Vin Diesel needs his franchises like Spider-Man's symbiotic arch-nemesis Venom needs human hosts. He simply cannot continue to work in Hollywood without one of the nearly-branded properties he's been milking for so many years now. If you scroll through his filmography, you'll find that most of his successes come from movies that are part of a canon (namely, the Fast and Furious and Riddick films) while his "other works" have flopped. Sure, there's the occasional surprise hit in there, like 2005's The Pacifier, but by and large (and especially in the last five years) the only movies he makes that actually connect with audiences are new entries in established series'.
So you can imagine how distraught the 43-year-old actor-producer is since he learned that Universal Pictures has asked him to take a massive pay cut if he'd like to make an R-rated Riddick sequel. The project, which is a follow-up to 2004's The Chronicles of Riddick (and the second sequel to the great Pitch Black) has been in development for years now, but because of Diesel's waning star power and costly fee it's been hard for franchise writer-director David Twohy to get a green light. Yesterday, however, Diesel chimed in with an update:
"[David Twohy] the writer/director just landed in New York with the good news. We can start filming this summer. However, there is a catch...in order for us to make a true R-rated film, I must work for scale upfront. Not unlike the Find me Guilty experience (which I wouldn't have changed for the world). Money is always second to art, integrity and spirit...but the real issue is deeper. Can I suspend my life, to momentarily venture to that dark place...called Riddick. Now, I need to hear from Our collective...you."
It should come as no surprise that Universal is hesitant to move forward with the film as an R-rated action vehicle. The studio recently put Guillermo del Toro's H.P. Lovecraft adaptation of At The Mountains Of Madness into turnaround because of its high price and the filmmaker's desire to make it a hard R-rated horror adventure. The Riddick sequel essentially faces the same problem, but my guess is that since moviegoers seem to have a renewed interest in the star following back-to-back hit Fast and Furious films, and because the project in question is part of an established franchise, the studio is willing to make it if Diesel is willing to share the risk by working for scale upfront.
So what does it all mean? Well, it's kind of pathetic that a movie star would take to Facebook to complain about working for scale. He's got a lot of support on the social media giant (almost 25 million people "like" his page) and regularly checks in with his fans through it, but come on, are we supposed to feel bad that he's got to make a multi-million dollar action flick for only a couple of hundred grand (I'm not exactly sure how much he'd make, that's just a guesstimate)? The guy just pulled in $15 million for Fast Five and has another standard action comedy in the works which will more than likely pay him close to the same (MGM's The Machine); I don't think he's hurting at all. The bottom line is that Universal has bigger fish to fry. 2004's Riddick failed to turn profit in its theatrical run which makes another sequel a bad idea. The only reason the studio is considering this is because of Vin's commitment to the Fast and Furious franchise, which has never been more lucrative. I think he should stop whining and make the movie because even though it's not a HUGE payday, it's another opportunity. And if it flops, there may not be many more outside of car flicks.