On Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, Fast and Furious star Paul Walker died in a fiery Porsche Carrera GT crash with his friend, Roger Rodas, who was driving. It was sudden and heartbreaking, a death that was especially felt in the car community. Five years later, I Am Paul Walker premieres this weekend, a documentary that seeks to immortalize the actor’s life and his accomplishments. The film does this, but also curiously ignores the major controversy surrounding his relationships with underage girls.
After news of the actor’s death broke, the Daily Mail and In Touch Weekly both ran features of how Walker’s current girlfriend, Jasmine Pilchard-Gosnell, was coping with her loss. Both of them noted that the pair began a relationship while she was 16 and he was 33. And before Pilchard-Gosnell, Walker had dated another woman, Aubrianna Atwell, while she was allegedly 16 as well.
It’s an aspect of Walker’s life that isn’t readily discussed—especially in car media—and is almost completely unknown to car enthusiasts. I actually hadn’t heard about it until years after the actor had died, which was extremely troubling since this could have been a potential statutory rape charge had the police ever looked into it. I hoped that the documentary would shed some light on the issue. It didn’t.
At just over an hour long, I Am Paul Walker, directed by Adrian Buitenhuis, plays more like a loving tribute than a documentary. There’s some old footage, dug up from past interviews and family home videos, but what takes up the majority of the screen time are sitting interviews with the people who were closest to Walker. The film does not, however, include interviews with Atwell or Pilchard-Gosnell. (Jalopnik reached out to both for this story, as well as director Buitenhuis, but we have not heard back yet.)
Together, Walker’s family, friends, co-stars, directors and agent lovingly reminisce on his life. They describe a carefree young man who loved cars and who matured into a father who was “always sweet, always kind, always loving,” his uncle, Rhett Walker, said.
The film follows Walker’s life chronologically, adhering most closely to his movie career and touching upon different milestones, like the birth of his daughter, Meadow, with his girlfriend, Rebecca McBrain, his impressive humanitarian efforts including founding a disaster-relief charity and his participation in marine conservation.
It also dives into his unmistakable presence in the automotive scene. We’ve written about Walker’s love for cars before. Not only did he star in the biggest car film franchise in the world (indeed, one of the biggest film franchises in general), but he was also an avid car collector, track day participator and founder of a racing and tuner shop called Always Evolving.
Other enthusiasts and people in the industry who had the fortune of working with or meeting him all said that he was the nicest, most down-to-earth guy you’d ever know, happy to stop and chat cars for as long as possible. There are videos of him on the internet where he’s freaking out over a cool car just like any of us would. Car enthusiasts say that the Fast and Furious movies were silly and pointless, but you also cannot deny that Walker felt like one of us. Losing him was like losing one of our own.
These are the types of stories that carry the narrative in I Am Paul Walker: Loving and admiring anecdotes. Yet, the film omits certain characters and controversies from Walker’s life.
It’s curious that Vin Diesel, by all accounts his close friend in real life, isn’t in the film. Walker’s daughter Meadow Walker, with whom he was very close, is also left out.
Most troubling, though, is that Pilchard-Gosnell, the woman he was dating until his death, also makes no appearance. Both Walker’s relationship with Pilchard-Gosnell—and another woman before her—weren’t addressed at all. You’d think that a film documenting Walker’s life would be the place and time to set the record straight if it needed to be.
Because Walker’s relationship with Pilchard-Gosnell was controversial. The In Touch Weekly story mentioned:
“Jasmine began dating Paul when she was just 16-years-old — he was 33 at the time. They had been living together at the time of his death, and Jasmine had been close with his 15-year-old teen daughter, Meadow.”
The two had known each other for a dozen years, having met when Atwell was attending modeling school in Los Angeles. The couple dated on and off for several years, living together briefly in Santa Monica and Santa Barbara.
“I met him at the Hollywood Canteen with a bunch of friends,” Atwell said. “We just became friends and ended up in a relationship. We have been in each other’s lives ever since. We talked every week, at least. We talked a lot about his daughter (Meadow, who turned 15 on Nov. 4), who was everything to him.”
That means that Atwell would have met Walker when she was around 16 years old as well, while he was 28.
The age of consent in California is 18. The legislation states:
(a)... For the purposes of this section, a “minor” is a person under the age of 18 years and an “adult” is a person who is at least 18 years of age.
(b) Any person who engages in an act of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is not more than three years older or three years younger than the perpetrator, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(c) Any person who engages in an act of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is more than three years younger than the perpetrator is guilty of either a misdemeanor or a felony, and shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.
(d) Any person 21 years of age or older who engages in an act of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is under 16 years of age is guilty of either a misdemeanor or a felony, and shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for two, three, or four years.
Since his death, multiple outlets have questioned the legality of his relationships. Many more have wondered why both the celebrity press and automotive media both haven’t ever made a bigger deal about it.
The Alloy drew attention to Walker’s relationship with Atwell and said it was a “disturbing pattern.” The Rooster called it “Paul Walker’s sexual relationship with kids.” The Gloss asked if others were “shocked (and disgusted)” over how Pilchard-Gosnell was underage. The Guardian Liberty Voice stated that Walker “could have been hit with a felony charge.”
While there’s no proof that he had sexual relations with the women while they were underage, the romantic nature of his relationships should have drawn far more attention and discussion. It still should, to be honest. As it stands, the legacy that Walker leaves behind does include these worrying relationships. It’s not something that should be forgotten—or worse, ignored.
I Am Paul Walker would have been the perfect opportunity to clarify the actor’s legacy, at the very least to interview the people who were involved. It didn’t do that. The film didn’t even bring up any of Walker’s romantic relationships, apart from the one with McBrain. By the end of it, the omission felt like a character of its own, a very noisy negative space.
Why was this issue left out? Was it included in an earlier edit of the film? Was it even discussed while putting the documentary together? A representative for the film declined to comment.
Unfortunately, this is just another example of Hollywood’s willingness to look the other way when powerful men just so happen to have relationships with younger, less powerful women, even if they are men who were reportedly kind and nice and humanitarian.
Elvis Presley, R. Kelly, Jerry Seinfeld, Luc Besson and Woody Allen are just a handful of others accused of dating underage women. I know. I also read a few of those names for the first time, too, while compiling that list. And there is something deeply wrong with that, with the fact that most of these accusations aren’t well-known to the general public.
I Am Paul Walker is a moving film, there’s no doubt about it. It touched on a few issues that Walker had—trouble with money, trouble with balancing his career and being Meadow’s father simultaneously—but dodged anything riskier than that.
I had been hoping to see the underage controversies finally addressed, and I came away from the viewing disappointed. Its interviewees only lavished praise upon Walker. All through it, I couldn’t shake the sense that there was another part of the story that everyone was pointedly ignoring. Acting like the controversy isn’t there doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.
I Am Paul Walker premieres this Saturday, Aug. 11 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Paramount Network.