Vin Diesel‘s film career is something of an enigma. He essentially made his own break in Hollywood by writing, directing, and starring in Strays after making little headway on his own as an actor. He landed his role in Saving Private Ryan after catching Steven Spielberg’s attention because of a letter he wrote to the director telling him how much he admired his work. From there he worked his way up to the massively successful Fast & Furious franchise and the less popular Riddick trilogy. There’s also, of course, the beyond bad xXx series — more on that later though.
For the most part, Vin Diesel hasn’t lost too many roles that would have helped his career. In fact, he’s actually been pretty savvy about the roles he’s picked and dodged some real turds over the years. (Marvel has unsuccessfully tried to get him to do three projects, recently failing to land him for Ultron.) Vin Diesel turns 47 today, and we’re looking back at seven roles in his career that he lost out on, for better or worse.
1. Reindeer Games (2000) — Vin Diesel didn’t necessarily lose his part in Reindeer Games to Ben Affleck, but likely to Lt. Dan aka Gary Sinise. Supposedly, Diesel didn’t appear in the movie because of creative differences, those creative differences being his refusal to show off his “guns” on camera. The rumor is that director John Frankenheimer wanted him to wear a muscle shirt and Diesel was fired for saying, “I only show my guns in a Vin Diesel film.” According to Danny Trejo, Diesel was never up for the Gary Sinise role, and was replaced by Donal Logue when he left for the chance to do The Fast and the Furious. Diesel declaring that he only shows his guns in a Vin Diesel film is infinitely more entertaining, which also likely means it’s not true.
2. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) – The biggest standout on this list is of course the second installment in Diesel’s Fast and Furious franchise. The first one was such a success — as has been every installment after — that signing up for the sequel should have seemed like a no-brainer, especially when he was offered $20 million for the part. Diesel passed on the sequel largely because the thought the script wasn’t any good and he wanted to do Chronicles of Riddick instead. Looking back on it the actor said he would have probably approached it differently.
“I would’ve said, ‘Don’t walk away from it just because the script sucked in 2 Fast 2 Furious because there’s an obligation to the audience to fight, no matter what, to make that film as good as possible.’ Just walking away doesn’t help that saga at all. I might have had a little bit more patience or belief in the long-term of it.”
3. Daredevil (2003) – Passing on Daredevil wasn’t really a missed opportunity for Vin Diesel, but more a steaming dog turd that he avoided stepping in. Ben Affleck of course wasn’t so lucky. Diesel was offered the role, but passed on playing Matt Murdock because he likes to “do his own superhero movies” (as he told to MTV) and because sliding down handrails on serving trays in xXx was more appealing:
“You have to pick one film,” Diesel said of his decision. “If you’re looking at xXx or Daredevil, and your heart goes with xXx, you have to commit to it. It’s often like that.”
4. The Punisher (2004) – The Punisher was the second comic book badass that Marvel tried to convince Diesel to play. Just like with Daredevil, he wasn’t interested and turned down the role that went to Thomas Jane in favor of doing his passion project, The Chronicles of Riddick.
5. Hellboy (2004) – In 2001 Vin Diesel was on board to play the giant demonic superhero. Universal Pictures favored him for the part and Diesel was a fan of the character. Via Empire:
“You know why I like Hellboy,” muses Diesel. “I like Hellboy for the same reason I liked The Iron Giant. This guy’s just ambivalent about his strength, he’s like this cool guy who doesn’t understand his strength and he goes through life-like a bull in a china shop,” he grins wickedly. “I love it.”
Unfortunately for Diesel, director Guillermo del Toro wasn’t so keen on the idea casting of Diesel and succeeded in leveraging the studio to go with his frequent collaborator Ron Perlman after the success of Blade II.
6. xXx: State of the Union (2005) – If you haven’t been keeping up with the xXx franchise — which is likely everyone except for Ice Cube and Vin Diesel — Diesel’s character, Xander Cage, was revealed to have been blown up in the movie’ sequel, hence why it’s Ice Cube performing “Xtreme” stunts instead. Diesel opted out of the second one because it “wasn’t right” and “didn’t feel like xXx.” Currently, Diesel is set to rise from the dead to play Xander Cage again in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage — because the world has been waiting for his return for so very long.
7. Hitman (2007) – Why Vin Diesel was replaced with Timothy Olyphant in the starring role as Agent 47 isn’t exactly known. Diesel was signed on to star and executive produce the movie and wasn’t replaced with Olyphant until just a few weeks before the movie was scheduled to start production.
Now for a role Vin Diesel didn’t turn down. Here’s a snippet from Diesel’s part in the breakdancing instructional video Breakin’ in the USA: