Just how many hells did Vin Diesel have to crawl through to make a third Riddick movie a reality? And what sort of future epics about Riddick does Diesel plan to make? Here's part two of our report on our visit to the Riddick set, focusing on our interview with the legendary Furyan himself.
There are few experiences more surreal than encountering Vin Diesel in a warehouse on the outskirts of Montreal at 5:00 in the morning. But that's exactly what your io9 correspondent did months ago, his spirits buoyed by Lazarus-resurrecting levels of caffeine, Mr. Diesel's soothingly brusque voice, and the morbid prospect of the actor/producer — in a fit of Stanislavski-system-induced mania — eviscerating the gaggle of entertainment journalists surrounding him with nothing but a nearby coffee stirrer.
Sadly, we did not all instantly die by Vin Diesel's hand. But fortunately, Diesel was eager to talk about Riddick, the upcoming third film in his Chronicles of Riddick trilogy, which sees the goggle-sporting antihero marooned on a strange planet with only alien beasts and heavily armed bounty hunters for company. (For more on that, see our set report from yesterday.)
Here's what we learned from Riddick himself, on the set of his own movie. Spoilers ahead...
1. Diesel has been tap-dancing his way through Hollywood bureaucracy to make Riddick for approximately a decade.
Vin Diesel: [Addressing the reporters] You're sitting on this set because I did a cameo in Tokyo Drift. […] There's something appropriate and liberating and honest and free about going into a picture like this and being able to make it a rated-R picture and not have to comply with an understandable studio mandate of PG filmmaking for the blockbusters in Hollywood […]
I've been lobbying and leveraging for [Riddick] for nine years, and even after leveraging everything in order to make it rated R. Unfortunately, I should probably care more about making money than I do. And don't tell the people who pay me — because they pay me a lot of money — that I would do all this shit for free.
2. Unlike The Chronicles of Riddick, Riddick is a departure from highfalutin space opera.
Vin Diesel: The fun part of this [film] is the freedom that we maintained to dance between [Chronicles] and [Pitch Black], high tech and low tech, scifi and fantasy. If you follow the mythology, you would assume you would have to be in the Underverse in this movie. What's fun about the design of this film is [that the Underverse plot is] kind of thrown out the window after a series of events.
You're thinking [Riddick's] going to be in the Underverse leading a huge army and very quickly a couple minutes into the picture you realize [he's] fighting for [his] life, [he's] left for dead on a planet again. It's a very creative construct that [Riddick director] David Twohy and I worked on, which is playing on the idea of having so much power, that fat feeling you get from having too much power and the need to return to the animal side. We used taglines like "Jeremiah Riddick" because we scale it back so much and distill it.
3. Diesel cited his experience as a Dungeons and Dragons fan as instrumental in crafting Riddick's new adventure. (Also, Vin Diesel, star of a Gary Gygax biopic?)
Vin Diesel: I make these movies […] because somebody's paying attention. That's my motto about Hollywood and films, continuing these franchises. There's two lines of thought in Hollywood, one is the audience doesn't give a fuck — excuse me, it's late, I'm in Riddick mode, you're lucky I'm not killing you guys […] Then there's that world-builder, that D&D player that's really meticulous that believes the audience does care and can draw the similarity between Riddick's headdress and the headdress worn by Linus Roache [in Chronicles of Riddick] who reveals in one moment that he is a Furyan that went the wrong path. It's very subtle, but just the fact that you mention it means that it was worth the week-long dialogue about the construction of one little piece of [armor] […]
I haven't board-gamed in a while, and I have people that are asking me to board game. I have a buddy who wrote a beautiful Gary Gygax script. [Dungeons & Dragons creator] Gary Gygax's wife wants me to play him. [laughs] Yeah, I don't get it either. I was like, "Me? I'm Vin Diesel! How do you want me to play it?"
I guess that's cool. I guess some people think of me as a dweeb or something. It's beautiful. I haven't boarded as much as I want to, although friends of mine, like Michelle Rodriguez, she'll say she thinks I DM Hollywood, because I'm able to do these things that are just preposterous, like shoot Riddick.
4. Diesel's process for transforming into Riddick is basically a deleted scene from Hermann Hesse's Siddharta.
Vin Diesel: The second I walk onto the set and I know that there's a camera and I know that there's a David Twohy behind that camera, there is zero pressure. There is just me jumping into a pool called "Riddick." It's the most free I am. It's like channeling something. It's like taking a drug called "Riddick" and living in that space […]
My process of [becoming] Riddick is kind of a bizarre process, meaning I'll take three or four months and just go off into the woods. People are like, "What process are you doing for Riddick?" But it'll be a kind of meditated process that will allow for me to walk on set and be able to pull that character instantaneously. It's a bizarre process, but it's part of that Riddick process. It usually demands a very isolated time, a very reclusive period before coming here. When I finally come on the set, I'm releasing that and I'm almost breathing in a way, if that makes any sense. It's like I've been suffocating for four months before doing the film. Does that make sense?
5. The next Riddick film will take place in the dark constellation known as the Underverse and also Furya, Riddick's ancestral home planet.
Vin Diesel: You have to understand, when we made Chronicles of Riddick, this is how confident we were […] when David and I delivered the script to the studio, we delivered three leather binders. One said "Core One," the second said "Core Two," and the third said "Core Three." Now, all but the first one basically had Xerox paper stuffed in it, right? With like a little treatment on each one. It was a locked leather binder and we only gave the studio keys to the first binder. [laughs] It was a statement saying, "This is a trilogy. Think of Pitch Black as The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings" […]
[For the next film,] you have to go to the Underverse, you want to go to the Underverse and you'll have to go through the Underverse to get to Furya. So, those are the two stories that are mapped out.
NOTE: Universal Pictures paid for io9's travel and lodging expenses for this set visit.