IAR INTERVIEW: Vin Diesel Talks 'Riddick' and the 'Fast & Furious' Future

Wednesday, 04 September 2013 09:33 Written by  iamrogue
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IAR INTERVIEW: Vin Diesel Talks 'Riddick' and the 'Fast & Furious' Future

He may look like the monosyllabic bruiser checking your I.D. on the way into an unsavory bar, but Vin Diesel is possessed of the gift of gab.

The loquacious action star is sharing his enthusiasm for Riddick, this Friday's sci-fi sequel that heralds the title character's return after an absence of almost a decade.

Interstellar outlaw Richard B. Riddick first charmed audiences thirteen years ago as the breakout character in Pitch Black.  As one of the survivors of a crash landing on a desolate alien world, the extremely proficient killer whose polished eyes see in the dark went up against a swarm of nocturnal beasts.  The sequel, 2004's summer event movie The Chronicles of Riddick, put the anti-hero at the center of a vast mythology, revealing him as the last of an extinct species known as Furyans and putting him in conflict with a marauding galactic empire.

Nine years after the straightforward sci-fi spectacle of that sequel comes Riddick, a return to form for the genre's foremost tank top-wearing mass murderer.   Without abandoning the elements introduced in The Chronicles of Riddick, this entry more closely follows the stripped-down approach of Pitch Black.  Once again, Riddick finds himself marooned on harsh alien soil.  With no other option, he activates a distress beacon, one that brings not rescue, but bounty hunters intent on collecting his head.  Unluckily for them, the mercenaries aren't just facing the most dangerous man in the galaxy, but also another limitless hoard of alien carnivores.

On Riddick, Vin Diesel dons the characters goggles again, working with David Twohy (A Perfect Getaway), the writer-director behind both Pitch Black and The Chronicles of RiddickIAR recently attended a press conference in which star and producer Diesel was happy to discuss Richard Riddick's return, how his fatherhood affected the character, building franchises like Fast & Furious, financing Riddick independently, Dungeons and Dragons influencing the atmosphere on set, matching muscles with professional wrestlers, and the future of the last Furyan.

Though Riddick was softened up slightly and made more conventionally heroic in the PG-13 The Chronicles of Riddick, he is still an outlaw with an unconventional morality, a man comfortable with violence and darkness.  Diesel explained that his own life made returning to the primal rage of Riddick an even greater challenge, saying, "Now that I have kids, it’s a little bit trickier to watch Riddick. We were initially going to try to make Riddick before I did Fast 5, and then I learned that we were expecting a child. I didn’t think it would be fair to the child and I didn’t think it would be fair to 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 5." 

"So, I couldn’t play the Riddick character and go to that dark place. It’s very rewarding to see the movie, and it’s very rewarding to make the movie, but playing the character is sometimes a lot more difficult than other characters because it takes so much preparation to get into that character," he continued. "For this version, with where Riddick is now in this movie, and his state of mind in this movie, I went to the woods for four months and prepared by basically being a recluse. I prepared the inner core of the character. Because I was also producing it, it was so important to get that core character correct, so that I could easily tap into it while maintaining some kind of circumspect view of what was going on with the production, as a producer."

While both Diesel and Twohy long planned for continuing Riddick adventures, Riddick itself is not the story that the duo originally intended as the third installment.  Diesel places the evolution of the series within the changing framework of the modern blockbuster franchise. "It isn’t the story that I had always envisioned to follow the last chapter of Riddick," he said. "Part of what I’ve been trying to do at the studio, and have been very successful with, as you’ve seen with the Fast franchise, is to create movies while simultaneously thinking about the succeeding chapters, and how they would all interlink and each film would speak to one another. That felt like the challenge of our millennium. In the old millennium, when we made sequels and franchise movies, we just put the brand up there and slapped something together. We didn’t expect the property to grow, we expected the property to fizzle out. It was exploiting a brand. That’s why I turned down all those the sequels to all those films. I didn’t feel like they were approaching it with that level of respect to an overall chronological story."

"When we were doing The Chronicles of Riddick, back in 2003, David and I put together three leather binder, and each leather binder had a lock. They were those binders that you could lock. And we gave them to the head of the studio with one key," Diesel recalled. "On the first binder, it said Core I, the second binder said Core II and the third binder said Core III. At that production level, the amount of money that we were spending at that point, we were thinking of going directly to the Underverse for Core II, and then to Furya for Core III. When years and years started to go by and we weren’t delivering the next chapter, we had to make a very conscious decision to find a way to tell the next chapter, continue the story and continue the mythology, even if it meant we weren’t going to get the size budget we had just had on The Chronicles of Riddick." 

The long dormancy of this franchise convinced many that Riddick's theatrical life had come to an end, but the filmmakers eventually obtained independent financing, as Diesel explained, "Luckily for us, there was an outcry from social media to make this one rated R, which did two things. It ruled out all possibilities of a studio backing it. As you know, rated R movies are few and far between, nowadays. We’re all seeing less and less rated R movies, and less and less of them are being made. We had to take a more independent route, so I went to Europe, to a film market, and presented what this film was going to be, and got foreign money to start this movie and to be the bulk of the financing for the movie. And then, it was up to us to take that somewhat limited means, especially in comparison to where we were on Chronicles, and tell a story with those limited means. Thank god, the audience wanted it rated R because that justified, in some ways, taking a more independent route."

Diesel divides his duties on many films between acting and producing.  Having produced Chronicles of Riddick and the last three Fast & Furious entries, he has honed his approach, which has an unconventional influence thanks to Dungeons and Dragons, of which Diesel is an avowed fan. "I try to create an environment where, when we step onto the set, we’re all in character," he said. "A funny thing we used to say while we were playing Dungeons & Dragons, when someone would say something random like, 'I’m tired, so I might just take a nap.' The DM would say, 'Everything that you say is in-game,' which is a similar approach to the way we approached making this movie. When you come onto the set, everything should be focused around your character and you should stay in the pocket, as much as possible. Every actor has their own process. For me, I really need to stay in the pocket. So, if I’m on set and I’m in character, I’m not thinking like a producer. If I’m on set and I’m not in character, wardrobe and make-up, and I’m just coming on set for the moments that I’m not shooting, then I’m able to be the producer. This was tricky because it wasn’t like being the producer of Fast & Furious. This was being the producer of something that, if it didn’t work, I would have lost my house. Everything that I had on my life was leveraged to make this movie. So, the stakes were higher than for any producer I know because the skin in the game was real. I was so 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."

Marvel Studios has yet to make it official, but Diesel has made no secret of the fact that he's voicing treelike alien warrior Groot in next summer's Guardians of the Galaxy.  That sci-fi adventure also features MMA star and six-time WWE world champion Dave Bautista (The Man With the Iron Fists) as Drax the Destroyer.  In Riddick, Bautista plays one of the mercenaries hunting our hero.

Asked about the differences between Bautista and fellow wrestling veteran Dwayne Johnson (Pain & Gain) on the last two Fast & Furious movies, Diesel answered, "First of all, Dave Bautista came in and was just great. I remember when he was auditioning, I immediately saw something. I immediately saw some potential. I had just worked with Dwayne Johnson on Fast 5, so I believed you could take somebody from the wrestling world and coach them into some really great performances. I was confident about that. The fight sequence between me and Bautista was different, in some ways. It took the same level of choreography, but the fight sequence in Fast 5 took us a week to shoot. Dwayne, and anyone, will tell you that it was one of the most rigorous scenes we’d ever shot because it wasn’t just the physical component. There was an emotional component that was a part of that fight sequence that added an extra level of difficulty and intensity to it. The fight between me and Bautista was fun, but it wasn’t supposed to be a huge set piece in the way that the Dom-Hobbs fight was."

"The great thing about working with these guys who have spent their lives choreographing fights for wrestling is that that’s their specialty," he continued. "Their specialty is selling taking hits. Their specialty is selling explosive hits without really making a contact, or really doing too much damage. So, I was able to exploit that for the Fast 5 fight, as well as with Dave Bautista. He’s the only character in Riddick that our protagonist fights to that degree, in part because he was conditioned to do that. He was such a great choice to have that fight sequence with."

Obviously, Diesel takes an unusually long view of his film endeavors, planning and building while interacting with the public via social media, keeping fans abreast of the latest developments on films like Riddick and next summer's Fast & Furious 7.

So what's in store for the actor? "I would love to do more science fiction. We have another project at Universal, called Soldiers of the Sun, that’s very interesting and is an opportunity to go into that genre," he said. "That’s a very good question because I’ve been thinking about that lately. The reality is that I always envisioned the Riddick franchise as a continuing mythology, so I always imagined that there would be many other films to follow. And yet, I do feel like I answered that growing request from the fans that said, '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, obviously, was the return of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez in Furious 6). That was something everyone was so vocal about, four and a half years ago. The second was the resurrection of Riddick, and reawakening that mythology. And then, of course, the third one was Hannibal the Conqueror, which is the one promise I haven’t delivered on yet, but I will."

Asked about the possibility of another Riddick film, Vin Diesel answered, "Tell David to give me the goddamn script for the next one, right now. He’s late! I was expecting it yesterday."

Riddick also features the likes of Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica), Bokeem Woodbine (Total Recall), Jordi Molla (Bad Boys II), Raoul Trujillo (Cowboys & Aliens), Nolan Gerard Funk (The House at the End of the Street), Keri Hilson (Think Like a Man), and Karl Urban (Dredd).

Catch Riddick on conventional and jumbo-sized IMAX screens this Friday, September 6th.

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