Few actors have managed to brand themselves quite like Vin Diesel has. While primarily known for his action roles, Diesel revealed himself to be a savvy business operator and appreciator of quality cinema when we caught up with him on the London-based set of Fast & Furious 6, coming to theaters Friday. Check out what he had to say—plus exclusive pics and an extended first look at the film—below.
Dwayne Johnson and me having a fight would be cool in any franchise. I’m glad it’s in this one.
MADE MAN: What about the Fast & Furious series has made it more successful with each installment?
VIN DIESEL: Well, let me stop you: What do you think it is?
MM: The spectacle keeps growing with it in a grounded sort of way.
VD: Well, what you just said is descriptive of where we were at the end of the third one. It wasn’t growing. When I came on to produce the fourth one as producer, the outlandish idea that I presented was: Could we treat the next three as a new trilogy? I didn’t do the second one because I felt like at the time they were kind of approaching the idea of the sequel in an old-fashion way, just exploiting the brand. I think sequels should do what Francis Ford Coppola did with The Godfather: expand your franchise, expand the characters. So these last three movies are their own kind of trilogy. Back when we were doing four, the idea of six was already there.
MM: There are a lot of new characters in the franchise. Is it a challenge to bring them in?
VD: Well, it’s a good thing. Dwayne Johnson and me having a fight would be cool in any franchise. I’m glad it’s in this one. One of the reasons why Universal was so seriously entertaining doing six and seven back to back is because one film doesn’t really give you enough real estate to explore the characters as much as you’d like. If you do it as a trilogy you have more room for that.
MM: You have to balance the success and security of the franchise and also wanting to stretch yourself. How do you walk that line?
VD: It’s very, very, very tricky. I turn down countless films, including in this franchise. I like the challenge of taking an action film and infusing it with, as crazy as this sounds, that whole thespian thing. Trying to pull on heartstrings and play on things you wouldn’t expect to see in an action film. It’s always a challenge to not get pigeonholed or stereotyped. I did the cameo for Tokyo Drift and when I saw the cameo in the theater and all my New York theater actor prestigious, pretentious bullshit went out the window. I asked myself how much I own this character. The audience owns it, especially now. If Marlon Brando had a Facebook page there would have been an On The Waterfront 2.
MM: Is it necessarily a good thing to have that, though? What about The Godfather, Part III?
VD: Well, you always run that risk in film. On the other hand, there’s always a handful of guys fighting behind the scenes to protect the integrity of the franchise. We have people fighting for the integrity of this franchise and I think that’s why we’re successful.
MM: Does your involvement with social media affect you wanting to be a producer?
VD: It reconfirms the need to be a producer. I wouldn’t have enough insurance otherwise. I’m already so accountable that I might as well take that extra step. Someone has to have the big ideas. They did the first three. You couldn’t go to a studio after the first three and say “I want to do three more.” They’d look at you like you’re crazy and that’s what they did.
MM: Off the topic of Fast & Furious 6, what do you think about your sales scene in Boiler Room being used as training for salesmen?
VD: Is it?
MM: It totally is.
VD: I didn’t know that. Since you asked, the first feature I ever did was called Strays. I directed, starred, produced and did that whole “auteur”/Sundance thing. The way that I made the movie was telemarketing. So when we did that scene in Boiler Room I told them to get speaker boxes that they didn’t have in real boiler rooms or in New York, but we had in the telemarketing. The point being that a veteran could listen to a new salesman pitch. Inevitably the veteran would say “Shh!,” because you can oversell and lose the sale. But if you shut up at the right moment, you nail it. It actually came from my real experiences funding my entry into the industry.