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Burbank interview: 'Riddick's' Vin Diesel flexes muscle behind the scenes too

September 06, 2013|By Chris Lee, Los Angeles Times
  • File Photo
File Photo

On-screen, Vin Diesel's default setting can be described as coiled rage and brutal efficiency.

In the films that put him on Hollywood's star map, the buff and bald actor hefts big guns: from artillery to his own softball-sized biceps. He punches the accelerator on the fastest hot rods and pummels enemies into submission without hesitation or fear.

So it's surprising to discover that in 2011, just weeks before cameras rolled on "Riddick" — this weekend's sequel to 2000's "Pitch Black" and 2004's "The Chronicles of Riddick" — Diesel found himself facing existential dread.

"I have never talked about that," Diesel said quietly in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

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In conversation at his bungalow on the Burbank Universal Pictures studio lot, the granite-tough star seems genuinely taken aback, uncharacteristically humbled, to be opening up about his own fallibility.

"I will never be able to convey the anxiety, the frustration, the fear that I was feeling before making this movie when the funding wasn't getting to where it needed to get," he says. "To where padlocks were being put on the production studio in Canada because we had insufficient funds to get going. To where I had to leverage my house."

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At stake: the independent production he spent years putting together as a producer was in jeopardy of shutting down. Rather than wait for an insurance company to bond the $34-million sci-fi film in order to secure a key bank loan, the star took matters into his own hands. Risking foreclosure on his own home, he provided the financial backing for "Riddick" himself until bank funds came through.

"He had personal financial exposure when he didn't plan on being that involved," the movie's writer-director David Twohyconfirms. "Vin reached into his own pocket to make sure the crew didn't go home. He was putting his money where his mouth is."

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Which is to say that Diesel's sweat equity on movie projects these days doesn't necessarily end with bench presses and power squats.

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