Riddick: Vin Diesel Returns

Fresh off of the worldwide success of his latest entry in the Fast & Furious series, action star and film producer VIN DIESEL returns to his breakthrough role in Riddick, the much-anticipated new chapter of the captivating saga that began with the hit sci-fi movie Pitch Black and the epic The Chronicles of Riddick.

In 1999, when filmmaker David Twohy cast a relatively unknown actor named Vin Diesel to play escaped convict Richard B. Riddick in 2000’s intimately terrifying sci-fi film Pitch Black, neither the director nor the performer had any idea that the small movie would garner the astonishing following it has grown to enjoy since its release.

In response to that success, Diesel and Twohy again joined forces in 2004. This time, Diesel not only stepped back into the role of the galaxy’s most-wanted outlaw, but also took the reins as one of the film’s producers. In the visually stunning second installment, The Chronicles of Riddick, the team expanded our antihero’s universe by bringing us to new worlds and introducing sentient beings, including the fanatical Necromongers—a religious sect that simply converts or kills all who oppose them.

Diesel admits that the stoic, misunderstood felon has long been one of his favorite characters: “I fell in love with the role on paper because Riddick is such a well-executed character and a true antihero.” The actor believes that much of the popularity is due to the connection that fans have with Riddick. “People identify with his plight, and that’s why they gravitate toward him. They identify with being prejudged, ruled out, given up on and underestimated; those are feelings we all have at some point. The fact that Riddick is able to overcome that through action is something people welcome.”
Over the past decade, the franchise has evolved to include two popular video games, as well as an anime DVD, but it’s long been the desire of the two men who started the first film together to see Riddick return to the big screen. For Twohy and Diesel, whether or not they’d create a third chapter was never a question. Simply put, the champions of the first two movies demanded it. Explains Twohy: “We never stopped hearing the drumbeat from the fans. Of all the movies that I’ve done, they ask me the most about Riddick.”

With more than 45 million followers on Facebook, Diesel was likewise questioned by those who wanted to discover additional creatures and meet new players of the universe that the fugitive inhabits. Shares Diesel: “People wrote, ‘When are we going to get more Riddick? You have to make this movie.’ It was comments like this that made us feel like we had to make it at all costs.”

Fortunately, throughout the years, Twohy and Diesel had met regularly to ponder what should and could come next. It was during these marathon conversations that they expanded Riddick’s universe and the mythologies and characters that reside within. Because the two are self-described “fan boys,” they are steeped in the intimate details of the series. As a matter of fact, they have backstories for every character that’s been introduced and long envisioned what this franchise would look like in future iterations.

As few know the world of the last Furyan better than Twohy and Diesel, it proved fortuitous when the chance arose to take creative control over the franchise. Their decision to craft this third chapter as a taut, intense sci-fi thriller that hearkens back to Pitch Black while integrating the deep mythology of The Chronicles of Riddick was met by excitement from executives at Universal Pictures. In fact, the studio agreed to allow Diesel’s One Race Films the rights to the franchise while Universal agreed to distribute the film domestically.

The company, which Diesel formed in 1995 to support his directorial debut, Multi-Facial, now has numerous divisions and produces television, film and video games. One Race—run by Riddick executive producer Samantha Vincent—had been one of the groups behind Diesel’s box-office smashes Fast & Furious, Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6. With One Race at the helm of production and Universal handling distribution, the long-awaited new chapter was ready to go full-steam ahead. Diesel sums what drove the team: “I owed it to the fans who are so loyal and have watched and rewatched the films over and over again.”

Alongside producer Ted Field, Diesel and Twohy proposed the idea of bringing the saga back to the R-rated roots of the first film, supported by top-notch craftspersons who could bring their precise, epic vision to life. Diesel explains his driving passion: “As an artist, there is a need to have creativity without censorship. The closer you get to that ‘R’ rating, the freer you are to tell the story without holding punches. With so much of my business being in the ‘PG’ arena, it’s nice to go unforgivingly dark.”

In The Chronicles of Riddick, it was revealed to our hero that he was of Furyan blood and that a Necromonger, driven by prophecy, invaded Furya and orchestrated genocide on its people when Riddick was born. One of the themes that Twohy and Diesel wanted to explore in the next chapter was Riddick’s quest to find out who he really is. “There’s another huge reason why I gravitate toward this character,” says Diesel. “We all have a quest for identity to some degree. Riddick is no exception and wants to know more about where he’s from.”

When developing the film, Twohy wrote a stunning and uncompromising treatment that dovetailed into a terrifying shooting script. He remembers: “We settled on a story that was a one-world setting where we would find Riddick left for dead, and he has to battle a hostile environment to get off the planet.” Twohy deepened this theme of a vision quest by making Riddick’s internal search a literal, external one. Marooned on a lost world, he is forced to search himself for who he truly is.

While Twohy crafted the script for Riddick, Diesel served as the myth-builder. “I trust his penmanship,” commends Diesel. “David is an incredible writer, and he trusts my mythology perspective. We talk about this story in relation to many stories, how they weave in and out and how they relate to one another. I know that as a fan of fantasy and of mythology, the more I can explore something, the safer I feel in that franchise.”

For Diesel, one of the highlights of the shooting screenplay was the epic first act, which bridges the takeover of the Necromongers to the events of today. Left for dead on an abandoned planet, Riddick struggles to stay alive and must find the man he was before becoming Lord Marshal. Riddick, through internal monologue, looks back upon how he lost his identity, and, ultimately, how he rebuilds himself. “We were excited about this Jeremiah Johnson-like story of the opening act,” states the performer. “You seldom see this in today’s movies, where you’re watching what’s going on with this character both internally and externally, without any dialogue.”

No matter how deeply he was entrenched, Twohy confesses that no one knows Riddick better than Diesel: “Vin owns it to such a degree that he double-checks me, making sure that the character is doing Riddick-ian things.” He adds that they were pleased with where the years of laborious myth-building netted out. “I wrote the script for the movie that I wanted to see, and I went out and shot that movie. Hopefully the result is something that is dark and visceral and eye-grabbing.”

The history of collaboration between the longtime friends is one of the main reasons that an enormous project like Riddick resulted in such a smooth production. “We were able to come home on time and on budget because David and I have such shorthand,” reflects Diesel. “We’ve proven to each other how much we care about the property, the character and the franchise. We hit the ground running, knowing that we were up against an enormous task of making such an epic movie.”

Field remains in admiration of the partnership he’s witnessed since the trio began work on Pitch Black more than a decade ago: “Vin and David play off one another so smoothly. It’s rare to find a director and actor who can collaborate on every aspect of the filmmaking process and live to do it two more times. I’m proud to be a part of this third chapter, and I commend both of them for guiding it from page to screen.”