Riddick: Characters and Actors

Having full creative control of the property enabled the filmmakers to go not only against predictable choices, but also to take risks on undiscovered talent. Explains Diesel: “We were able to be more liberal in our casting to find the perfect actor for each role, which was not unlike Pitch Black. We were able to cast to the character, as opposed to the bankability of the name.”

Jordi Molla

What interested Jordi Mollà, one of Spain’s most recognizable actors, to become attached to the role of Santana—the volatile leader of the first ship of mercenaries to respond to Riddick’s beacon—was exploring the backstory that could explain Santana’s cruelty. It didn’t hurt that, even though the film is a sci-fi thriller with creatures, it has an ensemble of performers and all of Santana’s scenes are with other cast. “This is an actor’s film,” offers Mollà. “All the conflict, everything I do, is between human beings.”

Diesel could not have been happier with Mollà’s work, commending, “Jordi’s portrayal of Santana brings so much to the picture. He’s our nefarious tax collector. He provides levity for the picture, and Santana is going to be a very memorable character. I can’t say enough good things about Jordi.”

The casting of the role of Boss Johns, the leader of the second ship of mercs, was challenging because the character carried a secret: He was related to one of the characters whom Riddick bested in Pitch Black. What Boss Johns wants more than the bounty is answers, and he knows he must find Riddick alive to get them.

Matt Nable

Twohy discovered Matt Nable after watching an episode of an Australian television show. Recalls the writer/director: “I was taken by the type of granite-faced stoicism this actor had. He reminded me of Charles Bronson; he had that coolness. The character of Boss Johns has pain in his background and Matt’s face, especially those eyes, conveyed the pain of someone with something traumatic in his past.”

For the performer, it was not just the opportunity to play this hard-as-nails character that appealed to him. It was the chance to be a part of the Riddick franchise. “I saw Pitch Black when it came out because it was shot on the Gold Coast of Australia,” recalls Nable. “It was thrilling.” Once on the job, Nable was impressed by Diesel’s dedication to the project and his fellow actors. “Vin was so overwhelmingly passionate about this story and his character. He made it clear that he was there for everyone if they wanted to discuss any topic, their character or scenes within the film.”

Katee Sackhoff

Sackhoff is well known to television fans from her role as Captain Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the hugely popular series Battlestar Galactica. Much like Nable, Sackhoff was a fan of the franchise even before she read the script. “I grew up on science-fiction with my dad. In fact, the first movie my dad showed me was Predator when I was about five,” Sackhoff laughs. “I love movies with strong female characters, and the Riddick series has had them the entire time.”

What attracted the performer to the role of Dahl, Boss Johns’ second-in-command and the sniper on the crew, was that Dahl was the “toughest person I’ve ever played,” reflects Sackhoff. “I was looking forward to taking all of the strengths of all the roles I’ve played on TV and putting them into this one character on film.”

For Twohy, Sackhoff was an ideal fit for the part from the beginning. He recounts: “Katee was the first person to come in the door and read for Dahl. I probably read 100 other actresses after her. But I never forgot her, even though she was the first one in. I just couldn’t imagine anybody else playing Dahl.”

Dave Bautista

When casting the role of Diaz, a brutal mercenary who serves as Santana’s second-in-command, the filmmakers favored former WWE star Dave Bautista, who will soon star as Drax the Destroyer in the much-anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy. With his incredible timing, tight delivery and terrific sense of humor, Bautista was a natural fit. The actor notes: “I wanted to do this type of movie. Sci-fi, superheroes, that’s my genre and what I love. So when I found out that they were casting Riddick, I shoved everything aside and went and auditioned. I crossed my fingers and sat there for months waiting. When I got the part, I flipped out.”

Bokeem Woodbine was a performer with whom Diesel had wanted to work for many years, and he was pleased to secure him for the role of highly trained soldier and mechanic Moss, also one of Boss Johns’ men. Being a fan of the franchise, Woodbine was very pleased to be involved. He says: “I’ve been waiting a long time to see this third installment because the second was such a cliffhanger. When the opportunity came along to be in the movie, I jumped at it.”

Twohy relays that the handling of Woodbine’s character is an example of how all decisions came down to Riddick’s code. Twohy explains: “In an earlier version of the script, we had Riddick killing Moss indiscriminately. Vin reminded me that Riddick kills for one reason: because people won’t stop hunting him. The way I’d structured the scene, Moss wasn’t a threat to Riddick, so Vin reminded me that Riddick wouldn’t kill that way. We decided to have them encounter each other and for Riddick to choose not to kill Moss at that moment…even though he’s got him dead in sight.”

For the role of Lockspur, the final member of Boss Johns’ highly trained soldiers and a keen tracker, Twohy chose Raoul Trujillo, known for his standout roles in such actioners as Apocalypto and Cowboys & Aliens. What made the production a wild card for the performer was that he wasn’t sure who he was playing until shortly before the film commenced principal photography. Trujillo remembers: “I got an email from David that read, ‘It would have been obvious to put you with the ragtag mercenaries, but you brought a bit more sophistication and poise to the read…’ I was flattered that he wanted me to join the group of highly trained military mercs led by Boss Johns.”

Karl Urban

For Diesel and Twohy, it was crucial to continue to weave the mythology of the Riddick universe throughout the picture. The return of Karl Urban in his memorable role of Vaako, the Necromonger warrior from whom Riddick takes the title of Lord Marshal in the second film, will have fans of the series excited. Urban states: “It was a privilege to be able to revisit this character and this world again.”

What was interesting for Urban to discover was how Vaako has evolved since his failed attempt to assassinate the Lord Marshal in the The Chronicles of Riddick. He felt strongly that Vaako would have turned away from the materialism that had been a priority for his wife, Dame Vaako, and would have become stronger internally and more focused. Notes Urban: “This time around, Vaako is a lot less impulsive than he was before. He’s a lot shrewder and more calculating. Rather than try and figure some brutal way to dispatch Riddick, he has a formal, cunning plan.”

Urban feels the reason the fans are so devoted to the series is not only Twohy’s dialogue and vivid images, but what Diesel has done with his character. Says the performer: “What I find riveting with Riddick is that Vin brings an old-school steel to the role. I’ve worked with a lot of leading men, but there’s something undeniably street about Vin and he brings that to the role. I truly believe that comes across onscreen.”

Riddick also sees the addition of new talent, such as popular R&B singer Keri Lynn Hilson. Hilson came in to audition for the role of Dahl, and though the part went to Sackhoff, Twohy and Diesel were so impressed that they created a role for her. Offers Twohy: “You could tell there was something cool happening there, and we thought we should write a part for her in the movie. Now, I’ve only got 12 people on a planet. So there’s not much wiggle room there. But I created this part of Santana’s prisoner—the only prisoner on his ship when it arrives to find Riddick—for Keri.”