In cruise con­trol

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAMES WIGNEY

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.

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