Vin Diesel is an American actor, producer, filmmaker and screenwriter who got his career breakthrough in 1998 playing a supporting role in Steven Spielberg’s 'Saving Private Ryan'. He is best known for his portrayal of Dominic Torreto in the 'Fast and the Furious' film franchise and Richard B. Riddick in the 'Riddick' series. The buff actor started his acting career working with his step-father in the theatre in his early teens and since then has developed into one of the biggest blockbuster stars on the planet. The multi-talented actor’s huge physique, deep voice and menacing persona have propelled him into being a mainstay in the film industry for three decades and counting.
Mark Sinclair better known by his stage name Vin Diesel was born in Alameda County, California along with his twin brother Paul. He has a younger brother named Tim and a sister named Samantha. He was raised in New York City’s Greenwich Village by his mother, Delora Sherleen an astrologer and African-American step father Irving H. Vincent, an acting instructor and theater manager. Diesel is biracial and has on several occasions self-identified as a ‘person of color’. Growing up, Diesel never met his father as he split from his mother when he and his brother were born, and has said he looked up to his step-father for guidance in his early years growing up. Diesel prides himself of coming from a multi-cultural background with his mother having a combination of German, Scottish and English heritage.
Diesel has never been candid about his background but admits he developed a passion for acting and writing at a tender age thanks to his step-father’s role in the theatre arts. He got his first introduction to acting in 1974 at the age of seven when he and his friends broke into a theatre with the intention to vandalize it. The director, Crystal Fields caught them but instead of calling the cops, she handed them each $20 and a script and promised to continue to do so every week if they promised to keep coming back. This unexpected turn of events led him to appearing in the children’s play titled Dinosaur Door. He attended New York’s Hunter College where he studied English and while there he started dribbling with a little bit of screenwriting.
As Diesel’s interest in theater started to manifest he began working as an actor while at the same time mixing it up by taking jobs as a bouncer and in telesales. He shaved his head to give himself a more menacing persona while working as a bouncer at local clubs like Tunnel. He later changed his name to Vin Diesel; Vin comes from the name Vincent and Diesel is a nickname his friends gave him in reference to his unlimited source of energy. He credits this part of his life for helping him develop his on screen combination of intimidation and passion which we have become so accustomed to. Being an experienced theatre actor did not help him as he had hoped and he moved back to New York City after a year of struggling to make an impact in the industry. During this period, his mother bought him a book titled Feature Films At Used Car Prices which encouraged him to take control of his career and he decided to delve into making his own movies.
Diesel dropped out of college after three years to concentrate on his acting career and got his first film role in 1990 drama Awakenings appearing in an uncredited capacity. He however continued with his interest in screenwriting, and his job as a telemarketer helped him raise $3000 which he used to produce Multi-Facial, a 20 minute short semi-autobiographical film about an actor who was willing to portray any ethnicity as long as he got a job – he also wrote and directed the film. He made his first feature length debut in another of his own productions, 1997’s Strays which he cast himself as a mob boss whose love for a woman inspires him to mend his ways. His work in Multi Facial attracted the attention of acclaimed director, Steven Spielberg who later on cast him in his Oscar winning 1998 World War II epic, Saving Private Ryan. He then voiced the title character in the animated film, Iron Giant in the following year.
Diesel started attracting big budget opportunities which led him to getting his first leading role in the futuristic action thriller 2000 film, Pitch Black. He also got a supporting role in the thriller Boiler Room earlier that year where he played alongside Ben Affleck and Giovanni Ribisi and portrayed a crooked stock broker. Diesel started getting attention in 2001 when he starred in the street racing action film The Fast and the Furious where he played notorious street racer Dominic Toretto, which would later on become his most enterprising role to date. His new found status in the action genre was further cemented in the following year when he played Xander Cage in the successful action film, XXX. In 2004, Diesel reprised his role as Riddick in the science fiction adventure film, Chronicled of Riddick. The film was a failure due to its big budget and failing to break even at the box office. Diesel decided to broaden his horizon appearing in the 2005 action comedy The Pacifier which proved to be a box office success. During this period, Diesel rejected offers to reprise his roles as Toretto and Xander Cage in 2 Fast 2 Furious and XXX: State of the Union respectively.
In 2006, Diesel garnered critical acclaim for his portrayal of real life mobster, Jack DiNorscio in the courtroom, drama Find Me Guilty alongside Alex Rocco and Peter Dinklage. Later that year, in what would prove to be one of the savviest moves of his career, he made a cameo appearance in the third installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise. He negotiated to appear in the fourth Fast and Furious film by asking parent company Universal Studios to grant him the rights to the Riddick character. In 2007 he was set to star in action thriller, Agent 47 but opted out instead deciding to remain as executive producer. In 2008, he starred as mercenary contracted by Russian mob bosses to deliver a woman to New York City in the science fiction action thriller Babylon AD.
Diesel finally returned to the Fast and the Furious franchise after a hiatus of about seven years. He re-teamed with all his original cast members and the film proved to be a box office success later reprising his role as Dominic Toretto in the fifth, sixth and seventh installments of the ongoing franchise. In 2013, he reprised his role as Riddick in the third installment of the series under very peculiar circumstances where the production of the film was not undertaken by a major studio and Diesel had to fund the production budget from his own pocket. He followed it up in 2014 by voicing Groot in the critically acclaimed superhero film Guardians of the Galaxy. He teamed up with Elijah Wood and Michael Caine the following year in the dark fantasy action film The Last Witch Hunter.
In 2016, he took on a supporting role in Ang Lee’s war drama Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and is set to feature in the eighth installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise. He will also reprise his role as Groot in the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy in 2017 and is in the talks to star in a standalone movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe later in the future.
While working as a bouncer in his teenage years, Diesel has admitted that he was lucky he was never arrested as he used to get into several fights. As a teenager, he also appeared in an instructional break dancing video called ‘Breakin’ in the USA’ which later resurfaced on the internet. In 1995, he established a production company known as One Race Productions which has produced most of the movies he has starred in his long career such as the Fast and the Furious franchise.
He has on several occasions expressed his love for the Dominican Republic and how he feels he can relate to the country’s multi-cultural aspects. He directed Los Banderos a short film that is included in former Dominican President earlier campaign ads who he terms as a close acquaintance. While he was visiting Dominican Republic in October 2005, allegations emerged that a 23-year-old architecture student had claimed that she was kicked out of a bar for refusing to go back to Diesel’s hotel room. He however publicly denied the accusations pointing out the club’s terrible reputation in the past.
He is a supporter of many charities and in 2016 participated in the Reach Out Worldwide (ROWW) in support of the good work his late friend Paul Walker had started. Inspired by his own success as a multi-cultural filmmaker, Diesel founded the One Race Global Film Foundation that constitutes an intensive summer institute that follows the footsteps of the Media Workshop initiated by his step-father who teaches at New York University.
He has publicly admitted to being a fan of video game Dungeons and Dragons and even got the rare opportunity to write the foreword of the book 30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons and Dragons. In the 30th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons issue of Dragons Magazine they delve into Diesels obsession of the game and the unknown fact that he had a fake tattoo of one of the characters while filming the movie, XXX.
In July of 2016, Diesel became the first actor to reach 100 million likes on social networking site Facebook becoming only the third person behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Shakira to cross this milestone. In his long career he has won several acting awards for his starring roles in various movies. He has two MTV Movie Awards for Best on Screen Duo that he shares with the late Walker, a People’s Choice Award and a Teen Choice Award for his role in Furious 7.
In 2001, Diesel started dating his Fast and Furious co-star Michelle Rodriguez while they were shooting the movie. Diesel is currently in a relationship with Mexican model Paloma Jimenez with whom he has three children, two daughters Hania Riley, who has an orange belt in Brailian jiu jitsu and judo, and Pauline, and one son Vincent Sinclair. Her youngest daughter is named after his long time friend Paul Walker who passed away in November 2013. Diesel is the godfather of Walker’s daughter Meadow Rain Walker. The actor is very protective about his private life. In fact he has never formally announced the birth of any of his children.
Diesel is the cousin of American rapper and producer Kwame and featured in some of his earlier music videos. Diesel once tried to join the circus at the age of three but fortunately his mother saved him.
In August of 2013, Vin Diesel was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the presence of close friends, Michelle Rodriquez and Jordana Brewster alongside his family. This was one of the few moments when the actor brought out his family to the limelight. Diesel’s fraternal twin brother works as a film editor in Hollywood.
Vin Diesel was hit hard by the death of his long time friend and Fast and Furious co-star Walker back in 2013 and even contemplated taking a break from the movie business for about a year so that he could properly mourn his departed friend. In 2015, rumors started surfacing on the internet that Diesel had cheated on his girlfriend of seven years Paloma and that’s the reason why she went back into her modeling career.
Written by: Emily Smith