Sudden Fame's a Joy Ride for Paul Walker

The very title of Joy Ride — in which Paul Walker tries to out-drive a psychotic trucker — sounds like a calculated follow-up to his career breakthrough as a road-racing cop in this summer's The Fast and the Furious.

Actually, the R-rated thriller that rolls into theaters this weekend was filmed over a year ago.

In the film (once called Squelch), Walker plays Lewis, a guy who arranges a road trip to hook up with a hot girl (Leelee Sobieski). But en route he bails his irresponsible elder brother (Steve Zahn) out of jail, and the siblings' pranks with a CB radio rapidly escalate into a terror-filled road run from a tucker whose handle is scarily appropriate: Rusty Nail.

According to the lanky, blue-eyed California beach denizen, the delay in Joy Ride's release was prompted by the studio's shooting no less than five different endings. The one that made it into the final cut was shot just two weeks ago, the actor confessed.

Walker's First Nude Scene Lost on Cutting-Room Floor Among those re-shoots, a little choice footage was lost: Walker's first full-out nude scene.

Joy Ride still boasts a funny-horrifying sequence in which Zahn and Walker are ordered to strip naked and go into a roadside truck stop and order cheeseburgers. "There was more with the nude scene, and it was cut," Walker explained. "It's me running down the road after the truck. It'll probably be on the DVD."

How'd it feel to be so, er, free in front of a camera? "That was bizarre," he admitted. "It's [not] too often you see a guy naked … but I read this [script] and thought, 'I'm going to be running around naked!' And it's called for with the creepiness and psychotic-ness of this Rusty Nail guy." 'Blown Away' by Success Like his Furious co-star Vin Diesel, whose price has skyrocketed to $11 million a movie, at 28, Walker suddenly finds himself in demand.

"It's so bizarre the way things have come around for me. It blows me away," he says, noting that six years ago he was just another moviegoer. "I lucked into Pleasantville; I was what [director] Gary Ross envisioned. Now I love making movies, and think I have the greatest job in the world."

The trouble is, Walker isn't sure what his next movie will be. He was set to star in the Richard Donner-directed version of Michael Crichton's best-seller Timeline, but that has become bogged down by studio issues.

Despite his newfound "it" status, Walker says he still doesn't feel like a major celebrity. "I went to Magic Mountain with some friends when The Fast and the Furious had been out just two weeks."

The rising star was recognized, but not stampeded. "That is the coolest feeling — when people come up to you and say, 'I really liked that movie, and saw it four times.'

So, are the guys jealous when their girlfriends want to approach him? "Guys are cool. Nine times out of ten, if it's a couple, the guy will come and ask if it's OK for them to take a picture with me. Then I ask, 'Is it OK to put my arm around her'?" Which, we imagine, usually is just fine.

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