How Vin Diesel became the ultimate franchise builder
Vin Diesel lives his life one blockbuster series at a time. But that wasn’t always the case.
“The irony is, I asked Universal to not make a sequel to the first Fast & Furious," he tells EW. "I felt they would compromise the ability for it to be a classic."
Eight(!) sequels later, Fast leads his portfolio, along with the Riddick and xXx trilogies. With the release of the superhero origin story Bloodshot, the actor-producer continues to find himself new long-term vehicles. And it turns out that his approach to franchise-building has been influenced by his love of Dungeons & Dragons (yes, you read that right). "What was so alluring about D&D was creating worlds, and taking your character from one campaign to the next," says Diesel.
Here, he reveals his franchise do’s and don’ts.
1. DO embrace change (and when Spielberg gives you advice, listen).
“Allow characters to evolve,” says Diesel, 52, pointing to Fast’s transition from “car movie” to world-saving saga. "Twenty years ago, Dom Toretto was an outlaw, and today in 2020, the first Fast 9 trailer was a minute long and in essence was a father and mother putting their kid to sleep. That's it." Diesel's original big break came when Steven Spielberg saw his short film Multi-Facial and wrote him a role in Saving Private Ryan, and the legendary filmmaker has continued to give him important counsel. “I remember Steven Spielberg saying, ‘You’re doing all these different kinds of movies and it’s kind of insane,'" shares Diesel. "I said, ‘Is it bad?’ And he said, ‘No, keep defying expectations.’"
2. DON’T be afraid to walk away.
With both The Fast and the Furious and xXx, Diesel toplined hits but didn’t stick around for their sequels. “Sometimes you have to say no and stand for the integrity you hope to manifest in a film,” says Diesel, who returned for the third film in both series. “Saying no in that that moment of my life might have understandably been scary, and yet, it's what allowed for everyone to commit wholeheartedly. Taking a pause is necessary when you want to really think about where you want to take something.”
3. DO fight for your rights.
Diesel signed an unusual deal to appear in 2006’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift in exchange for the rights to Riddick, which allowed him to control the character’s future. “Make films that you’re invested in, and the rest will follow,” says Diesel, who serves as a producer on all his tentpoles. “It makes me have to be that much more hands-on and accountable.”
4. DON’T shy away from unproven properties.
Diesel is no stranger to superhero stories. He is, after all, Groot. But, like his other hits, Bloodshot (out now) — in which he plays Ray Garrison, a Marine who is murdered and then reborn as an enhanced killing machine — is much more of an unknown in the genre. “Sometimes the challenges are what’s fun,” he says. “I’ve had the great fortune of being offered well-known superheroes in the past, and the timing wasn’t right for me. This felt like an underdog." Diesel is so confident and happy with Bloodshot that he says the script for a sequel would have already been commissioned if he wasn't so busy. "There is a toll that all of these franchises take," he explains. "There's only so much time."