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Vin Diesel: The Top Franchise Player in Hollywood, with Over a Billion Served

The megastar of 2015’s runaway blockbuster "Furious 7" and this month’s "The Last Witch Hunter" reflects on his monster year, what it takes to find the right woman, and why he chose never to say goodbye to his great friend, the late Paul Walker.
Peter Yang

Furious 7 was one of the biggest hits of the year. You’re already working on Furious 8. So what’s going to be the first franchise to crack the 10-movie mark—you guys or Star Wars?

Oh, man, for those of us who grew up in the 1970s watching Star Wars, it’s crazy to even think about that. But you’re right: Who’ll crack 10 first? Knowing Universal, who produces our films, it’ll probably be out in front and get there first. We’re on fire this year. We’re in a good position to do it.

In your mind, what explains the Furious films’ enduring appeal?

I think the diversity and multicultural cast are huge. And the action, too. It just keeps getting better and better. We come out of each movie wanting to make the next one better. I mean, I think Furious 8 will be the best one, and I think that means something—the audience appreciates that kind of approach.

People were eager to see how you’d handle Paul Walker’s death in Furious 7. But when the film ends [spoilers ahead], your character says, “There are no goodbyes,” and Walker’s character, Brian, doesn’t actually die. That surprised people. How did you decide to end it the way you did?

It wasn’t easy. There are a million different ways a studio could play—and potentially exploit—something like that. So I have to really give it up to Universal for letting us take the route we did and not doing what so many other producers and studios would have done, which is succumb to the easy solution of terminating the character onscreen. We went another way with it, and it was a gut punch because it plays on so many levels. There was a joy to it in the end. When you really think about it, you’re emotionally spent by the time you think the Dom character isn’t going to make it. That crushes you. When you get to the Brian scene at the end, you cry. But the tears are different, more powerful than melancholy tears. After all, this brotherhood was the backbone of these movies for 15 years. The ending allowed everybody, regardless of how tough they were, to cry. 

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Looking back, at what point in your life did you finally feel like you’d made it?

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that way. I think of my career more in terms of “outstanding debt.”

How so?

Well, I can’t enjoy the monumental success of Furious 7 without thinking about the next chapter. A lot of the actors in the film will tell you, you make a movie, it breaks records, and then you celebrate. But the second you break records, there’s the expectation of the sequel and then the next chapter.

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