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The Chronicles of Riddick - I guess the therapy I subscribe to is thinking about what I’m going to do next

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 her.

Diesel would send her flowers, while Twohy came to London to visit her while she was performing in the West End with Maggie Smith.

"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 going."

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." Sorry…"

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 written Hannibal.

"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.

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