Diesel delivers on promises to franchise fans
First Posted: 9/9/2013
Spurred on by his 46 million Facebook followers, Vin Diesel was determined to get “Riddick” made.
Even though he’s enjoyed plenty of success anchoring “The Fast and the Furious” franchise, the actor felt compelled to deliver a conclusion to the trilogy of sci-fi movies he began back in 2000 with “Pitch Black.”
A big stumbling block was the disappointing reception of second installment, “Chronicles of Riddick,” which cost a whopping $100 million to make and earned just $57 million at the U.S. box office. After the film didn’t perform as expected, Universal pulled the plug on the threequel.
But Diesel wasn’t about to see one of his favorite characters go down without a fight. The actor, who also serves as a producer on the flicks, bought back the rights from Universal and began a campaign to get “Riddick” before the cameras.
In an attempt to raise money, Diesel went so far as to leverage his house. And, he says, he’d do it again in order to bring the story of the gravelly-voiced anti-hero to the screen.
“I was committed to answering this growing request from the social media fans to continue this character, and the only way that I could pull it off was by leveraging everything,” says the actor, who collaborated on the trilogy with writer/director David Twohy.
“It was tricky because it wasn’t like being the producer of ‘Fast and Furious.’ This was being the producer of something where if it didn’t work, I would have lost my house. So everything that I had in my life was leveraged to make this movie.”
Now in theaters courtesy of Universal, which is distributing the independently made flick, “Riddick” begins with the titular ex-con being left for dead on a planet that appears to be devoid of life. Before too long, though, Riddick finds himself battling a host of scary creatures.
After activating an emergency beacon, Riddick is also forced to take on a handful of bounty hunters, including Katee Sackhoff (TV’s “Battlestar Galactica”) and Bokeem Woodbine.
Diesel was fresh off his supporting turn in “Saving Private Ryan” when he starred in “Pitch Black,” a scruffy sci-fi actioner that cost about $20 million to make and went on to double that at the box office. The PG-13-rated sequel “Chronicles of Riddick” was bigger, more bloated, and less visceral.
With “Riddick,” Twohy and Diesel opted to return to their roots with an R-rated film that aims to recapture, in the actor’s words, the “rough, rugged, and raw” spirit of “Pitch Black.”
“I went to Europe to a film market and presented what ‘Riddick’ was going to be and got foreign money to start the movie and to be the bulk of the financing,” says the actor, 46.
“Then it was up to us to take those somewhat limited means, especially in comparison to what we had on ‘Chronicles,’ and to tell a story… Thank God the audience wanted an R-rated film because it justified in some ways taking that more independent route.”
“Riddick” has been gestating for so long that there was talk of Diesel shooting it back in 2010, before he made “Fast Five.” But, in the end, he opted to wait until the timing was right in his personal life.
“When I learned that [girlfriend Paloma Jimenez] was expecting a child, I didn’t think it would be fair to the child or the fans to go to that dark place while welcoming a life into the world…so ‘Riddick’ waited until after I did the more family-centric ‘Fast Five.’”
Diesel says playing Riddick takes a piece out of him.
“It is a dark place to go to play Riddick,” says the actor, a father of two. “It’s very rewarding to make the movie and be in the movie, but playing the character is sometimes a lot more difficult than other characters because it takes so much preparation to get into it.
“For this version, with where Riddick is now and his state of mind, I went to the woods for four months and prepared by basically being a recluse. That’s how I prepared the inner-core of this character.”
A native of New York, Diesel (who was born Mark Sinclair) began his film career with his short film “Multi-Facial,” which made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995. Two years later, Diesel wrote, directed, and produced “Strays,” which premiered at Sundance.
Diesel’s early films were good enough to impress Steven Spielberg, who cast the actor in “Saving Private Ryan” (1998). Roles in a handful of diverse movies, including “Pitch Black,” “Boiler Room,” “XXX,” “The Pacifier,” and “Find Me Guilty,” followed.
A former bouncer who prides himself on his knowledge of social media, Diesel is the primary reason why the “Fast and Furious” franchise never seems to run out of gas. Given the $787 million-grossing success of this summer’s “Fast and Furious 6,” it’s no surprise that the seventh installment will begin shooting this autumn and open in theaters next summer.
“The thought of listening to an audience was unheard of five years ago,” says the actor, who is also scheduled to voice Groot in Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.” “But if Clark Gable had a Facebook page, there would have been a ‘Gone with the Wind 2.’”
Now that Diesel has completed “Riddick,” he’s turned his attention to another long-in-the-works dream project. “Hannibal the Conqueror” is the first in a proposed trilogy of films about the Carthaginian military commander which Diesel has been vowing to make for the last decade or so.
“I do feel like I answered the request from the fans to please make another ‘Riddick.’ It was one of the three promises that I either made or people assumed that I made on the social media network.
“One of them was [to bring back] Letty [played by Michelle Rodriguez] to the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise. That was something people were so vocal about four and a half years ago.
“The second was the resurrection of ‘Riddick’ and the re-awakening of that mythology. And the third will be [mounting] ‘Hannibal the Conqueror.’ That’s one promise I haven’t delivered on yet. But I will.”