Which came first: Vin Diesel
or his tank top?
It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation regarding the iconic muscle shirt Diesel frequently dons as Dominic Toretto in the “Fast and Furious” movies and that he also rocks as vacationing Marine Ray Garrison – before his life turns tragic – in the new superhero movie “Bloodshot” (now available on digital platforms such as iTunes and Vudu).
The clothing matches his onscreen personas: “Dom’s a pretty stoic, no-frills character who you can imagine under the hood of a car somewhere,” Diesel says. “And coming off the plane and shedding his fatigues for a minute is kind of who Ray Garrison is.” But the truth is, “the tank top predates Vin. It’s been a Vin Diesel thing before Vin Diesel got paid as an actor – that comes from a bouncer thing.”
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Like his simple yet memorable threads, Diesel has worn all sorts of action-movie roles well in his career, from his Army rookie in 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan” (in which Steven Spielberg cast Diesel after seeing his 1995 directorial short “Multi-Facial”) to beloved alien tree Groot in Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Avengers” movies. Diesel’s latest is the title supersoldier of “Bloodshot” who’s killed, resurrected by scientists thanks to nanotechnology, and turned into an assassin forced to relive his worst memory every mission.
“Dom’s always in control and we always feel safe with him because we know he’s got it worked out,” Diesel says. Bloodshot, however, is “the victim of his mental state being toyed with and manipulated. Nothing’s real and you’re going through the whole movie portraying a character that’s completely in the dark, completely the foil of everybody else’s agenda.”
USA TODAY talked with Diesel about his newest comic book superhero, what’s next for Groot, his long-teased Hannibal the Conqueror movies, and a promise he made to Spielberg.
Question: How did “Bloodshot” test you as a Hollywood action hero?
Vin Diesel: You think superheroes and you start training months in advance to come in with the most superhero physique you can. I get to the set and the director (David S.F. Wilson) says, “No, it’s a broken soldier. We didn’t seek you out for your strength per se. We see that in other movies. We sought you out for your vulnerability.” It was a great experience making the movie, but on another level, you’re going to set every day to relive the most horrific thoughts that you can with no way out. Both superheroes offer challenges: Living in a state of torture for Bloodshot is one challenge, and Groot has a different challenge. As Glenn Close said to me after the (“Guardians”) premiere, as a thespian it’s really challenging to take three monosyllabic words and move an emotion.
Q: You’re still a ways out from a third “Guardians” movie, but after playing Groot, Baby Groot and Teen Groot, are we going to maybe meet Millennial Groot soon?
Diesel: The Groot that we’re going to is Alpha Groot. You’re gonna lose your mind when you see Alpha Groot.
Q: Before the coronavirus quarantine kicked in, did the outbreak change anything you did as an everyday actor, like doling out elbow bumps instead of handshakes at premieres?
Diesel: I love to show up for the audience and for the fans because God knows how much they’ve showed up for me. It means a lot to me. Anyone will tell you if you’re ever in any fan event or premiere with me, I always run the line, I shake everyone’s hand, take pictures and I really try to truly emote all the appreciation and the gratitude that I have all the time in those moments. I’m crazy.
Q: Your role in the upcoming “Avatar” movies is still under wraps, but is working with James Cameron a trip?
Diesel: Jim is an old buddy of mine because we’re both former Dungeons & Dragons players. Being around Jim Cameron selfishly is mostly about seeking wisdom and learning from one of my favorite directors in preparation for having to direct the inevitable Hannibal Barca trilogy. To a fault, I’ve been so busy doing these other films that I haven’t had the year and a half to dedicate to directing. Whenever I can work with somebody that I can learn something from, it’s all in service of the moment that I finally return to the director’s chair and make Steven Spielberg happy.
Q: How does one make a legend like that happy?
Diesel: He said, “I wrote a role for you in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ but as an actor, I always expected you to continue that director journey. You have to shut out the system, you have to shut out the corporations that will have you do movie after movie. You have to direct.” Of course, he always says it when my mom’s around so then my mom echoes it: “Steven’s right!”