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Vin Diesel talks about his $20 million career

Vin Diesel talks about his $20 million career — His new action movie is ”A Man Apart,” but that’s just the start for this workaholic star

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Vin Diesel
Vin Diesel: Titti Fabi/Camera Press/Retna

Hey, even muscle-bound undercover cops have a soft side. In ”A Man Apart” (opening April 4), Vin Diesel’s character, Sean Vetter, mourns his wife’s murder by shedding a tear — and then slaughtering the slimy drug dealers responsible for her murder one by one. EW.com talked to Diesel, 35, about what makes him tear up, why next year’s ”The Chronicles of Riddick” isn’t a ”Pitch Black” sequel, and the majesty of mastodons in a still-in-development film version of ”Hannibal the Conqueror.”

In ”A Man Apart,” your character transforms from the perfect husband into a renegade who beats a guy to death with his bare hands following his wife’s murder. How did you navigate Sean’s extreme mood swings?
To me, it’s almost as if this character’s vulnerability explains the extreme anger he has. Of course, he can’t ignore the tragedy of losing his wife. So even after he kills a guy with his bare hands and loses it, there’s a moment where he sits down and wipes the blood off his wedding ring. He doesn’t want his wife to be a part of such anger.

Having revealed your vulnerable side in ”Apart,” tell us: What makes you cry?
I cry in films. Let’s just say ”Rabbit Proof Fence” had an interesting effect on me. It’s funny, but my mother said I became a formidable person, spending nine years working as a bouncer, just because I wanted to protect my sensitivity.

After ”XXX” and ”The Fast and the Furious,” are you trying to move away from straight action films with ”Apart”?
I’m very confident in my dramatic upbringing, so I’m not intimidated by an action movie like another actor might be. But you do have to be calculating. Think about it: ”A Man Apart” is a performance-driven piece, but it’s also a prerequisite for a film like ”Hannibal the Conqueror.” That’s something that could be a big film, maybe with an Oscar-winning actor playing my father in it, and it’s really an adventure. So doing a performance-driven piece in addition to action makes sense.

What’s going on with ”Hannibal” anyway?
I spent the summer in Sardinia learning and researching. Just think of all the things we’ll be able to do in this movie. For one thing, we get to create the elephants Hannibal rode across the Alps. They were probably 20 percent mastodon, like nothing we’ve got today. This is a forgotten time in pre-Christianity, when people were praying to Baal. C’mon, who knows anything about the Punic Wars? But it’s magic. Hannibal is a guy who had a multicultural army before anybody. This movie is so big it’s going to take at least two years. If we start now, we’ll be able to release it in 2005.