'Riddick's' Vin Diesel talks integrity and going 'R' in a PG-13 world
Vin Diesel arrived for the group interview full of good cheer at the end of a marathon day of shooting, an unmistakable charisma oozing out of every muscly pore. The thing that had brought us all together on this Montreal soundstage, of course, was "Riddick," the unlikely third installment in the cult sci-fi franchise that began with the stunningly-realized horror/sci-fi movie "Pitch Black" and, four years later, with the bigger-budgeted sequel "The Chronicles of Riddick."
After enjoying breakthrough success with films including "The Fast and the Furious" and "XxX" in the early 2000s, Diesel's burgeoning career as an action star began to wane midway through the decade with a string of commercial flops including "A Man Apart," "Babylon A.D." and, ironically enough, "The Chronicles of Riddick," which he also produced. Nevertheless, the down period proved to be short-lived, as Diesel's career kicked back into high gear (no pun intended) after his decision to hop back on the "Fast & Furious" train - first with the commercially-successful fourth entry in 2009 and now with the mega-blockbuster follow-ups colloquially referred to as "Fast Five" and "Fast Six."
So where had this new wave of success landed the newly re-minted A-lister? At the time of this interview, working for scale on a Montreal soundstage. In the case of "Riddick," though, it's not about the money for the "Dungeons & Dragons" aficionado so much as world-building - "real world-building," as he himself made sure to point out - and his passion for the franchise project, like his charisma, came through effortlessly in the room. In short, the guy gives good interview. Given that, I've decided to post the transcript of the interview in full, both for the mega-fans in the audience and for those who might be interested in getting an inside look at the under-the-radar Hollywood barter system that allowed "Riddick" to be made in the first place.
(Note: After reading, be sure to check out the 20 key things we learned on our visit to the set.)
For awhile you've talked about Riddick. What does it mean for you to finally be filming this thing?
DIESEL: Since we've got time, since it's a long workday, and since we've been doing all the water scenes, it's a hectic schedule and we're very ambitious here, and it's a very good question… what the fuck does it mean to you?
Being completely honest, I'm a huge fan of the franchise, and I was disappointed that the second film didn't do the kind of worldwide box-office to generate a big-budget follow-up. So as a fan I'm incredibly excited to see where the character goes and how you guys are making it.
DIESEL: But isn't it surreal for you a bit?
I never thought I would be on the set of this movie.
DIESEL: Tell everyone how you feel. I share his sentiment, and the reason why I'm throwing the question back at you is because in many ways you're answering, organically, how I feel. It's more surreal to me to be here after 9-years. You know how long I've been talking about this, you know how many press junkets I've been at talking about "Riddick," and we're actually on set here shooting a "Riddick" that's better than all expectations, better than anything we anticipated, and we're here 9-years later and it's surreal.
When we first sent this script to Universal as "Chronicles of Riddick" it was already a pipe dream to even return to this cult film classic called "Pitch Black". It was already bizarre to be at a studio. When we first did "Pitch Black" we had no studio, the studio folded. We were at Polygram and then at USA and they folded, and at the last minute Universal came in and said, "We'll release your picture." It was kind of a Hail Mary, it predated "The Fast and the Furious," but led into that relationship, and we're here now because of the "Fast and Furious" relationship.
That's the good stuff. You're sitting on this set because I did a cameo in "Tokyo Drift." We leveraged this cameo in "Tokyo Drift" so hard to reboot a franchise that was literally dying. When "Fast and Furious" got to that third film it was basically a scrap of metal that nobody wanted, studio didn't even want it. "What can you do with it?" I'd go this whole other way, go back to a story-driven saga that rewards its audience for being loyal to a franchise, as opposed to doing a franchise in a reactionary way.
It's interesting how "Fast and Furious" was born out of Universal taking over this cult film called "Pitch Black" back in 1998 and now we're here shooting "The Chronicles of Riddick" after everyone thought it would be impossible. We're shooting a rated-R "Riddick", when do you see a rated-R movie? I'm 13-years-old watching "Alien" and there was a market and a purpose for these rated-R movies. Nowadays they don't really exist anymore. The head of the studio was just here yesterday, and the fact that they were supportive enough to do rated-R…