I don’t think I have seen another celebrity look as happy to be at a press conference as Vin Diesel was when he was at the Four Seasons Hotel to talk about Riddick. Of course, he had just received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame the day before, so his good mood was very understandable. But at the same time, he was very pleased to hear at the press conference that we had all seen Riddick and was desperate to know what we thought about it.
According to him, we were the first people to actually have watched this movie, and he said that “to sit before all of you who have seen the movie is almost as exciting as getting the Hollywood star yesterday.” Upon his saying that, everyone applauded him.
Diesel’s excitement about Riddick, however, became even more understandable when he described how much he and writer/director David Twohy had to struggle with just to get it off the ground. Unlike The Chronicles of Riddick, which was produced by a major movie studio and had a budget of over $100 million, Riddick was made independently on a budget of just under $40 million. While the previous movie in the franchise was not a commercial success, the fans kept begging Diesel and Twohy to make another Riddick film, and they have delivered on their promise to do so.
Check out the interview below and enjoy!
Now that you have completed this trilogy, do you feel ready to move on from the character of Riddick or are you hungry to make more Riddick/sci-fi movies?
Vin Diesel: I would love to do more science fiction. We have another project at Universal called Soldiers of the Sun that’s very interesting and an opportunity to go into that genre. That’s a really good question because I’ve been thinking about that lately. The reality is 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 there is part of what you said that rings true which is I do feel like I answered that 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) to the Fast & Furious franchise, something everybody was so vocal about 4 ½ years ago. The second was the resurrection of Riddick and reawakening that mythology, and then of course the third one you all know which is Hannibal the Conqueror, which is the one promise I haven’t delivered on yet. But I will!
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 Five, 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 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 Five.
As you remember in Fast Five, the idea of pregnancy was very present in the Brian and Mia relationship which I guess played to the fact that my son was being born while we were making the movie. But I couldn’t play the Riddick character and go to that dark place, and I guess the reason I’m saying that is because it is a dark place to go to play Riddick.
It’s very rewarding to see the movie, 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. For this version for where Riddick is now in this movie, I went to the woods for four months and prepared by basically being a recluse. Preparing the inner core of the character, and specifically 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.
Because you are a producer on this, how difficult is it for you to be the boss of your castmates and how do you switch out from moment to moment of being an actor to being a producer?
Vin Diesel: I try to create an environment where, when we step onto the set, we are all in character. When we played Dungeons & Dragons as kids, there would be all of us around the table and someone might say something like, “I’m tired. I just might take a nap or something.” Then the Dungeon Master would say, “Everything you say is in game.”
It is a similar approach to the way we approached making this movie. When you come on 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, but for me I really have to stay in the pocket. So if I’m on set and I’m in character, I am not thinking like a producer. If I’m on set and I’m not in character and I’m just coming in during the moments that I’m not shooting, then I’m able to be the producer.
This is 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’ve lost my house. Everything that I had in 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 I could pull it off was by leveraging everything.Next
Since Riddick was an independent production this time, is this the story you always envisioned to follow The Chronicles of Riddick?
Vin Diesel: It isn’t the story I always envisioned would follow Chronicles of Riddick. Part of what I’ve been trying to do, and have been very successful with as you seen with the Fast franchise, was to create movies while simultaneously thinking about the succeeding chapters and how they would all interlink and speak to one another. That felt like the challenge of our millennium. In the old millennium when we made sequels, we just put the brand up there and slap something together and then expect the property to grow. We expected the property to fizzle out and it was exploiting a brand, and that’s why I turned down all those sequels because I didn’t feel like they were approaching it with that level of respect to an overall chronological story.
So when we were doing Chronicles of Riddick back in 2003, David and I put together three leather binders. Each leather binder had a lock and we gave it to the head of the studio and gave them one key. On the first binder it said “Core One,” the second binder said “Core Two” and the third binder said “Core Three.” At that production level and the amount of money we were spending at that point, we were thinking we were going directly to the Underverse for “Core Two” and then to Furya for “Core Three.” When years and years started going 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 and to continue the story and the mythology even if it meant what we weren’t going to get the size budget that we had on Chronicles of Riddick.
Almost luckily for us, there was an outcry from the social media to make this one rated R which did two things: one is it ruled out all possibilities of a studio backing you. As you all know, R-rated movies are now few and far between these days. 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 for the financing of it. Then it was up to us to take those somewhat limited means, especially in good person to where we were on Chronicles, and tell a story with those limited means. Thank god the audience wanted rated R because that justified in some ways taking a more independent route.
How does fighting Dave Bautista in Riddick compare to fighting Dwayne Johnson in Fast Five, and when you were off camera did you and Bautista keep sizing each other up?
Vin Diesel: When Dave Bautista came in, I immediately saw some potential. I had just worked with Dwayne Johnson on Fast Five so I believe you could take someone from the wrestling world and coach them into some great performances. So I was confident about that.
The fight sequence between Bautista and me was different in some ways. It took the same level of choreography, but the fight sequence in Fast Five took us a week to shoot. Anyone will tell you it was one of the most rigorous scenes we ever shot because it wasn’t just all the physical components, there was an emotional component that was part of that fight sequence that added an extra level of difficulty and intensity to it.
The fight with Bautista wasn’t supposed to be a huge set piece in the way that the Dom/Hobbs fight is. As you know in Fast Five, at the very introduction of Hobbs, you’re really waiting for the Hobbs/Dom showdown. I got spoiled on Fast Five because I used to do fight sequences and I started to get self-conscious about them because invariably the other person would get hurt. You never want anyone to be hurt on a film and let alone you be responsible.
The great thing about working with these guys that have spent their lives choreographing fights for wrestling is that that’s what they did; their specialty is selling taking hits and selling explosive hits without really making a contact or really doing too much damage. So I was able to exploit that for the Fast Five fight as well as exploit that with Dave Bautista. As you know, he’s the only arch-protagonist in Riddick who fights to that degree, and he was a great choice to have that fight sequence with.
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas recently made some predictions that the film industry would implode and that only blockbuster franchises will get made and ticket prices will go up. As someone who stars and produces those kinds of movies, what are your thoughts on their statements?
Vin Diesel: Not on my watch! It won’t implode while I’m around, I promise you that! I would love to talk to them about that. I love Steven Spielberg and I’m a huge fan of George Lucas. At the risk of sounding naïve, I don’t see that in the immediate future. I think Hollywood is changing. I don’t know the last time that Steven or George made a movie with Universal, but I can tell you that Universal is leading the charge. They are looking at film differently, they are planning ahead in a way I’ve never seen a studio do before, they are believing in a relationship between a fan and film franchise in a new way, they are more receptive (in part because of the social media) to an audience in a way we’ve never been allowed to previously and in a way Steven could never have imagined.
When Lucas was doing Star Wars, he didn’t have a 50 million person Facebook page to just sift through for feedback to try and get an idea of what he was going to do next. It’s a luxury that we have today and it’s really cool to see Universal leading the charge by listening. The thought of listening to an audience was unheard of five years ago. And you know from your history of going to movies; movies are that thing where you go and you buy a ticket and you never get to talk to the person that’s made it. You never get to talk to the creator or the producer of those films. You buy the ticket, shut up and sit down, and you can never comment about it. You can never have a relationship with that. If Clark Gable had a Facebook page, there would have been a Gone with the Wind 2!
That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Vin for his time. Be sure to check out Riddick when it hits theatres no September 6th!Previous