“I don’t know if I ever told you this before, but I think you’re just about the keenest girl in the whole school!” Walker said to Reese Witherspoon, whom he romanced on-screen in the idyllic flick that sent him back to the ’50s as the wholesome, handsome Skip Martin.
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VARSITY BLUES (1999)
“Goin’ back to high school was dope,” Walker told IGN of playing football quarterback Lance Harbor, who loses his star status (but not his blue-eyed dreaminess) in the coming-of-age film. “All summer long, I worked with like 40 … real hot cheerleaders. They were all college-aged, too, at that point. That was a blast. I mean I loved it. I didn’t have a prom and I got to play the meathead jock that I hated in high school.”
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SHE’S ALL THAT (1999)
His heartthrob status continued to steal scenes – and, in this case, dates to the school dance. Walker ruled the hallway as Dean Sampson Jr. – the stuff teenage dreams are made of – who makes a bet with Freddie Prinze Jr. over turning an art nerd into a prom queen in this rom-com.
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THE SKULLS (2000)
The star showed Joshua Jackson’s character the ropes of a secret society steeped in privilege and prestige with his turn as collegiate Caleb Mandrake.
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THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (2001)
As undercover police officer Brian O’Conner, the actor got moviegoers’ engines racing in the action franchise’s first installment. His portrayal helped drive the street-racing flicks to blockbuster success. “Cars are my vice,” he said in 2009. “It’s a big part of my lifestyle. It’s a big part of who I am, and it’ll always remain that way.”
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JOY RIDE (2001)
Walker was back behind the wheel in this thriller about a road trip gone awry. Besides out-driving a murderous trucker, he took on a comparably brave feat: on-screen nudity. “That was bizarre,” he said while promoting the film. “It’s [not] too often you see a naked guy … but I read this [script] and thought, ‘I’m going to be running around naked!'”
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INTO THE BLUE (2005)
The actor traded the road for the deep blue sea in this action film featuring toothsome and toothy costars (Jessica Alba and sharks, respectively). “I think all animals can sense fear, so when I’m in the water with the sharks, I just try to stay as relaxed as possible and control my breathing,” he told MTV. “I know that when people [see the shark scenes] in this movie, they are going to think they have to be computer generated. But all these sharks in this movie are real.”
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EIGHT BELOW (2006)
In addition to Bruce Greenwood, Moon Bloodgood and Jason Biggs, Walker shared the screen with 32 four-legged actors, who led the way in this adventure flick about a team of explorers and their sled dogs. “It got to the point where I knew each and every one, and, you know, I knew their quirks and their idiosyncrasies,” he said of the dogs. “I knew what to look out for.”
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FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS (2006)
Walker took a serious turn to help tell the story of the six men who raised the flag at the Battle of Iwo Jima in this Clint Eastwood-helmed war film.
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FAST & FURIOUS 6 (2013)
His last reprisal of Brian O’Conner arrived in theaters in May 2013, as Walker once again reunited on the big screen with Vin Diesel. Even in its sixth installment, PEOPLE’s movie critic defended the franchise, writing, “What it always was – and still is, I’ll grudgingly admit – is silly fun.” Moviegoers agreed: It was the ninth highest-grossing film of 2013, netting more than $788 million worldwide. Before his death, the seventh installment began shooting; following its 2015 release, it netted more than $1 billion.
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