In cruise control
IF Aussie fans of the Fast and Furious franchise – and the combined $ 53 million box offi ce of the past two fi lms would suggest there are plenty of them – want to see their favourite petrolheads doing burnouts in Brisbane, sideways drifting in Sydney or muscle- car mayhem in Melbourne, the message is clear: Just ask Vin Diesel.
Six movies in, and with a seventh on the way, the franchise that started in 2001 with the little- heralded street- racing action fi lm, The Fast and the Furious, has turned into a Hollywood juggernaut, closing in on $ 2 billion at the box offi ce and counting.
After the surprise success of the fi rst fi lm, the second chapter coasted and the third crashed, but the franchise pulled off a surprising and spectacular U- turn, with the fourth and fi fth movies each becoming a bigger hit than the last.
The sixth, which opens in Australian today but has already cracked the $ 400 million mark elsewhere, is poised to leave them all for dust.
The reason for the change in fortunes, says star, producer and, er, driving force, Vin Diesel, is that they began to think big, listen to their fans and tried to deliver what they wanted.
Already public demand through social media has resurrected one character killed off in an earlier movie and brought about the epic, body- slamming smackdown between Diesel and Dwayne Johnson seen in the last fi lm.
“Letty wouldn’t be alive without those Facebook fans,” Diesel says of Michelle Rodriguez’s character, who looked to have met an untimely demise in the fourth movie, but is back fi ring on all cylinders in Fast & Furious 6.
“And the fi rst time I ever thought of or heard the name Dwayne Johnson even mentioned in regard to a new cast member in Fast was from a woman named Jan who wrote a little comment on my Facebook page that said ‘ I would love to see you work with Dwayne Johnson’.”
So having screeched tyres around the world from the streets of Los Angeles to Mexico, to Tokyo, to Rio and, most recently, London and Spain, what chance of a Fast and Furious movie set in Australia?
“Now you are asking the right questions,” says a laughing Diesel, whose breakthrough action role came in the Outback- shot 2000 thriller Pitch Black.
“That’s how it starts. I swear to God, you put it out there now and we get closer and closer to making it a reality. I have been dying to go back to Australia.”
Even from his time as a rising star on the fi rst Fast and Furious movie, Diesel says he “assumed the role of the barometer of integrity”, constantly questioning the director and the writer.
Born Mark Sinclair Vincent, Diesel came to Hollywood with a DIY attitude and a determination to forge his own path after struggling to land roles due to his mixed heritage.
His early successes included writing, directing and starring in the short fi lm MultiFacial, which addressed that very subject.
He also wrote, produced, directed, starred in and raised the money for his debut feature fi lm, Strays, which was selected for the 1997 Sundance Film Festival.
At the same time, he scored his fi rst role in a big Hollywood fi lm, Saving Private Ryan, and was impressed and inspired to see that director Steven Spielberg displayed exactly the same passion for that fi lm as Diesel felt for his shoestring budget projects.
“I went through the Saving Private Ryan experience and that validated my ‘ take every fi lm as though it’s the most precious thing in the world’ approach.
“Because I had just done a $ 47,000 fi lm and I was now on set with Steven Spielberg, who has more accolades and more riches than anybody and didn’t need to prove anything. Yet he still wanted to make Saving Private Ryan the best fi lm he could make.”
FAST & FURIOUS 6 Now showing at Village Cinemas.