Feature by: Jack Foley
ASK Hollywood tough-guy, Vin Diesel, who he would most like to
work with, and you might expect him to come back with someone
like Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson or Robert De Niro.
Yet, it is British thespian, Dame Judi Dench, whom the star raves
most about, making her appearance in Pitch Black sequel, The Chronicles
of Riddick, something of a dream come true.
Speaking at the London press conference for the movie, the charismatic
New Yorker revealed: "For years, people had asked me who
I wanted to work with. They’d expect me to say an A-list
actor, or an A-list director, and I’d say Judi Dench.
"And they’d say, what would you guys do together?
But she was magical.
"At the end of the first day, the first scene that we shot
together, the still photographer came into my trailer with an
8x10 and I immediately sent it off to my mother and said: "If
nothing else, my dream has already come true. I did it, I did
a scene with Judi Dench."
The casting of Dame Judi, it seems, was pivotal in the process
of bringing The Chronicles of Riddick to the big screen, and both
Diesel and director, David Towhy, confessed to teaming up to woo
Diesel would send her flowers, while Twohy came to London to
visit her while she was performing in the West End with Maggie
"She was, in my mind in casting, the most important component,"
continued Diesel. "Going from Pitch Black, and this very
contained story that lived in the sci-fi horror world, to an epic
sci-fi mythology, we needed a character that very quickly could
explain the mythology. And who more credible than Judi Dench?
"And of course, as an actor, I can tell you that anyone
in the world is going to want to work in a film that Judi Dench
is in. So once we cast her, as Aereon, there was an international
call for actors and everybody wanted to work on the film."
Whether enough people want to see it, however, is a completely
different matter. For while Chronicles is envisaged as the first
in a trilogy [rather like The
Lord of the Rings], bad reviews and a poor audience turn-out,
in the US, has placed the future of the franchise in the balance.
Twohy admits the American Box Office figures came as a bit of
a blow, but still holds out hope that there will be a future for
Riddick beyond the Chronicles.
"They said, ‘No there will not be a sequel’,
after Pitch Black, and three
years later, they came back and said ‘alright, let’s
do it’. So, in the same way, we are waiting to see how well
this film does internationally, and how well it does in November,
when we come out with the standard edition and extended director’s
cut DVD, as well.
"The big plus is that if we are so fortunate to have a
big enough audience to support another film, we know where we’re
Adds Diesel: "In C2, we will
go to the Underverse; it will be rated R, and Riddick will interact
with new Elementals. Not air Elementals – but with fire,
water. And then it will come full circle with C3, when he must
return to Furion, and you will hopefully have Sophie Marceau saying
to Judi Dench: "We did not save him to rescue your world."
For the moment, however, Diesel is keeping himself busy with
another labour of love project, in the form of Hannibal, which
will see him portraying the legendary historical figure.
"I started elephant training two years ago, believe it or
not, and I started riding elephants two years ago," he reveals,
excitedly. "Timbo is his name; the largest African elephant
in north America, and David Franzoni, who wrote Gladiator, has
"I’m going to Malta to location scout, because there
are Venetian temples that still exist there, that were there during
the Carthaginian rule.
"So yes, the film I’m most passionate about is Hannibal
the Conqueror. It’s a story about this 3rd Century BC Carthaginian
general who proved that by uniting people of no common language,
culture or religion, you could defeat tyranny.
"Of course, if you don’t know, he was a Carthaginian
general, 200-years before the birth of Christ, and, ultimately,
his city, Carthage, which was the London of antiquity in ancient
history, was destroyed in the first documented account of genocide,
raised to the ground. I could go on for ever, so just stop me…
"I guess the therapy I subscribe to is thinking about what
I’m going to do next. I don’t know if it’s a
fault or an asset, but I don’t think about where I’m
at, I always think about what I’d like to do.
"There’s always an outstanding dream, so in this
case, it’s Hannibal the Conqueror. For five years, it was
The Chronicles of Riddick. So when I was on Pitch Plack, in Cooper
Pedy, in the outback of Australia, I was thinking, wow, wouldn’t
it be cool if we were able to follow Riddick off of this planet
and, through his eyes, be introduced to a world and a mythology
that governs that universe.
"And now that I’ve been able to satisfy that, for
the past couple of years I’ve been thinking: ‘I can’t
wait to tell this Hannibal story’."
In spite of his feelings for Hannibal, however, it is clear that
Riddick still commands a special place in his heart, and he has
no regrets about persisting with the franchise, and dropping out
of other potential money-spinners, such as xXx
and The Fast and the Furious
(both of which have spawned sequels).
"I never was too keen on doing a sequel in a reactionary
way, just because the movie was a financial hit, as opposed to
Pitch Black, which was a cult film," he added.
"So, I guess I just gravitated to the Riddick character,
and the possibilities of the Universe, more so than just revisiting
a franchise because it was successful."
It is because of this enthusiasm, and loyalty, that you hope
(even against your better judgement) that he might just be allowed
to see his dream through - although only time will tell.