It’s no secret that after 20-plus years of playing Dom Toretto, Vin Diesel is the beating heart of the Fast & Furious franchise, and the head of the family that keeps that franchise’s motor running. But it turns out that Diesel was also key to convincing Louis Leterrier — director of the latest F&F movie, Fast X — to join the project late after Justin Lin’s departure, and to help guide the franchise to its chaotic, massive, two-part conclusion.
Lin, the writer-director who oversaw the franchise since Tokyo Drift and turned it into a bombastic action-blockbuster mainstay, was originally supposed to direct Fast X. But Lin dropped out of directing shortly into filming, reportedly after a disagreement with Diesel. That left the series with a massive hole at its center. This is where Leterrier, a self-professed huge fan of the franchise, came into the picture. In an interview with Polygon, Leterrier explained that he had to rely on instinct to make Fast X since he got dropped in after filming had already started.
“I didn’t have time to think about it, almost,” Leterrier said. “There was no second-guessing myself, like, Am I doing this right? and then notes and everything. They were like, ‘Directors change. Go.’ And then we have a release date. So go, go, go, go, and then I’m at the premiere.”
But despite the daunting task of being thrown into one of the world’s biggest franchises, a 45-minute call with Diesel was all it took to get Leterrier on board.
“What decided [it] is meeting Vin, the rapport that we had. The relationship Vin and I had just on Zoom was so real,” he explained. “I was like, Oh, yeah, that’s the relationship I want to be in for the next two years. I thought it was just one movie. Now it’s two movies, so it’s the next five years of my life.”
The first conversation with Diesel was a simple chat, according to Leterrier. But what impressed the Transporter director was that Diesel spent 40 of those 45 minutes talking about every single character in the movie at length, without mentioning his own character, Dominic Toretto, even once.
“He’s such an altruist. He really cares about every piece and everyone, and just wants to make sure that everybody gets their fully developed character,” he said.
But it wasn’t just Diesel’s commitment to the ensemble that gave Leterrier confidence in the project. It’s also the work Diesel puts into his own character. When Leterrier mentioned to Diesel that they hadn’t spoken about Dom yet, the director says that the actor immediately became laser-focused and came in with an understanding actors can only have when they’ve been playing a character for 20-plus years. For Leterrier, that kind of commitment and connection makes his life easier and makes projects fly by.
“The worst thing for a director is when you block and direct and you have an actor saying, ‘Oh, why? What’s my motivation?’ Which is completely fine, obviously, but it’s hard because you’re like, ‘Well, we need to meet halfway. You need to do the work, I need to do the work, then we need to meet halfway, and hopefully our visions gel.’”
But that’s not the case with Diesel when he’s playing Dom.
“It’s not like he was doing the work — he was never stopping. The work was never stopping.”