Walker's survival drama "Hours" had been set by the boutique company Pantelion Films for a limited theatrical and VOD release on Dec. 13.

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On Sunday morning, Pantelion Chief Executive Paul Presburger and "Hours" producer Peter Safran convened to discuss whether to push that date.

"We thought long and hard about pulling the release," Presburger said. "We were trying to determine what was the best way to honor him and this movie that he was very proud of. But this is the plan we pitched in the room to Paul — the one he was excited about — and we're going to move forward with it." Walker had completed a press junket to promote the film in November and was set to do an interview with the Times this month.

In the film, Walker plays a man whose wife goes into labor during Hurricane Katrina and dies during childbirth. Though five weeks premature, his daughter survives. But the hospital is soon forced to evacuate because of the storm, and the new father must stay behind to keep his baby alive.

The movie represents perhaps Walker's biggest role — he is on screen for nearly the whole film, often by himself — and certainly one of his most emotional. Shot in New Orleans in just 18 days, "Hours" was also executive-produced by Walker.

In September, Walker had also finished shooting "Brick Mansions," a crime drama penned by Luc Besson. Relativity Media has weighed a release in the first quarter of 2014, with nothing finalized yet, a spokesman said. Walker had learned how to perform parkour stunts for the movie, in which he plays an undercover cop trying to take down a Detroit crime ring.

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For many, however, it was Walker's character, more than his films, that came to mind this weekend.

Todd Lieberman, who produced two films that starred Walker, the dog-sledding family-film "Eight Below" and the thriller "The Lazarus Project," recalled the actor's guy-next-door qualities.

"He was a man who lived his life the way he wanted to live it and not because of how Hollywood dictated it should be lived," Lieberman said, noting that Walker would often travel and pursue other hobbies, eschewing some of the Hollywood game in the process.

Lieberman recalled Walker's innate enthusiasm; one of the abiding memories he had of the actor was on the frigid British Columbia set of "Eight Below," where it was in fact 30 below.

"Everyone else was huddled around the one heater between takes, and then I'd look out and see Paul lying in the snow, making snow angels, just happily playing with the dogs."

Lieberman added that Walker "was just a normal, grounded guy who happened to be a talented actor."

Ryan Phillippe tweeted that Walker was "Conscientious & not caught up in Hollywood. He knew there was more to life & lived like it."

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Indeed, Walker largely stayed out of the limelight, most recently living in Santa Barbara raising his teenage daughter. Though he was already doing modeling gigs even as a baby and as an adolescent had roles on 1980s TV shows such as "Highway to Heaven" and "Who's the Boss?," Walker was initially hesitant about acting, and at one point studied marine biology with an eye toward becoming a naturalist or a park ranger.

After appearing in a few movies aimed at teenagers — including the football drama "Varsity Blues" — he had become something of a pinup idol and was approached about starring in "The Fast and the Furious." He signed on quickly.

"If I had the same opportunity today, I'd overthink it and probably squander it. But I was young and impressionable, and I wanted to work," he told The Times in 2011. "I was 24 years old and had just recently had a child out of wedlock," he said, alluding to the daughter he had with then-girlfriend Rebecca McBrain in 1998, his only child. "I wanted to have fun and needed to put a roof over my baby's head."

Others in Hollywood were keen to salute his can-do spirit.

Justin Lin, who helmed Walker in three of the "Fast" pictures, tweeted Sunday that "In a business that barely requires it, @RealPaulWalker was relentlessly selfless, genuine & trying to be better every day."

"Hours" producer Safran said those qualities were on display in the new film.

"He was so excited for people to finally see his skills as an actor — not just as a good-looking guy who was good at action," he said.




Times staff writers Samantha Schaefer, Adolfo Flores and Jessica Gelt contributed to this report.