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Fast & FuriousVin Diesel is back in the role that made him the action hero for the new millennium. 2001's The Fast and the Furious made Diesel heir to an action throne vacated by Stallone and Schwarzenegger.

Then Diesel shocked Hollywood by turning down the sequel to his biggest hit. He went on to make XXX, his pet project The Chronicles of Riddick and The Pacifier, although 2 Fast 2 Furious did fine with Paul Walker and Tyrese.

The end of the third Fast and the Furious film, Tokyo Drift, surprised fans when Diesel returned for a cameo in the epilogue. Dominic Toretto, the master of the underground Los Angeles street racing scene, showed up in Japan to race the film's young star.

Now Diesel is just Fast & Furious. The fourth film, opening April 3, continues the story of Toretto, on the run from the law with Brian O'Conner (Walker), now an FBI agent, on his trail. "The timing was finally right," Diesel said. "What led to that was a series of events. First and foremost, I had the luxury of working with Sidney Lumet, and boy does that absolve you from being too stereotyFast & Furiousped because at least it's on record, right? Though very few people saw the movie, it's on record. It's a departure from the franchise films."

The film by acclaimed filmmaker Sidney Lumet was Find Me Guilty, in which Diesel gained 30 pounds and donned a wig to play acquitted mobster Jackie DiNorscio. Once his creative juices were fulfilled, Diesel could think about where Dominic was eight years later.

"Finding an entry point to revisit this character is what took so long, because I don't just do sequels in a reactionary way. It makes a lot of money so let's do another one immediately without working out the story, as you know, never worked. I take a little bit longer. I make sure that I can feel it. I make sure that there is an entry point for my character and that we really, really, really in a real way worked out the continuation of a story."

He wants the sequel to be better than the original and further the plot. The Fast and the Furious may not be The Godfather but it can still progress.

Fast & Furious"Am I idealistic and feel like sequels should be more Coppola-like? Yes. So in that, I am saying when we were able to work out a continuation to this story in an interesting way that could lead to its own story as you see in the end of this movie, I was ready to do it."

Also, Diesel thinks the timing may also be right in society. "I think he is that quintessential anti-hero. I will say that in times like these, in times like this recession that we're going through, there often is born the Robin Hood-esque story. These fables are born from times like these."

The motivation for Dominic's return is love. When he finds out his girlfriend was murdered on a drug run, he re-enters the driving scene to find her killer. Diesel could relate to that.

"Love motivates me in everything I do. I was talking to my mother who was at the screening. She said it was interesting that Dom was doing all of this in service of love and how rare that is in a film like this. And [she] said that because of that, he could do anything. There was nothing too great a task for him to do. In other words, that was probably the most important aspect of my character. It allowed me to do everything that I did in the character and you're with him the whole way. You could think that love is the catalyst for all art, I would imagine, or the antithesis of that, hate in some way."

Fast & FuriousThat reference to his mother is interesting too. Mrs. Diesel is always his guest to every movie premiere. He never uses the Hollywood glitz to court lady friends.

"If it were up to me, I wouldn’t even go [to the premiere]. If it were up to me, no one would even see me before the movie, because I want you to enjoy the experience and I want you to buy into the character as much as possible. I don’t want to bring any of my personal stuff and crowd anyone’s mind before they sit down and get into the experience. I feel like it would only cheat. I’ve tried to stay away from that."

Okay, so since we are getting to know him whether he likes it or not, is there a special lady in his life? "That’s a question," is all he'd reply. "That’s a question. That’s a very good question. I know there are a lot of counterfeits out there. One of the things that was always fun for us is we could go on the internet and find out who I was dating. It’s hysterical."

The best he'd admit about his romantic side is a standard tactic. "Flowers," he blushed. "Flowers have done good for me up until now. I hope no one’s expecting a car or anything."

Fast & FuriousAfter our interview, Diesel made the most surprising revelatory announcement about his personal life on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He is a new father, a fact that was reported with little fanfare months ago. However, his blushing at Leno’s questions made a much bigger impression.

“Yeah, we had a baby while we were shooting Fast & Furious,” He told Leno. “Her name is Similce. She’s named after an Iberian princess. The mom is a wonderful woman named Paloma [Jimenez]. Not only pretty but just a wonderful, wonderful woman.”

Diesel got redder and redder as Leno asked if he’d marry Jimenez. “Hey, Jay, who’s side are you on? Who are you working for, my parents? I’m a shy guy. Can you just give me a little time to acclimate?”

At least Diesel conceded he would like to have a bigger family. “I think I’m going to have a few more. Jay, it is such an amazing experience to have a little angel who opens up parts of your heart you never knew existed.”

Fast & FuriousHe may be slow and stammering on Leno but in the movies, he’s faster and more furious than ever. He's happy to hear that people like the return of Dominic Toretto, because he didn't know how he would be received.

"I saw it and Paul [Walker] saw it at a Hollywood screening. Hollywood screenings, let me tell you the atmosphere of the Hollywood screening. You've got a percentage of people there that are just wondering if they're going to keep their job. You've got another percentage of people that are self-conscious about the work that they're in. You have another percentage of people that are jealous of the studio that has this hit film and are downplaying their excitement. All to amount to usually not an overly excited crowd. In fact, when I was leaving yesterday, I was telling my family, 'I ask one thing. Enjoy it and allow yourself to enjoy it. Don't get hung up on the fact that you're at the studio premiere.'"

Early public screenings have confirmed that fans of the series are going wild when Dominic gets behind the wheel of a car for bigger and better stunts. That's good news for Diesel, because it could have gone the other way.

Fast & Furious"When I'm thinking about going back and doing Dom Toretto so many years later, after everybody knows I said no the past two times, it's loaded, right? If you guys were my reps, it would be an interesting conversation. You'd be like, 'Well, I don't know, Vin. Do you really want to take that chance? You said no so many times. You come back now, you're setting yourself up. The odds are going to be stacked against you.' We've had that conversation. If we were all talking about this before the fact, and we were all representatives, managers and agents, we'd be thinking, 'Huh? You wanna really go for this one, Vin? It, uh, it's kinda, you know, you said no to the other ones. You dragged it out this long and now you're going to tell everyone you're ready?'"

Perhaps absence made the engine rev harder, or maybe Dominic is just the role he was engineered to play. Either way, Diesel is in top form again.

"I get excited about the appreciation of the work, first and foremost. So am I relieved that people enjoyed it? That feels good. I revel in the idea that people appreciate the work. I love it when somebody says they pick up on a subtlety or a nuance or a spirit or a theme of character or when somebody can pick up on the comment on society and where we are. All those things are riveting and charge me."

It also shows Diesel the value of continuing a story. 2 Fast 2 Furious was 2 hard a sell, but with the impending success of his return, Diesel would not rule out a fifth film.

"I'm always thinking, which you probably know about me. I think a few pictures at a time. You remember with Chronicles of Riddick, I wanted to do three films at the same time. I'm ambitious like that. So I try to work out stories in service of [the themes] I was just talking about and in the way I approach sequels, in that Coppola way. I try to think out the story, even before we go to shoot the film that's at hand. So yes, I have been thinking about it. I actually brought up the idea of shooting both of the movies back to back with Universal, with the president of Universal. He's like, 'What? We're just getting our feet back together.'"

Sometimes Diesel gets ahead of himself. Big ideas should be taken one step at a time. "That's the problem. I talk too much. I talk too much. They were telling me, the Hollywood Foreign Press, they said, 'Can we have the five second answer, not the five hour answer?'"

The five hour answer is fine with us!

Fast & Furious opens Friday, April 3, 2009. Check it out at / Issue 95 - September 2018
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