Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Fans who know Vin Diesel best for playing good-hearted, lead-footed tough guy Dom Toretto in the Fast and Furious franchise might be surprised to see him headlining a fantasy film like The Last Witch Hunter, in which Diesel stars as an immortal slayer of evil witches. But according to his co-stars, the new movie is actually more in line with Diesel’s personal interests: he’s a longtime Dungeons & Dragons nerd.

Diesel’s fantasy credentials were apparent from the first day working with co-star Elijah Wood. “What was fun about Vin is I didn’t realize he was such a fantasy nerd himself,” Wood said at the New York premiere on Tuesday night. “He grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons and reading Tolkien. One of our first days working together we were talking about, like, The Silmarillion. He was telling me that I should tell Peter Jackson to make The Silmarillion, and that was fascinating. In that way I suppose it’s interesting for people to know that this is almost closer to what he loves than many of his other characters.”

Diesel is in fact listed as a producer on The Last Witch Hunter, and that wasn’t an empty title, according to director Breck Eisner. “Sometimes an actor is a producer and you think, ‘Oh, they’re not gonna do anything.’ He did everything,” Eisner said. “He’s a world-builder, he’s a writer, he’s a fight chroeographer. He really understands moviemaking and was a real asset to the project.”

“This was definitely a passion project for him,” said Outlander actress Lotte Verbeek, who plays Diesel’s wife in the film. “I just applaud him for being so courageous to launch something completely new while he’s a the height of the success of the Fast and Furious movies. It’s always the best scenario if an actor is really excited about what they’re doing. Every time he showed up, every time I talked to him, he was like, ‘How can we make this better?'”

The Last Witch Hunter is out Oct. 23.

The Last Witch Hunter
  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 105 minutes
  • Breck Eisner