THE PACIFIER - Q&A with VIN DIESEL
Vin Diesel first gained notice as one of the ensemble cast of Saving Private Ryan. With his imposing, muscled physique - at 6' 1" he's also surprisingly tall for a movie star - and films such as PITCH BLACK and THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, Diesel rapidly established himself as a new generation action star. It was a reputation he cemented with the mammoth hit XXX and last year's THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, but a reputation he now seems determined to change. Later this year Diesel will star in Sidney Lumet's dark courtroom drama FIND ME GUILTY - a role for which he aged ten years and gained thirty pounds - and in the meantime, takes the lead role in Disney's breezy family comedy, THE PACIFIER, which is directed by Adam Shankman, whose previous hits include BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE. Diesel plays Shane Wolfe, a no-nonsense Navy S.E.A.L. whose latest, unlikely mission is to play bodyguard - read babysitter - to five rambunctious children (and their pet duck). Diesel talked to us about trying his hand at comedy, his pecs, and surefire ways to gain weight.
Was it an easy decision to do this film?
Yes, because to me THE PACIFIER felt like a true classic Disney family comedy. It's about a man who's never really known a family, who's always avoided getting close to anybody. Only now, without any training for it, he's forced into having to try to be a caring father figure to these five unruly kids. I just thought it was a great concept.
So was it easy to put aside the tough guy persona?
Put a nine month-old baby in Vin Diesel's hands, and you're going to get a big softie. I couldn't help it. I mean, all that formidable, unapproachable stuff went right out the window once I started holding this nine month-old baby. And it made for an incredible experience. It was a lot of fun. You would think that I would go into a situation like this somewhat anxious because it's a comedy, but Adam Shankman is such a great comedy director, it was easy. I felt like all I did was baby-sit.
Had you changed diapers before?
I had training believe it or not. But it all came pretty naturally to me. I was just always in a good mood on this film. Usually the roles I play are dark, brooding, stoic characters, and here it was a completely different atmosphere. I was running around playing video games, throwing babies into the air, being chased by a 3 year-old. It was just so much fun that it didn't even seem fair.
So did you do this role specifically to combat your action guy image?
It wasn't necessarily because it was a comedy, it was just a fun script, and the script was very clever in the way that it played on people's perceptions of the roles that I've previously played. I mean, that's incorporated in the story in that I'm meant to be a Navy S.E.A.L. But it wasn't to combat the action thing. It was more to combat the fact that I hadn't done a movie that a family can see. Every movie I've done you have to hire a babysitter for. I mean, I have nieces and nephews who had been asking for many years, when are you going to do a movie for us, Uncle Vin?
They hadn't seen any movie you'd done?
Well, they're only six and eight now, so the only thing they could see was THE IRON GIANT. And since that was animated, I wasn't even on the screen. So all they have is THE IRON GIANT piggy bank that has my voice on it. And it may sound cheesy or corny, but I really remember the movies that I went to see with my whole family. It could have been GUYS AND DOLLS, it could have been MY FAIR LADY. Whatever it was, the experience of going to a movie with my whole family was just very special. Someone put it brilliantly to me earlier today: "The family that watches a movie together stays together."
Did you ever set out to be an action star?
No, I mean I did SAVING PRIVATE RYAN early on. Not an action film at all. But I think it started because I did PITCH BLACK. When I did THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS to me it wasn't far off from a REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE or THE WILD ONE if you really think about it, but that got tagged with the action genre and that got amplified a little bit when they made the sequel, even though I wasn't in it. I gravitate towards the character as every actor does, then the story. And then the genre is the last consideration. The other thing is, I don't know what people's perception of me really is. 'Cause I never thought that I would have to do a film to convince people that I love kids. I thought that that was so obvious and apparent. And it was funny on the set of THE PACIFIER because whenever the babies would cry, they'd call me to duty. They started calling me The Baby Whisperer.I mean, even if I wasn't on set, and a baby was crying in another scene, they would call me in from the trailer to come in and make the baby laugh again.
The kids in the movie make fun of your pecs. Was that the first time that happened?
Not really, because I was in an audition 18 years ago for a little infomercial and I was wearing a tank top and I had just gotten out of the gym and I was very, very nervous. And for some reason my pecs were moving involuntarily throughout the whole audition. And they're like, are you doing that to show off? Is that part of your audition piece? I did get the job though.
Did making The Pacifier make you want to have kids of your own?
Yeah, I'm not kidding when I say I would like children. I was already there, but THE PACIFIER made me more conscious of it.
What kind of father would you like to be?
That's the trick; I want to be a great father like mine. And I think sometimes when you have such amazing parents -- and my parents are still together -- it takes you that much longer to have a relationship that meets these standards that you're raised with, or these standards that you're most familiar with. So the goal is to be a father like my father.
But right now you're working all the time...
Yeah, I'm working all the time and for so much of my life acting and the world of creating films has been my primary thing. I used to think it was discipline, but I don't know if it's a disease to be such a workaholic. I'm a self-admitted workaholic. My father's a workaholic too. He's 70 years old and he still wants to get a film into Cannes.
So you're always thinking of the next film?
Yes, once a movie's done, I'm finished with it. I don't see them again, I don't read the reviews, I don't watch the DVD. I'm always trying to work on the next project and get that project done. And the more challenging it is, the more interesting. So for me, for like four years, it was impossible to get CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK made. That was challenging, that was fun, that was everything for a while, and for the last two or three years it's been the movie I want to make about HANNIBAL.
So what else do you have coming up?
Just did this film with Sidney Lumet, during the second half of the last year, that's the antithesis of THE PACIFIER. It's called FIND ME GUILTY. I play Jackie DiNorscio. He's a real guy, 47 years old, who defended himself for three years in court on mob charges. And it was very demanding to do a film where you're playing a real human being, because you make this unspoken contract that you are going to immortalize this person's life and represent what this person stood for. Add to that, I had to gain 30 pounds, which was a very challenging thing because I've always been connected to my physicality.
How did you gain the weight?
I ordered in. I had ice cream every night. It was a very weird experience. I didn't leave my house. If I was done on Friday night, I'd lock myself in the apartment until Monday morning. I was just eating and sitting.
It sounds depressing.
A. It was very dark, but that's the film. I mean, I kept this weight on for three or four months and I did two and a half hours of makeup every morning to add the age, because I had to dispel everyone in that room's perception that they were seeing Vin Diesel. They had to see Jackie DiNorscio.
It sounds like a complete contrast with The Pacifier?
Completely. So last year was fascinating in that I had this dark, intense experience with Sidney Lumet and then this joyous experience with Adam on THE PACIFIER. The Pacifier was non-stop laughter. Like I said, it didn't feel like work.