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Entertainment

F9’s Vin Diesel on slowing down, savoring family life over the pandemic

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
F9âs Vin Diesel on slowing down, savoring family life over the pandemic
After multiple delays due to COVID-19, F9 will be shown in select Philippine cinemas starting today, Jan. 26, much to the anticipation of hardcore fans of Universal Pictures’ enduring and commercially successful fran
STAR / File

In the 20 years of the Fast & Furious franchise, lead star Vin Diesel has never said no to a stunt, even as the action scenes get more ambitious and over-the-top with each installment.

This includes the latest one, F9, where returning director Justin Lin said they pushed the envelope in terms of “hard-driving and gravity-defying action.” Case in point is the mad car chase in the opening sequence set in a jungle in Central America.

After multiple delays due to COVID-19, F9 will be finally shown in select Philippine cinemas starting today, Jan. 26, much to the anticipation of hardcore fans of Universal Pictures’ biggest franchise that has earned over $5B around the world to date.

When The STAR interviewed the Hollywood star last year, it was a firm “no” from Vin, who plays main character Dom Toretto, when asked if he ever passed up on a stunt in the film series that launched him into a bankable action star.

However, Vin mused, “As you get older, you start to question your sanity when you think about all these stunts you’ve done and never questioned. My whole process of going into character is, if the director tells me to jump off a building, I’m worried I’ll jump off a building because I go so deep with the character. So, no, to answer your question. No stunt is too great. Thank God!”

He added, “And let me take this moment to say this: Thank God, I have such a great stunt team… They are so good at preparing weeks or sometimes, months in advance to create that effect that you see for seconds on screen.”

Of course, what’s a Fast & Furious junket without talking about its fast and furious cars? For F9, the media learned the dizzying array of vehicles included off-road ATAVs, motorbikes, military trucks, American classic cars and high-end performance vehicles. The casting of cars to be used in the films is as serious as the casting of the actors.

Vin disclosed, “It might sound crazy, but we audition cars like one would audition actors. Because every car is supposed to represent something. Either an extension of a character in the movie and an extension of the state of mind of that character, or where that character’s state of mind is at the moment.”

The 54-year-old was asked to weigh in on the “title” afforded to him, based on a 2021 car study, as the “most dangerous driver” in Hollywood action films for having wrecked the most vehicles.

He said, “I remember, after every Fast & Furious movie and every press junket, someone would ask how many cars? But after nine films, you almost don’t even want to hear the number of cars that have gone into creating these action sequences, because you almost can’t count anymore.

“So yeah, I guess I should wear that title as a badge of honor. And at the same time, say sorry to the car universe for all the cars that have gone and sacrificed their lives for your entertainment.”

Origin Story

More than the step up in the showcase of cars and action, the anchor of the Fast saga is Vin’s Dom Toretto and his family “by blood and by bond.”

F9 starts off with Dom as a content family man, choosing life off the grid with wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and their son Little Brian named after his best friend and brother-in-law (played by the late Paul Walker). His peace is shattered, however, with the appearance of his estranged brother, Jakob (John Cena), as he’s forced to relive the painful past about their father’s demise.

Though never hinted at in past Fast films, the long-lost brother and the origin story of their family pushed the central characters’ “emotional arcs to the limit” in F9, explained director Justin Lin, adding, “I think that has always been the secret to the phenomenal success of the Fast franchise.”

As for Vin, this new development is only fitting as Dom enters the realm of fatherhood. “For Dom to be a father in the truest sense, he has to go and revisit his past,” he said.

Is he satisfied with Don’s trajectory and growth throughout the franchise? “If you would have asked me 20 years ago, if in 2021 we will be releasing a Fast & Furious with Dom being a father, I know the ninth chapter, I would have thought it was crazy! I would have thought it was unheard of. As you know, this franchise didn’t have comic books, or books or novels that were pre-written. It’s a totally original IP. So, I’m very proud of the fact that Universal has supported the evolution of these characters that have been adopted by the world and I am very, very, very proud.”

Is there anything he learned from portraying Dom since 2001 with The Fast and the Furious? “You know, it’s a great question. I wish I could just give a quick answer, but I will say, I started acting when I was seven years old. And when I started acting, my father — not unlike Dom’s father’s love for cars, and Dom’s love for cars is similar and passed down — my father had a love for acting and passed that down to me.

“At dinner, there would often be other thespians, other actors of his generation, part of the actor’s studio, part of method acting. And he recently said to me, no one of that era would have ever anticipated playing a character in a movie for over 20 years and not playing a character in a movie where you could disregard the chronology of the character or the evolution of the character.

“But to play a character, you knew then, before he was a father, you’re also watching my work in Fast & Furious before I was a father. It’s fascinating how both are intertwined. It’s something I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned so much from Dom and Dom has learned so much from Vin.”

Family life

Further drawing parallels with his character’s life, Vin said he feeds off the energy of the fast-paced life in the industry. At the same time, the pandemic has allowed him to slow down and savor a “peaceful” life with his family. He has three kids with Mexican-born model Paloma Jimenez.

“A peaceful life is nice. A life in the country is very beautiful. They’re compelled, right? I mean, ultimately, they realize in order for them to have a peaceful life, the world needs to be right and that’s what motivates them into action. But yeah, I guess I like it all,” said Vin.

“I mean, Fast and Furious gives me all the adrenaline I need making that movie, and being a part of that franchise or any of the action films that I do. They give me so much adrenaline that when I’m not doing that, the peaceful life is a beautiful thing.

“It’s like people often think about all the horrible things about the last year and the pandemic that we’ve all gone through together, but my God, I will never forget how lucky I am to spend every day with my children and my family. And for the first time in a long time that I didn’t have to spend most of the year on a set and I was just able to be there for all my children’s birthdays, be there while my children are learning and be there to watch the best of my life grow.”

Still, in this time of social distancing rules, he’s been missing public premieres to usher in the arrival of his films. He fondly recalled the sea of fans that welcomed him and co-stars during the Manila premiere for Fast & Furious 6 back in 2013.

“I miss that so much! Like I said before, I grew up in the theater. When you’re performing on stage, you will get immediate gratification. You immediately see what your work does. When you’re making movies, you’re isolated and you have to wait a year until you can hear the reaction of your work. I love that about going on tour and celebrating something that we’ve been working on for years.

“In fact, the Philippines is one of the Top 3 premiere experiences I’ve ever had in my life because it was so electric, it was so large-scale, it was just spectacular. There’s so much love. And that was at a time where we had just finished Fast Five. We were just coming back with Fast Six. The audience was just beginning to feel confident that we would show up every two years like a holiday.”

FAST & FURIOUS

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