Early in his career, Vin Diesel struggled to get roles. In response, Diesel wrote, directed, and starred in the short film, Multi-Facial, a semi-autobiographical story about a mixed race man who finds that he doesn’t fit the preconceived notions of any casting director.
In many ways, Diesel owes his career to this short, as it caught the eye of director Steven Spielberg, who later cast him in Saving Private Ryan.
Strays was Diesel’s feature film directorial debut, and he once again starred as the main character, a drug dealer named Rick who began searching for meaning in his otherwise empty life.
Diesel reportedly made Strays for only $10,000! It wasn’t a widely seen film, but it paved the way for his future successes.
According to Hollywood lore, Steven Spielberg asked that the script for Saving Private Ryan be rewritten so that he could cast Diesel as Private Adrian Caparzo.
Although Diesel’s role in the film was relatively small, it was his biggest showcase to that point in time.
Long before Brad Bird was an Oscar-nominated director, he helmed an underappreciated animated classic called The Iron Giant. Diesel provided the voice of the title character, an intergalactic weapon who developed sentience and a conscience.
The Iron Giant rejected his origins of mass destruction and rededicated himself to a higher ideal. He didn’t want to be a monster. He wanted to be “Superman.”
Diesel’s next live-action movie was Boiler Room, in which he played a supporting part as Chris Varick, a talented employee of a chop stock brokerage firm.
This was one of Diesel’s first starring roles.
No one expected Pitch Black to launch a franchise around Vin Diesel’s Richard B. Riddick, but director David Twohy’s sci-fi action and horror hybrid quickly developed a cult following.
Riddick was a remorseless killer who emerged as both the film’s antihero and its most popular character.
Together with Twohy, Diesel co-created a universe around his character that came to be known as The Chronicles of Riddick.
At first glance, The Fast and the Furious appeared to be a loose remake of Point Break, but it became Diesel’s breakout film and it transformed him into the star that he is today.
This was Diesel’s first appearance as Dominic Toretto, a street racer and truck hijacker who was pursued by Paul Walker’s Brian O'Conner during an undercover operation.
But the bond between the two men meant that Brian gave Dom a chance to run before he could be arrested.
Although Diesel did not return for 2 Fast 2 Furious, he and Walker became genuinely close with each other in real life.
Knockaround Guys is a lesser known movie in Diesel’s filmography. It was a crime comedy in which Diesel played Taylor Reese, a friend of the main character, Matty Demaret (Barry Pepper). Taylor got involved with Matty’s scheme to reclaim money that was stolen from his mob family.
By most accounts, xXx was an attempt to modernize the concept of the secret agent, with Vin Diesel stepping up as Xander Cage, an extreme sports athlete and anti-government activist who is coerced into acting as a covert operative to bring down Anarchy 99, a merciless group of ex-Russian soldiers.
Diesel did not return for the sequel, and his character was supposedly killed off in one of the supplemental videos for xXx: State of the Union. But that hasn’t stopped Diesel from coming back for xXx 3.
Diesel was once again on the right side of the law in A Man Apart as DEA agent Sean Vetter. But when Vetter’s wife was murdered during an attempt on his own life, he went renegade and he violently attempted to bring down anyone connected to the drug lord known as Diablo.
In 2004, Diesel got to revisit his passion project in The Chronicles of Riddick, which greatly expanded the universe and the backstory of Diesel’s character, Richard B. Riddick. It was a step beyond Pitch Black, but it wasn’t the huge hit that the studio hoped for.
However, Diesel has never given up on this franchise, and we may finally see the Underverse someday.
In conjunction with The Chronicles of Riddick, Diesel reprised his role for the animated direct-to-video feature film, Dark Fury. Æon Flux creator Peter Chung directed Dark Fury, which pit Riddick against a “collector” shortly after the events of Pitch Black.
The Pacifier was a kid-friendly action movie that featured Diesel as Lieutenant Shane Wolfe, a Navy Seal who unexpectedly found himself assigned to the family of a fallen operative to locate a missing project and to care for the man’s five children.
Diesel recently teased a sequel for The Pacifier... and it’s hard to tell if he was kidding or not.
Diesel’s next film, Find Me Guilty, was based on the real story of Jack DiNorscio, a low-level mobster who demanded to represent himself at what turned into one of the longest trials in federal history.
And as unlikely as the film’s conclusion may seem, it was all true!
2 Fast 2 Furious just wasn’t the same without Diesel as Dom. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was essentially unrelated to the first two films... until Diesel appeared in a surprise cameo at the end of the movie.
Furious 7 made the events of Tokyo Drift important to its storyline. But it was Dom’s return that signaled a return to glory for the franchise. And in exchange for making his cameo in Tokyo Drift, Diesel and his production company were given the rights to Riddick.
Babylon A.D. was one of Diesel’s most ambitious and underappreciated movies to date. It was an adaptation of Maurice Georges Dantec’s sci-fi novel Babylon Babies, with Diesel playing the lead character, Hugo Cornelius Toorop as he attempted to escort and protect the enigmatic young woman known as Aurora (Mélanie Thierry).
Diesel rarely directs films at this stage in his career, but he stepped behind the camera once again in Los Bandoleros, a short movie that explored the backstory of Dom and his group from the Fast and the Furious franchise.
Los Bandoleros was commissioned as a prequel for Fast & Furious, the fourth movie in the series.
Against all expectations, Fast & Furious reunited Diesel with Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster from the first film and it went on to become an even bigger hit.
Within the film itself, Dom and Brian crossed paths again after the apparent murder of Letty (Rodriguez) before reaffirming their bond and their partnership.
Fast Five transitioned the franchise into heist-oriented storylines and it introduced Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Luke Hobbs, a DSS agent who could give even Dom a run for his money.
To no one's surprise, Fast Five was also a monster hit, and it also teased the return of Letty to the franchise.
For the sixth movie in the franchise, Dom and his team were reunited and recruited by Hobbs to take down Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), and to figure out how Letty was still alive after her so-called death.
But in defeating Shaw, Dom’s crew invited reprisals from Shaw’s very angry brother, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham).
Ten years after the last Riddick film, Diesel got another shot at his favorite franchise with director David Twohy.
Riddick had more in common with Pitch Black than the previous movie, but it reignited Diesel’s desire to continue Riddick’s story. He recently mentioned plans for a fourth Riddick film, called Furia.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy caught everyone by surprise when it emerged as one of 2014’s biggest hits. Diesel voiced Groot, the anthropomorphic walking tree who could only say three words: “I am Groot.”
But Diesel put so much soul into those three words that he conveyed multiple emotions and helped audiences fall in love with these oddball characters. Because “WE are Groot.” And of course he’ll be back for the sequel.
Furious 7 was made under a cloud of tragedy following the demise of Paul Walker. As a tribute to Walker, Diesel and Universal Pictures recruited Walker’s brothers to help them finish the movie. And instead of killing off Brian, the producers allowed his character to go off into the sunset.
The film was also a massive hit, which may lead to Fast and Furious spinoffs as well as a new trilogy.
In The Last Witch Hunter, Diesel plays the immortal witch hunter known as Kaulder. Are we sure that this isn’t a documentary? Because Diesel doesn’t seem to have aged much in the last 15 years.
It was fun to see Diesel appear in different time periods, and The Last Witch Hunter surrounded Diesel with a very talented supporting cast including Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood, and Michael Caine.
Hopefully we’ll get a Last Witch Hunter sequel... someday.