A rough road back to 'Riddick' for Diesel
In this Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013 photo, actor Vin Diesel poses for a portrait at NBC Universal in Universal City, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. (AP) — Thump. Thump.
That's the sound the golf cart makes each time it strikes the uneven pavement as it transports Vin Diesel across the Universal Studios backlot. He's traveling from his bungalow office to a screening room where "Riddick" crew members have gathered to watch the third installment of the sci-fi series starring the 46-year-old actor-producer as an extraterrestrial ex-con.
"It's such a victory that this movie is going to be in theaters," he says in his signature growly tone.
Indeed, when it comes to "Riddick," Diesel is all too familiar with hitting bumps in the road. It took the "Fast & Furious" star nearly a decade (and millions of dollars in fundraising) to bring his see-in-the-dark anti-hero back to the big screen. Universal had jettisoned a possible third edition after 2004's "Chronicles of Riddick" didn't soar at the box office.
Despite the fact "Chronicles of Riddick" and its 2000 predecessor "Pitch Black," as well as a pair of "Riddick" video games, amassed a cult following, it seemed like Riddick would be forever lost in space.
However, Diesel remained undeterred. He worked with series writer-director David Twohy to resuscitate Riddick, obtaining the film rights after Universal passed.
"I started in the independent (film) world, but this was a new level of challenge for me," said Diesel.
He treated the sequel just like an indie film project, not unlike the 1990s self-funded movies "Multi-Facial" and "Strays," which first transformed the burly New Yorker from bouncer to actor-producer. Between filming "Fast & Furious" movies, he traveled to Germany with Twohy to woo enough investors to convince the studio to come back on board.
This film image released by Universal Pictures shows Vin Diesel in a scene from "Riddick." (AP Photo/Universal Pictures)
"This character struck a chord," said Diesel, who points to his 46 million Facebook fans as the reason for taking several risks —including almost leveraging his own house when bills couldn't be paid — to recover Riddick. "He's tangible for them. I think the idea of a character that has been misread, overlooked and given up on is very fascinating to people."
The original "Pitch Black," which introduced the ruthless Richard B. Riddick amid an eclectic group of spaceship crash survivors, cost $23 million and went on to earn $53 million worldwide. The follow-up heavily expanded on the first film's spacey mythology and budget. It cost $105 million but wasn't ultimately a blockbuster, bringing in a so-so $115 million worldwide.