Vin Diesel, wearing a t-shirt and jeans, is relieved that he can do more than beat the crap out of somebody. In his latest film, The Pacifier, Diesel gets to change diapers and deal with children, not to mention he has a love interest, no less. But the actor denies that this is the first time one of his characters has been funny.
“I feel that if you see any movie, XXX or Chronicles of Riddick, you see a funny side, so no matter how dark it is, there’s a comedic element, and that’s my nature.” But what he sees as unique in Pacifier, is “I haven’t done a film that a whole family could see, or one that my nieces and nephews who’ve been dealing with the reality that their Uncle Vin is a movie star can see, since Iron Giant, which was the last and only movie that I have ever done for kids.” The Pacifier tells of a Navy SEAL who, after failing to protect an important government scientist, learns the man’s family is in danger. In an effort to redeem himself, he agrees to take care of the man’s children only to discover that child care is his toughest mission yet.
Diesel admits that that taking the plunge and doing a comedy, made him just a tad nervous. “I tell you, that was a source of anxiety for me, initially, because it is an all-out comedy. When people say that comedies are hard to do, they don’t mean the actual production of comedies is, but what’s hard is to hit the mark once the film is made. Shooting that comedy isn’t physically demanding, or isn’t a complicated process while you’re doing it. What’s difficult about comedy is making sure that each of the jokes pay off.” Diesel says that what made this film work for him was “that it already had this built-in element where it played on people’s perceptions of previous characters I played, and that’s what was fun about it.” Asked if he would do more comedies, Diesel pauses and laughs slightly. “Yeah, I had a lot of fun doing this movie. I almost felt guilty about shooting this movie because I’m used to doing movies where, at the end of the day, I say, OK, see ya Vin. Bye guys, and I’m going home and I’m kind of thinking about the fact that my wife died, I’ve got to save this galaxy or I’m in prison and I’ve got to defend myself in court. This wasn’t like that. I’ve been killing myself, putting myself on the line, then they give me movies with a lot of good comedy, such as scenes with babies.” The actor even concedes that working with kids in The Pacifier brought out his paternal side. “Yeah, definitely, It pumps out that paternal side and I really want to be a dad after that experience,” but would not be drawn on when.
But fatherhood and comedies will have to wait, as he announces that he will bring his dream project, Hannibal, to the screen, as both star and director. “I’m going to direct it as a multilingual film,” he admits, the decision having been made “after I got a budget back from a studio that said it would cost $217 million over the line. So I said, huh. I know I’m not the smartest guy in the world but $217m, doesn’t that mean that this film will never get made? There’s no way in the world that this film will be made at $217m, and I am already committed to this character, channelling this guy. So I’ll go into soft pre-production, and think about sequences, and think about ways to shoot sequences that would have the same story about it but cost a lot less. So I went into soft pre-production and I got the budget down to $50 million. I decided that I wanted to direct it. So you could take a scene that would cost $20 million and if you are thoughtful and creative, you can cut down that scene, and have the same story about, the same emotional and action impact, and not spend so much money and that’s the problem. The second a film costs over $200 million, we give our industry out to the corporate world.”
In the seven years that many of us have spoken to Diesel, what remains consistent is his sense of passion. Never one to flinch from a challenge, Diesel says that there is nothing else he ever wanted to be, but an actor. “I was an actor as long as I can remember.” The son of a theatre director and an astrologist, the actor says his movie heroes were the likes of Mel Gibson. “The guy’s been able to create what he feels the need to create, and that’s the key.”