably, much of the press coverage since has focused on the fast car that spun out of control with Walker riding shotgun, and the repercussions for Fast & Furious 7, which was halfway done and on a Thanksgiving holiday when Walker attended a charity event in Southern California and climbed into a Porsche driven by his friend, Roger Rodas. Less plentiful have been the details on who Walker really was. And how a guy that handsome, and one of the drivers of Universal’s most lucrative billion-dollar Fast & Furious franchise, managed to keep his private life largely private. Mindful that Luber is mourning his friend and signature client of nearly two decades, I asked him to help fill out that part of the picture. While he often found it hard to find the words during our conversation, Luber felt it was worth talking about who this guy really was.
What became clear is that a major reason Walker had something of a stealth career was, he just had no interest in playing the movie star game, and relished operating under the radar. He liked acting in movies, sure, but he did not want to be defined by that. If there was one indelible example of this for Luber, it came early in their run together, when Walker was close to landing the lead role of Superman for Warner Bros. This was a job that would bring an oversized payday for a young actor, with sequel options that potentially would set him up forever.
“This was a mega-payday we were looking at, and I get a call from him in my office,” Luber recalled. “He tells me, ‘Get me the F out of here. I am standing here in these boots, I’m wearing a cape, tights and I’ve got an S on my chest. I’m leaving. I’m not doing it. I’m not wearing the boots, I’m not wearing the S. I’m not doing any of it, so get me the F out of here.’ And that was the end of the Superman screen test.”
Losing the chance to commission a big salary like that is certainly enough to tax any manager’s patience. But Luber by then had become one of Walker’s closest friends. And he couldn’t help but admire his buddy’s instincts for knowing what was right for him, and making hard choices on what was not. Becoming defined globally as a superhero was not at all what Walker wanted.
“Paul had his priorities clear, always,” Luber told me. “So if there was a sick relative in Oregon, which there was, he was going to bypass a big meeting with a director that would have gotten him a certain great role. If someone close to him was in need, that was more important. It wasn’t always easy for me, but I was proud of him that his heart was in the right place. If something involving close friends and family was going to get in the way of a picture, sure we’d always have the conversation, but the way he balanced friendship with business, you always knew Paul was going to choose the former over the latter. The reason you didn’t see him in the cameo in Fast & Furious 3? Paul was dealing with an ailing grandfather. There was no changing his mind on these things. It caused us some stressful moments, but these were definitely things we could joke about later.” (more…)