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Diesel Fueled

Vin Diesel is pumped up and raring to go in the new anti-action hero film XXX

By Pamela Harland     August 09, 2002

Vin Diesel is not a man who lacks confidence. If you spoke to Diesel just five years ago, way before he took on the most audience-anticipated role of his career starring as Xander Cage in XXX, according to him you might be surprised to know he had no doubt in his mind of his future achievements.

"I don't think there was a specific time where I thought it might not happen," reveals the openly confident Diesel. "There were times when I felt I was a little further behind."

Playing the fearless anti-action hero in XXX, who is recruited by government agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to help save the world, Diesel says the appeal of the character came in his apathetic attitude.

"This character could care less about the world and as the one least likely to save the world he ends up being recruited by the CIA," says Diesel. "That was interesting to me."

Vin Diesel is XXX

When one discovers how he got his big break, it's no wonder he feels so sure of himself. After viewing Diesel's short film MULTI-FACIAL about a struggling actor, the one and only Steven Spielberg called him up offering him a role in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. It's enough to make any actor giddy with pride. And it did just that for Diesel, who is now in talks with Spielberg about making his short into a feature film.

But it wasn't Spielberg who turned Diesel into a star. The wide appeal of last year's box office hit THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS did just that. Diesel, who was admittedly surprised by how well FAST did, says there were times though just a few years back where he couldn't afford the shirt on his back.

"I was always broke," says Diesel. "I always hustled. There was a point in my life where I wouldn't buy clothes unless I could return them. So I'd shop at The Gap and if things got really hairy at the end of the month I would return the shirt because The Gap didn't care about the tags. That's the great thing about The Gap."

Pre-shirt swapping, Diesel was born and raised in New York. Diesel's mother made a living as an astrologer and his adopted father he doesn't know his biological father taught theater, where Diesel says he spent much of his time. His film influence came early on in his childhood.

"We didn't go to basketball games or football games," says the 35-year-old Diesel. "We grew up in the city and the thing that was most accessible was movies. We'd go to see movies and then spend an hour or two afterwards talking about them and that was my kind of bonding thing. That's how I started to appreciate film."

His father would come home from work dressed up as many different characters and Diesel says that intrigued him as a child as well.

"There's something therapeutic about becoming a character," says Diesel. "I guess I was a kid that was really, really searching for identity and the respite of becoming a character for a minute."

Vin Diesel is XXX

Not one to sit and wait to see the response of his character in his new film XXX, Diesel continues working on other projects and won't stop continuing to work hard, a work ethic his family instilled in him years ago.

"I come from a family of hard workers and we just think about the work," says Diesel. "That's the most important thing. Something I learned in my mid-20s was that the most valuable thing I have in life is the hours that I attribute to whatever. I'm not at home saying, 'Yeah, this film's going to be huge.' What I do is I stay as pro-active as possible where someone else could just sit back and watch XXX unfold."

While "not" waiting for his acting career to unfold, Diesel admits to an active life in his adolescence. He says he was somewhat of a thrill seeker. Though he is a bit reluctant to discuss what "stupid s**t" he did, he will cop to roller blading in the streets of New York and attaching himself to the back of a cab or jumping from rooftop to rooftop or hanging from a 14th story roof. Makes you wonder what he won't admit to. Still, he isn't looking to be typecast as an action star. His interests vary.

"I'm going to do what I'm going to do," says Diesel. "And I'm going to approach every role with the same conviction. If the roles that I play are in action movies, cool, great, so be it, wonderful. I love it."

The stunts he does in XXX fall along the lines of the ones he did in his pubescent years, although he does have a stuntman to do the dangerous stuff. He isn't worried about kids - like he did - seeing this film and attempting to copy him.

"If they had access to a drug farm, yeah, I'd be worried," says Diesel. "Or if their mother buys them an Ahab."

What Diesel also admits no control over is the instant sex symbol status he is receiving.

"I can only do the work," says Diesel. "I can't control what people think or how people will categorize it later."

Vin Diesel is XXX

What he can control is his destiny and what he does with his life, something that he again insists he has always had his thumb on.

"As far back as I can remember I used to read these actors' biographies and an actor would say, 'I always knew I was going to do this,'" says Diesel. "But you don't believe it really. But I'm telling you, if there's anything that you believe about me, know that I've always believed that some day, I would get to a place where I could make movies and where I could green light pictures."

Who can argue with that?

Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at feedback@cinescape.com.

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