As Fast X director Justin Lin departs due to “creative differences”, Vin Diesel has another challenging production that he’s in the midst of it.
Vin Diesel is the rarest of things in the social media age – a true Hollywood enigma. He has spent more than two decades at the summit of the movie business, but it’s still not clear whether he’s in on the jokes. And there’s quite a few of them. He appears to be the only person who genuinely believes with a straight face that the Fast & Furious franchise is a towering storytelling achievement akin to the historic sagas of Europe, for instance. Either that or he’s an even more gifted showman than we thought (and on his day, he’s a very good actor of course).
Inevitably, when you have a personality as unique and strange as Diesel’s, not everything goes to plan. Over the years, the man behind the muscle cars of Dominic Toretto has faced numerous battles – with studios, with his co-stars and with the Hollywood machine as a whole.
This week, Fast & Furious stalwart Justin Lin announced that he had stepped aside from the upcoming tenth movie in the franchise, Fast X. Reports in the industry press have cited the very elastic phrase “creative differences” to explain his departure, though it’s not clear whether those differences were with the studio, Diesel or somebody else entirely. The latest joke that Diesel may or may not recognise as attempted levity is that he himself will end up behind the camera.
This is far from the first time Diesel has been embroiled in something a little tense, so let’s take a look at some of his most seismic scuffles.
Riddick (2013): Out in the Cold
The Chronicles of Riddick franchise has always been a labour of love for Diesel, ever since he first played the character in David Twohy’s cult classic Pitch Black way back in 2000. So strong is his commitment, in fact, that when third movie Riddick didn’t get studio backing, Diesel put his home on the line to get the thing made. “If we didn’t finish the film, I would be homeless,” he told The Hollywood Reporter at the premiere.
But the project didn’t quite go to plan and was operating right on the edge of its relatively modest budget throughout. In fact, gossip site TMZ reported that things got so bad in October 2011 that Diesel, Twohy and the Riddick team were locked out of the studio in Montreal. Bills had not been paid on time, so studio owner Michel Trudel changed the locks.
The film did eventually get made and attracted mixed reviews, but scored a decent $98m at the global box office. Twohy has spent recent years at work on the script for a fourth Riddick movie. Hopefully there’s a couple more quid in the coffers this time – or at least a locksmith on retainer.
Fast & Furious 7 (2015): Hit Me Baby (Precisely) One More Time
It won’t be a surprise to anyone that there’s a lot of testosterone flying around the sets of the Fast & Furious franchise. Such is the obvious outcome when you assemble the highest concentration of musclebound bald men on planet Earth. But few could have expected the story broken by the Wall Street Journal in 2019, suggesting Diesel proposed a numerical system to count how much damage he and adversary Jason Statham were landing on each other during the fight scenes in Fast & Furious 7.
The system was never adopted having been dismissed by producers as too complicated, but the story suggested that Hollywood’s hard men are very keen to protect themselves. Statham’s contract apparently stipulates that he cannot be beaten too badly, while Diesel’s younger sister apparently keeps a tally of Vin’s on-screen punches and chips in if she feels the numbers have become too weighted away from him.
Another Furious action man who keeps an eye on his beatings is Dwayne Johnson, who allegedly had a scene altered so that his character, Hobbs, would sit down after a fight, rather than be left lying flat on the ground. And speaking of The Rock…
The Fate of the Furious (2017): Candy Ass-Gate
Perhaps the most notorious of Vin Diesel’s battles is his ongoing feud with Dwayne Johnson – a rivalry almost as dramatic as any of Johnson’s scuffles in the wrestling ring. In 2016, Johnson posted on Instagram a week before the end of shooting on The Fate of the Furious, calling out some of his male co-stars. He wrote: “Some conduct themselves as stand up men and true professionals, while others don’t. The ones that don’t are too chicken shit to do anything about it anyway. Candy asses.”
It quickly became clear that Johnson was referring to Diesel, with the latter putting the feud down to the fact they’re both “alpha males”. He also gave a quote in an interview in which be brought up Fellini for some reason.
The last few years have yielded increasingly strange comments from Diesel about his bond with Johnson – whom he has referred to as Uncle Dwayne – while The Rock has responded mostly with bemusement. The former wrestler spoke at length about his rivalry with Diesel in a 2021 interview with Vanity Fair, which is well worth a read in full. In that article, Johnson confirmed that he only agreed to make the eighth Fast film on the understanding that he would not have to share scenes with Diesel.
Johnson did not appear in the ninth Fast & Furious film last year, with his involvement in the franchise seemingly likely to be in future Hobbs & Shaw spin-offs with Statham. Diesel, though, reached out publicly in November last year with a post asking Johnson to come back for Fast X. Given Johnson responded by accusing Diesel of “manipulation”, it doesn’t seem likely.
F9 (2021): “Prejudice Guild of America”
Vin Diesel is a man whose public persona, whether intentionally or not, seems to convey the desperation of someone who wants the rest of the world to take him as seriously as he takes himself. Nowhere has that been clearer than in his ongoing battle with the Producers Guild of America over the trade organisation’s “mark of distinction” – i.e. the letters “p.g.a.” after his name in the credits.
According to an article published by Variety in 2020, Diesel has sought the mark of distinction for almost all of the Fast & Furious movies and been consistently denied. He has described his battle for the mark as “a war” and described the PGA as “the prejudice guild of America” on social media. This particular fight seems to be ongoing, with no sign of the mark for Diesel so far.
Fast X (2022): Losing Lin
And so to the latest chapter in Diesel’s ongoing battles. Regardless of whether Lin’s troubles were with him or somebody else involved with the project, it will now be Diesel who becomes the de facto head of the project until a new director is appointed. And if the rumours are to be believed, Diesel might be more than just a caretaker manager – especially as the delay could already be costing Universal as much as $1m per day, according to Variety.
Certainly, a Diesel-helmed Fast movie feels like the logical endgame for the franchise he has made, loved and relentlessly hyped for the best part of two decades. Even then, the smart money would be on him finding someone else to beef with. Like any great family, this one loves to bicker.
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