Universal Studios broke off talks with the action star late last week and said it will instead focus The Fast and the Furious 2 on Paul Walker's cop character, Brian O'Conner, Variety reports. Also absent from the sequel will be the film's original director, Rob Cohen, who would helm the pic only if Diesel were attached to star.
Stacey Snider, chairman for Universal Pictures, confirmed with Variety that the sequel would in fact go forward without Diesel and added: "We feel the brand of this film is attitude, cars and hip casting and that it is not dependent on star casting. We always allocate resources to extend brands, but this wasn't really on my creative radar because it's so hard to create sequels that are better than the original."
In The Fast and the Furious 2, Walker will reprise his role as a cop stripped of his badge who is recruited to infiltrate the Miami street-racing scene in order to redeem himself.
Money appears to be the reason that the talks with Diesel broke off. While Diesel made about $2.5 million for the original film, he reportedly started negotiations with a request that would have brought his salary to the $20 million range. Had a deal been made, it would have retroactively increased his salary for the Pitch Black sequel The Chronicles of Riddick to the same range. Diesel is currently collecting a cool $12.5 million to reprise his role as Riddick in the Universal project.
However, sources close to the actor maintain that Diesel backed out for purely creative reasons.
According to Variety, Universal believes Walker can carry the sequel without Diesel and will pay him a low- to mid-seven-figure salary for The Fast and the Furious 2. Shooting on the film is slated to begin in October.
Following the surprise success of The Fast and the Furious, offers poured in for Diesel. This summer, he will star in Revolution Studio's XXX, directed by Cohen, and will appear alongside Dennis Hopper and John Malkovich in Knockaround Guys this fall.
Production is also good to go for The Chronicles of Riddick, which will shoot later this year. While Universal is still seeking to round out the cast, it recently added A Beautiful Mind scribe Akiva Goldsman to do a rewrite.