Vin Diesel tells Movie Fanatic that he has heard the calls of social media for more Riddick and it arrives September 6 in the form of the third film to feature the sci-fi anti-hero... as previewed in the Riddick trailer. But, after 2003’s The Chronicles of Riddick, Diesel and franchise creator/director David Twohy had to go the independent movie route to give fans a third chapter.
Those that adored the Riddick character that was first introduced in Pitch Black in 2000 wanted the film to be R-rated and that all but guaranteed the studio would not be interested.
“Luckily for us, there was an outcry from social media to make this one rated R which ruled out all possibilities of a studio backing it. Rated R movies are few and far between nowadays. We had to take a more independent route, so I went to Europe and presented what this film was going to be and got the bulk of the financing for the movie,” Diesel said.
Funding it themselves wound up being a blessing in disguise for Diesel -- who also serves as producer -- and writer-director Twohy. “Thank God, the audience wanted it rated R because that justified taking a more independent route.”
Going independent also meant the freedom to make the movie they wanted. Yet, after the studio backed The Chronicles of Riddick, they felt they had to do something a little different story-wise with Riddick than they had planned. In fact, it is what Diesel has been trying to do with his other franchise, Fast and Furious.
“It isn’t the story that I had always envisioned to follow the last chapter of Riddick. Part of what I’ve been trying to do at the studio -- as you’ve seen with the Fast and Furious franchise -- is to create movies while simultaneously thinking about the succeeding chapters, and how they would all interlink and each film would speak to one another,” Diesel said.
“That felt like the challenge of our millennium. In the old millennium, when we made sequels and franchise movies, we just put the brand up there and slapped something together. We didn’t expect the property to grow. It was exploiting a brand. That’s why I turned down all those sequels to all those films. I didn’t feel like they were approaching it with that level of respect to an overall chronological story.”
When Twohy and Diesel were making The Chronicles of Riddick they put together three binders, and each had a lock. “We gave them to the head of the studio with one key. On the first binder, it said Core I, the second binder said Core II, and the third binder said Core III. At that production level, the amount of money that we were spending at that point, we were thinking of going directly to the Underverse for Core II, and then to Furya for Core III,” Diesel admitted.
Then, time became their enemy. “When years and years started to go by and we weren’t delivering the next chapter, we had to make a very conscious decision to find a way to tell the next chapter, continue the story and continue the mythology, even if it meant we weren’t going to get the size budget we had just had on The Chronicles of Riddick.”
Since Riddick is such a dark character, the passage of time worked out well in other ways. He is a father now, and Diesel did not want to emotionally go into Riddick’s head with young children.
“Now that I have kids, it’s a little bit trickier to watch Riddick. We were initially going to try to make Riddick before I did Fast 5, and then I learned that we were expecting a child. I didn’t think it would be fair to the child and I didn’t think it would be fair to the fans to go to that dark place while welcoming a life into the world -- so Riddick waited until after I did the more family-centric Fast 5,” Diesel said.
“If you remember, in Fast 5, the idea of pregnancy was very present in the Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) relationship, which played to the fact that my son was being born while we were making that movie. So, I couldn’t play the Riddick character and go to that dark place.”
Diesel also reported that this is, he hopes, not the last time audiences will see Riddick do his thing. “The reality is that I always envisioned the Riddick franchise as a continuing mythology, so I always imagined that there would be many other films to follow. And yet, I do feel like I answered that growing request from the fans that said, ‘Please make another Riddick,’” he said.
The superstar said that it was one of the three promises that he either made or “people assumed that I made” on the social media network. “One of them, obviously, was the return of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). That was something everyone was so vocal about, four and a half years ago. The second was the resurrection of Riddick, and reawakening that mythology,” Diesel said.
So, what was the third? “The third one was Hannibal the Conqueror, which is the one promise I haven’t delivered on yet, but I will!”
When asked about the difference between being a co-star and a producer, he reveals something about himself that is kind of surprising: He is a fan of a certain role playing game!
“I try to create an environment where, when we step onto the set, we’re all in character. A funny thing we used to say while we were playing Dungeons and Dragons, when someone would say something random like, ‘I’m tired, so I might just take a nap,’ the DM (Dungeon Master) would say, ‘Everything that you say is in game,’ which is a similar approach to the way we approached making this movie,” Diesel said. “So, if I’m on set and I’m in character, I’m not thinking like a producer.”
If Riddick misses, Diesel could literally lose everything. “This was tricky because it wasn’t like being the producer of Fast & Furious. This was being the producer of something that, if it didn’t work, I would have lost my house. Everything that I had on my life was leveraged to make this movie. So, the stakes were higher than for any producer I know because the skin in the game was real,” Diesel said.
“I was so committed to answering this growing request from the social media fans to continue this character, and the only way that I could pull it off was by leveraging everything.”