Across eight movies, the Fast & Furious franchise has preached that nothing is more important than family. But, last year, the Fast family appeared splintered when Dwayne Johnson referred to some of his unnamed male costars as “candy asses.” Further reports suggested the remarks were directed at franchise star and executive producer Vin Diesel. Now, a week away from the release of The Fate of the Furious, Diesel is downplaying any feud between him and his costar.
“I don’t think the world really realizes how close we are, in a weird way,” Diesel told USA Today of his relationship with Johnson. “I think some things may be blown out of proportion. I don’t think that was his intention. I know he appreciates how much I work [for] this franchise. In my house, he’s Uncle Dwayne.”
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In August, as Johnson prepared to finish shooting the eighth installment of the mega-franchise, he praised his female costars on Instagram, before venting about some of the males in the film. “Some conduct themselves as stand-up men and true professionals, while others don’t,” he wrote. “The ones that don’t are too chickens— to do anything about it anyway. Candy asses. When you watch this movie next April and it seems like I’m not acting in some of these scenes and my blood is legit boiling — you’re right.”
While Johnson joined the series for Fast Five, Diesel has been involved since the beginning, with the exception of 2 Fast 2 Furious. Johnson may be one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, but Diesel is the face of the franchise, serving as a producer and being heavily involved in the direction each film takes, a role he says he uses to look out for Johnson’s interests.
“I protect the franchise. I protect everybody, including Dwayne,” said Diesel. “I protected Dwayne more than he’ll ever know. And it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t have to know. But he appreciates it. Dwayne has only got one Vin in his life. Dwayne Johnson only has one big brother in this film world and that’s me.”
Despite any reported tension in the past, which Diesel didn’t directly address in the interview, he said he’s rooting for his costar.
“I’m always rooting for Dwayne,” he said. “I’m the first multicultural megastar in Hollywood. They didn’t exist. To see another multicultural star come up is something I am very proud of.”
Last year, Johnson himself commented on the Instagram post, telling the Los Angeles Times, “I was very clear with what I said. I’ve been in the game a long time. Would Universal [Pictures] have preferred that didn’t happen? Sure, we talked about it. The irony is after that and as they do their tracking and all their analysis, the interest shot through the roof to a whole other level.”
EW has plenty of exclusive content from Fate of the Furious this week, including Tyrese discussing shooting in Iceland and director F. Gary Gray on taking the team to the crowded streets of New York City.
Read the full Vin Diesel interview over at USA Today. Fate of the Furious, which also stars Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, and Charlize Theron, rides into theaters on April 14.