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November 25th, 2017

Vin Diesel Interview, xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Thrill-seeker-turned-reluctant-spy Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is lured out of hiding and back into action in “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” directed by D.J. Caruso from a fun script by F. Scott Frazier. Cage finds himself up against a deadly alpha warrior (Donnie Yen) and his team in a race to recover a sinister super-weapon known as Pandora’s Box. This latest installment of the “xXx” franchise features thrilling, non-stop action and a talented international cast that includes Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Toni Collette, Samuel L. Jackson, Ice Cube, Hermione Corfield, Tony Gonzalez, and Michael Bisping.

At a recent press conference to promote the film, MoviesOnline sat down with Vin Diesel, who also produced the project, to discuss why it was time to reinvigorate the franchise and bring “xXx” back. He talked about wanting to create a movie for himself where he could enjoy playing the character and fans could have fun, why it was ambitious to assemble such a star-studded global cast, how he came up with MXMA — martial arts with a motocross bike — for his character, what it was like working with martial arts masters like Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa and UFC champion Michael Bisping, and why he’s a big fan of global harmony.

Here’s what he had to tell us:

It’s exciting when you bring a franchise back. Why did you decide now is the time to bring back “xXx” and how did you want to reinvigorate the franchise?

VIN DIESEL: A couple of things, first of all, I felt like I needed to do “xXx” for myself, because I needed to play a character where I could laugh again and smile again and really enjoy myself. I also felt like it was time to introduce to the world a global cast in the way that we have introduced the world to a global cast. I mean, there’s something so cool about the idea of going into other film markets and recruiting their celebrated heroes and incorporating them into this franchise. In addition to that, I don’t think people have been having that much fun in movies. On my way over here, my son Vincent was saying how he loves “xXx” and his sentiment was, “It’s just fun, daddy. It’s just fun.” And that is something I’m very proud of. That’s why I think right now “xXx” needed to come out. Are there political parallels? I don’t know. But, I think more than anything, the world needed to have a movie that you could just have fun in.

You have an amazing cast. How did you find the best talent from around the world?

DIESEL: That was something that D.J. Caruso was really, really adamant and ambitious about. It was very ambitious to put a cast like this together. I had been a fan of Donnie’s for quite some time, and the idea of bringing him into this kind of franchise just felt new and fresh and right. There are so many different styles. The way that Donnie approaches a combat sequence is different than the way Michael Bisping might approach it, different than the way Tony Jaa might approach it, or any of the characters here. I knew Deepika from screen tests years earlier for “Furious 7”, and to go into Bollywood and get the queen of Bollywood to bring into our global cast was so, so cool, and it just keeps going. This is Nicky Jam’s first time being in a movie and he killed it. It’s Ariadna’s (Gutierrez-Arevalo) first time in a movie. Michael Bisping was just a monster in the movie. Tony Jaa’s fighting style is amazing. We’ve seen him and we’ve been in awe of him. I remember Quentin Tarantino talking about Tony Jaa in my living room and saying, “You’ve got to see him. He’s so incredible.” He was my good luck charm in “Furious 7.” When he came to this cast, I felt like, “Okay, now this is going to be,” as my son says, “a giant kick.” But you just look across the board, like I said. Nina Dobrev comes in and she wanted to audition for a role that was not written for her type. It was a real comedic role, and you see her, and you see her beauty, and you go, “How is she going to be so funny?” Then, she comes in and grabs ahold of that role, and you can’t stop laughing when you see her come on screen because she just had that presence.

Then, D.J. (Caruso) says, “I’ve got this guy, Tony Gonzalez.” I said, “The tight end? That’s incredible!” “Yeah, he’s going to be incredible in the movie.” Then, Tony Gonzalez comes in and he kills it in the movie and brings something incredibly fresh. Then, of course, Hermione (Corfield) is another incredible force in the film. She comes in and kills it. And then, my little brother who’s never done an American film before, Kris Wu, comes in, and the second we start filming and we do our first scene together, everyone on set goes, “You guys have known each other for ten years.” Ruby Rose is a goddess. That relationship between Adele and Xander is not like anything you’ve seen on film. There is so much unconditional love. It’s such another version of the bro-romance. It’s so powerful and it’s so today. We were very, very conscious of creating and establishing that relationship. To see that play out in the film right now is just remarkable. I’m just going to take this minute to say, “Thank you, God, for this incredible cast.”

This movie is so physical and full of action and amazing stunts. What was one new thing you brought to your character?

DIESEL: We intended to be really ambitious with this Xander character in creating something called MXMA, which is something you’ve never heard of. It’s martial arts with a motocross bike. In that sequence, you see when Xander is fighting, he’s eating you up with his motocross. We wanted to create that unique style for Xander.

Mike Bisping was filming when he got the call to fight Luke Rockhold and brought England its first UFC title. Why was he totally the right guy for this?

DIESEL: You are so right. He was filming. We all filmed very intensely. One of the reasons why the film is so much fun to watch is because we had so much fun making it. But the amount of fun we had making it doesn’t take away from how much effort everyone put into every aspect of it. There are moments when I would be doing some fight sequence and Michael Bisping would say, “No, let’s add this. Let’s change that.” And he would bring some of this expertise. What happened was, first of all, he’s had more fights in the UFC than anybody. One day he’s going to tell his story. His true story is, in my view, one of the most fascinating and compelling stories of any fighter ever in any combat sport.

There was a great power on set. There were so many great things that happened to people once they left our set because there was so much love on set. I remember talking to him when he got the call. He got the call while he was filming. I personally said to him, “You’re going to win this fight,” because that’s how destiny works somehow. And he said, “You know what, Vin, you’re right.”

You’re working with so many Asian cast members this time. What was that experience like?

DIESEL: I have to be honest. I never think of people’s nationality too much. I always look at everybody the same. Culturally, I had gone to China for “Furious 7” and I fell in love with China. It’s impossible for me to just say one group of people over separate groups of people. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I was raised in New York City which is this melting pot. Everybody was always the same and the whole point of my whole film existence was to say that we’re just one race. The essence of this movie is this global harmony.

I can say specifically, outside of the culture, working with Kris Wu there was so much that we have in common that, when we went to work, it felt like a pure, natural brotherhood. I can say the second Donnie and I met, it must have been 60 seconds before we both started talking about our kids and we looked at each other like, “Oh my God, so you do it all for your kids and I do it all for my kids.” Our kids are running around us and we’re giving presents to each other’s kids. It was so clear that we both were driven by wanting to make our children proud of our work.

How was it sharing the screen with martial arts masters like Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa?

DIESEL: In Hollywood, I think I get a bad rap for being a perfectionist. It’s something that’s not always welcomed in Hollywood, because you’re always pushing people and you’re pushing yourself to be the best that you can be. Working with Donnie, I immediately saw a kindred spirit. I saw somebody that was unafraid and unashamed to strive for perfection in what he does and what he delivers to the world. So, there was great synchronicity in that.

With Tony Jaa, right from the very beginning, some of my favorite moments in shooting “Furious 7” were training with him. He has such a master-like, gentle approach to getting you to do things that you never thought you could do with Muay Thai and such because of his way and his gentle spirit. His spirituality is something that I connected with immediately. That’s something that I can identify with, something that I think is beautiful, and something that makes sense.

So, I can’t go white, Indian, Asian, Latin. For me, in my existence, if I’m anything, I’m inclusive of everyone, and we are just one, and I hope that global harmony is in all of us.

“xXx: Return of Xander Cage” in now in theaters.




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