Sci- fi tank full of Diesel

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - MOVIES - BY DERRIK J LANG

THUMP. Thump. That’s the sound the golf cart makes each time it strikes the un­even pave­ment as it trans­ports Vin Diesel across the Univer­sal Stu­dios back­lot.

He’s trav­el­ling from his bun­ga­low of­fice to a screen­ing room where Rid­dick crew mem­bers have gath­ered to watch the third in­stal­ment of the sci- fi se­ries star­ring the 46- year- old ac­tor­pro­ducer as an ex­trater­res­trial ex- con.

“It’s such a vic­tory that this movie is go­ing to be in theatres,” he said in his sig­na­ture growly tone.

In­deed, when it comes to Rid­dick, Diesel is all too fa­mil­iar with hit­ting bumps in the road. It took the Fast & Furious star nearly a decade ( and mil­lions of dollars in fundrais­ing) to bring his see- in- the- dark anti- hero back to the big screen. Univer­sal had jet­ti­soned a pos­si­ble third edi­tion af­ter 2004’ s Chron­i­cles of Rid­dick didn’t soar at the box of­fice.

De­spite the fact Chron­i­cles of Rid­dick and its 2000 pre­de­ces­sor Pitch Black, as well as a pair of Rid­dick video games, amassed a cult fol­low­ing, it seemed like Rid­dick would be for­ever lost in space.

How­ever, Diesel re­mained un­de­terred. He worked with se­ries writer- di­rec­tor David Twohy to re­sus­ci­tate Rid­dick, ob­tain­ing the film rights af­ter Univer­sal passed.

“I started in the in­de­pen­dent [ film] world, but this was a new level of chal­lenge for me,” Diesel said.

He treated the se­quel just like an in­die film pro­ject, not un­like the 1990s self- funded movies Multi- Facial and Strays, which first trans­formed the burly New Yorker from bouncer to ac­tor­pro­ducer.

Be­tween film­ing the Fast & Furious movies, he trav­elled to Ger­many with Twohy to woo enough in­vestors to con­vince the stu­dio to come back on board.

“This char­ac­ter struck a chord,” said Diesel, who pointed to his 46 mil­lion Face­book fans as the rea­son for tak­ing sev­eral risks in­clud­ing al­most lever­ag­ing his house when bills couldn’t be paid to re­cover Rid­dick.

“He’s tan­gi­ble for them. I think the idea of a char­ac­ter that has been mis­read, over­looked and given up on is very fas­ci­nat­ing to peo­ple.”

The orig­i­nal Pitch Black, which in­tro­duced the ruth­less Richard B. Rid­dick amid an eclec­tic group of space­ship crash sur­vivors, cost $ US23.5 mil­lion ($ 25.2 mil­lion) and went on to earn $ US53 mil­lion ($ 56.7 mil­lion) world­wide.

The fol­low- up heav­ily ex­panded on the first film’s spacey mythol­ogy and bud­get. It cost $ US105 mil­lion ($ 112.4 mil­lion) but wasn’t ul­ti­mately a block­buster, bring­ing in a so- so $ US115 mil­lion ($ 123 mil­lion) world­wide.

Rid­dick, leanly cost­ing be­tween $ 35 mil­lion and $ 40 mil­lion, blends ele­ments from both chap­ters, keep­ing the or­nate look of Chron­i­cles but dis­patch­ing with its PG- 13 in­ter­stel­lar pol­i­tics in favour of the R- rated ter­ror of Pitch Black.

The film strands the Furyan bad boy on a des­o­late planet where he’s hunted by du­elling bands of mer­ce­nar­ies.

“For both of us, it was like go­ing home again,” Twohy said.

“No mat­ter what part of the world we’re in, whether it’s the Aus­tralian out­back where we shot Pitch Black, or Van­cou­ver where we filmed the sec­ond movie, or in­side an old train de­pot in Mon­treal where we shot Rid­dick, it just feels like home when we’re to­gether mak­ing a Rid­dick movie.”

With the re­vivals of Fast & Furious and Rid­dick now un­der his belt, Diesel feels rein­vig­o­rated about his other pas­sion pro­ject: a tril­ogy in which he’d play Carthaginian com­man­der Hannibal Barca, the au­da­cious gen­eral who marched across the Alps to chal­lenge the Ro­man Em­pire. It’s an­other bumpy ven­ture Diesel has been work­ing on for the bet­ter part of a decade.

But first, Diesel said he was revving up for the sev­enth Fast & Furious, which be­gins shoot­ing next month in At­lanta and Los An­ge­les, and Mar­vel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, in which he’ll por­tray the tree- like alien Groot.

For the for­mer street per­former, it’ll mark his first foray into mo­tion- cap­ture act­ing and play­ing a char­ac­ter known for de­liv­er­ing just one line: “I am Groot”.

“The idea of bring­ing that phys­i­cal­ity to a CGI char­ac­ter al­ways tan­ta­lised me,” he said.

“To strip away ev­ery­thing is in­sane. In this case, the voice plays heav­ily into it, too. I don’t know what kind of dia­logue will be in it, but even if it stayed true to char­ac­ter, there’s so much one can do with ‘ I am Groot’. It’s the kind of chal­lenge very few ac­tors ever get.”

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