One of Hollywood's biggest stars talks to us about going head-to-head with The Rock, panhandling in NYC, and his nerdy addiction.
The Fast Five star can go head-to-head with the Rock, break-dance on a subway, and play a mean game of Dungeons & Dragons. What can’t he do?
You shot Fast Five on location in the notoriously dangerous favelas, or shantytowns, of Brazil. What was that like?
It’s so crazy that we were able to officially shoot in the favelas. It doesn’t seem like something that a Hollywood production could do. I feel like the characters in this franchise have so much goodwill from the audience that we’re able to shoot in places where another movie probably couldn’t.
You weren’t ever worried while shooting there?
Nah. If you go into a place like that with a certain kind of film, the street’s on your side. This franchise is championed by guys on the street, whether that’s in L.A. or a favela in Brazil.
Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson plays a federal agent on your trail. Did you guys have a macho-off?
He’s a great guy. We’d been talking about doing something together for 10 years. Frankly, his role was designed for Tommy Lee Jones or Josh Brolin. But this actually started when someone posted a note on my fan page saying Dwayne and I should work together. I read that comment to Justin Lin, the Fast Five director, and it just went from there.
Be honest: If you guys had to go toe-to-toe, really had a showdown—whose head would be smoother?
That’s a good question! It depends who most recently shaved. If my clippers are broken or something like that, he can get the smooth-check award. If his electricity isn’t working, I can pull out on top. But it’s definitely cool when you see the two guys with shaved heads go at it. It’s pretty damn cool, man.
So what do you actually look like with hair?
Don’t you have Facebook?
Yeah, there are a lot of shirtless photos of you on there.
It’s funny you say that, because just a little while ago I was trying to look for a shirtless picture. Fuck. You should see some great pictures of me as a kid with hair on my page. Get in there. Click on those bitches. Look around.
I see some sleeveless…
Got to have the sleeveless.
Home run. I do what I can with the little I have, you know? That’s actually the last time I let my hair grow out, when I was a kid. Thank God I became a bouncer, because I got that cool shaved head long before I ever needed it.
Your Facebook fan page is one of the top 10 largest groups on Facebook. How did you pull that off?
The only thing they didn’t talk about in the movie The Social Network was what was driving people to Facebook. And they forgot to mention that they had a guy named Vin Diesel. A guy who didn’t do a lot of press. I was always very, very private. Facebook became an opportunity to connect with fans directly for the first time. Now we’re in this new world where it is all there on the Internet for you to play with, and you can let people in as much as you want. For me it was very therapeutic. I mean, I stopped smoking cigarettes because of Facebook.
How did that happen?
Back when I only had, like, 100,000 friends, my girlfriend said if I got more fans than Barack Obama I had to quit smoking. I had six million by January 2010, and it was all because I was communicating with people honestly. I believe I was second to Michael Jackson’s page in popularity for a while.
You’re famous for being an unrepentant Dungeons & Dragons fan. Do you still play?
I just got this offer to play in a charity game. I haven’t actually played in years, though. But I did recently restock on all the latest editions, so I do have the dice and books.
Since you seem like such a fantasy fan, why have you done mostly science-fiction movies, like The Chronicles of Riddick and Babylon A.D.?
Right, definitely not enough fantasy stuff. It’s something I really want to do. I want to do a true fantasy epic based on one of my old Dungeons & Dragons characters, Melkor.
You’re going to make an entire movie based on your D&D character?
Yes, we are in the process of having a feature written based on a Dungeons & Dragons character I role-played in the 1980s. It’s actually a crazy and strange position to be in, to pull off something like that.
You’re a born and raised New Yorker. What’s your ultimate “only in New York” story?
Where do I start? Break-dancing in the streets and subways to make money. The way we did it as teenagers in the city in 1983, 1984…I had to take my hat off and say, “Please give me money.” That’s only in New York.
Where in the city did you make the most dough?
It depends what you’re doing. But if you want a long train run, you want 59th to 125th Street. You can get anything done there. That was the panhandler’s run.
By the way, remember that really alcoholic beer Molson XXX? We might still call those Vin Diesels.
I do remember that beer! That’s pretty damn cool.