Vin Diesel Will Always Be Dom Toretto
Vin Diesel is the roaring heart of the Fast & Furious saga. A 10-second car, a 20-year tenure that’s still going and a lifetime of movie memories; he will always be Dom Toretto. ‘Salud, mi familia.’
Some stars live eternally under their roles: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine; Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter; Robert Patrick as the T-1000; John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer as Jim and Pam; and the cast of Friends, to name a few. Like it or lump it, they’ll never eclipse their characters’ shadows.
Whether he’s a quarter-mile away or halfway across the world, likely at the wheel of a Dodge Charger or gripping a Corona by the bottleneck, probably wearing a tight top and his cross pendant, Diesel doesn’t just play Dom – he is Dom, and his legacy as an actor will be defined by the franchise he helped steer towards billion-dollar glory.
When the first movie was being developed at the turn of the millennium – envisioned as a re-imagined Point Break under the original title of Redline, later changed to The Fast and the Furious after Roger Corman licensed the name – Diesel was not the original choice for the Toretto mantle.
‘I had been working with Paul Walker on another movie, Skulls, and I gave him the script [for The Fast and the Furious]. Rob Cohen, who I had made The Rat Pack with, we gave him the script,’ producer Neal H. Moritz said on The Bill Simmons Podcast. ‘The two of them liked the idea. And then we had to look for Dom Toretto.’
Off the back of the success of Gone in 60 Seconds, Timothy Olyphant was the number one contender – alas for him, but fortunately for us, it wasn’t meant to be.
‘The studio said, ‘If you can get Timothy Olyphant to play that role, we will greenlight the movie.’ The luckiest thing that ever happened to us is Tim Olyphant turned us down. He’s a great actor. In fact, I’m curious to see what that movie would have been,’ Moritz said.
Meanwhile, Diesel’s name was emerging in Hollywood, having starred in Saving Private Ryan, The Iron Giant and most notably, playing Pitch Black‘s bada*s anti-hero Riddick. After a few script changes, he accepted the role, and a brotherhood between Walker and Diesel was born (not to mention making back five times its budget at the box office).
Dom emerged as a fan-favourite, with no-nonsense machismo and great lines, like: ‘I live my life a quarter-mile at a time. Nothing else matters: not the mortgage, not the store, not my team and all their bullsh*t. For those ten seconds or less, I’m free.’
At first, Diesel clearly wasn’t so enamoured. He declined to star in 2 Fast 2 Furious on account of its poorer script – a fair comment, but ‘forget about it, cuh’ – and a larger role beyond a cameo in Tokyo Drift, one of the franchise’s best entries, but one that failed to connect with audiences.
Given the hype around F9, it’s mad to think of a time when the Fast saga was dead. Diesel was off trying to forge a career with xXx (great movie), The Chronicles of Riddick (good movie) and The Pacifier (which has aged so, so well), but nothing really took flight – unlike his supercar in Furious 7.
In what was surely a twist, Diesel returned to the series as a producer alongside Tokyo Drift‘s Justin Lin in the director’s chair. Walker, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez returned and landed a major financial success, if a middling critical one.
Fast Five, introducing The Rock and the movies’ now-trademark action elements, ensured its undying success on the big screen. Once the humble owner of Toretto’s garage, Dom evolved into the patriarch of a racing militia.
The franchise was hit with tragedy in 2013 with the death of Walker. It caused a major production shift on Furious 7, before delivering ‘the best moment in cinematic history’ with its final tribute, according to Diesel. ‘Men around the world were allowed to – everyone was able to cry – but men around the planet, for the first time in history, were able to cry together,’ he said.
If anything though, the death of ‘Pablo’ has only brought Diesel closer to a world he was clearly growing fond of. Playing Dom has almost transcended a ‘gig’ at this point, feeling a sense of duty in the survival of its legacy, of its family, and keeping Walker’s ‘beautiful spirit alive.’
That, and with the saga drawing to a close with its upcoming two-part finale, there’s been chatter of a Dom spin-off. ‘I think the Toretto storyline that they’ve wanted to do can always exist in the future. It’s not something that is completely off the table,’ he told Vulture.
In interviews, the star may seem somewhat earnest – even when it’s regarding Tej and Roman going to space – but it’s evident it comes from the best possible place; Dom and Diesel are bleeding into one another as the films go on. ‘There is a moment when you don’t know where your life ends and the movie starts. And, literally, there are scenes that are pulled from my children,’ he told Games Radar.
‘So, I love that scene where Dom’s putting his son to sleep and a son says, ‘Daddy, do you know where God is?’ And then points to my heart. That was something that my daughter did when I was putting her to sleep. I never would have thought of that poetry. It was such a special moment. I felt like it was representative of the Fast universe somehow. And so it’s in the movie,’ Diesel explained.
We spoke to the actor ahead of Fast and Furious 9 and asked him how it felt to have been playing Dom for so long.
‘How do I feel… I feel so grateful and so blessed. At the same time, so inspired to attempt to make the best movie that’s ever been made as the finale, the two-part finale. So it’s a combination really, Cameron: in one part, extreme gratitude; and a disbelief that it would even be possible. I was lifting DVD players, I was engaged in illegal street car races, and now the world watches Dom put his son to sleep,’ he said.
‘I feel grateful, I feel blessed, sometimes I feel in pure disbelief, but I feel so deeply inspired. I just wanna make the world proud with the finale, and most importantly, I want to make Pablo proud with the finale.’
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