BEVERLY HILLS, California: With a voice several octaves underground and a piercing stare, action star Vin Diesel goes to an even darker place as Riddick in the third installment of the sci-fi film series, nine years after "The Chronicles of Riddick."
In "Riddick," which opens Friday, Diesel's ex-convict character leaves his comfortable world as leader of the Necromonger death race to search for his homeland. Once double-crossed and left for dead, he resolves to rebuild himself, both physically and morally, but must do battle against beasts and bounty hunters.
"Riddick" is the second release this year for Diesel, who got his big break in Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" but who now is best known as Dominic Toretto in the high-octane thriller "Fast & Furious" series. "Fast & Furious 6" has grossed nearly $800 million worldwide this year and "Fast & Furious 7" is due out next near.
After firing off questions about what will happen in Syria, the 46-year-old actor reclined on a couch and talked to Reuters about the toll of playing Riddick, the difficulty of getting a beer belly and what to do with 46 million Facebook followers.
Q: You are older, wiser, calmer. Actually, what were you like 10 years ago?
A: I was a maniaaaaaccccc!
Q: So, is it a good time for you to be interpreting a more contemplative, isolationist Riddick?
A: Sure, on so many levels. And yet, as a father, it's a little harder to carve out that time to go dark. We had promised everyone we would have "Riddick" before I made "Fast Five." In my own personal life, I was just realizing I was going to have a son and that was enough for me not to push to make Riddick (in 2010) ... You can't be Riddick and welcome life. It wouldn't be fair to the audience and it wouldn't be fair to the kid.
Q: Why do you think Riddick still resonates with audiences?
A: All of us can identify with a character that has been given up on, misrepresented, misjudged, overlooked. We know he has great ability and yet he is someone just written off as a criminal. Forever we will think of him as someone in the penal system. On some occasions, when shit gets really ugly, you depend on him more than anything in the world. I think that is what makes him such an interesting anti-hero.
Q: Do you maintain a constant in your physical preparedness or do you have an offseason? If so, what do you do in your offseason?
A: You are looking at it. (He then dives on to the couch).
(Director) David Twohy wanted me to create a body type that within one week's notice could flip from the slothful Lord Marshal to the primal planet Riddick ... That was very, very challenging to maintain. That called for building core strength and then while doing production if I had to go slothful, I would stop training completely. And if I had to return to planet Riddick, I would train double.
Last year, I was transitioning from the Riddick character to the Dom character and I was about two weeks into shooting Dom and my twin brother came out from New York to visit me. We went to dinner and he goes like this to my stomach (hits it). 'Hey man that's solid. You are cheating, man. I read somewhere that when you do the Dom character you drink a lot of beers to get a mechanic's belly. Where is it, man?'
Q: So did you get a beer belly?
A: It's so tricky, because you can't go all the way like a truck driver. For the Dom character, I have never wanted him to feel like he trains in a gym or is a bodybuilder. I wanted him to feel like a guy in good shape, one who lifts up engines all over the place, not afraid of some hard work. But I always wanted to maintain that kind of Americana, snap-on-tool, drink-a-beer kind of character. It is more important to be accurate about the character then worrying about being in shape.
Q: You do a good job of keeping your life private.
A: Thank god.
Q: How important is that to the success of your work?
A: I am from the New York school of actors - the De Niros and the Denzels and the Pacinos - who have always been really quiet about their lives, as opposed to the more Hollywood approach that is more out there. And yet there is a change that you'll feel throughout the industry and that is the advent of social media ... People are expecting to hear from you, to be somewhat let in. But people are very respectful about my privacy. My friends always talk about the fact that I am never out, never go to red carpets, don't go to events in an attempt to generate press. But at the same time, I have developed a very intimate relationship with 46 million people. And that changes everything. I don't know how it is going to play out.