'Riddick's' Vin Diesel talks integrity and going 'R' in a PG-13 world
Can you talk about some of the things that drove you, things that you were willing to sacrifice to make this project happen, do or die? It's really rare to see someone revive a dormant franchise.
DIESEL: Exactly. I've been lobbying and leveraging for it for 9-years, and even after leveraging everything in order to make it rated-R… Unfortunately I should probably care more about making money than I do - and don't tell the people who pay me cause they pay me a lot of money, that I would do all this shit for free - but I did "Saving Private Ryan" for $100,000 dollars. When I did that I was on the beach doing our Normandy scenes. We were shooting in a place called Wexford, Ireland, and I was paid $100,000 dollars and I wasn't insured as an actor, meaning I had never made $7000 dollars in my life in a year, and as an actor you have to make $7,000 dollars to be eligible for health benefits.
Because I had never made more than that and had been an actor all my life, 20-years at that point, I was insured as a writer because Ted Fields, who happens to be one of the critical elements in "Chronicles of Riddick" because he was the guy fighting for me in "Pitch Black" because he saw my film in Sundance, "Strays," and hired me before Steven Spielberg to write about the bouncer world I had lived in. While I was doing that Steven Spielberg picture I wasn't insured as an actor but as a writer, and I'm telling you that because on this picture I'm basically working for scale, and I've never worked for scale in my life. I can't tell you how grateful I am to be a part of all these cool sets and all this great film that I don't even think about the fact that it's scale.
You also have "Fast 6" coming up.
DIESEL: Yes, we also have "Fast 6" coming up but you know Vin, if the script's not right he does these weird things.
One for them, one for you.
DIESEL: But not at the cost of integrity. I really mean that and it's a tough load to carry. When they say, "Do '2 Fast 2 Furious,' here's more money than you've ever seen before," and I say "no, instead I'll do a $50,000 dollar WGA draft of 'Chronicles of Riddick.'" It was so much money the studio says, "You'll be independently wealthy, you'll never have to worry about money again." My father is an altruistic, idealistic artist that was eligible to live in artist's subsidized housing in New York. If you made more than $15,000 dollars you were kicked out. When I told him I'd turned down "2 Fast 2 Furious" and $20-million dollars even he said, "Are you sure you're doing the right thing?" I thought he'd give me a pat on the back, but that was in service of protecting an integrity, and that's the real deal.
It seemed to come around okay, they kept making those movies?
DIESEL: It did come around, it came around the right way because they were very clever about their approach. It's a tricky load to carry because it's harder to say with social media, "I'm not gonna do the film because the script's not right." I don't know why or how that happened but in the last few years you're hearing less than that. I think they think you're capable of fixing them, or they don't give a shit, they just want you to do that film. When I did that cameo in "Tokyo Drift" I realized they didn't give a shit what the movie was like, they wanted to see their character. It was a weird realization that I was being the arbiter of a character the audience felt they owned. I was being the judge of material in my own artistic way for a character they didn't read as my character. Does that make sense?
Sometimes the studio makes a movie and releases it and the public feels like…
DIESEL: … they feel like Dom is their character. It's almost as though people were thinking, "Who are you to decide whether this script is good enough to hang with Dom, chill with Dom, embrace our Dom, or take a ride with Dom?"