If it weren’t for Vin Diesel’s ‘D&D’ character, ‘The Last Witch Hunter’ wouldn’t exist

Last November, I had a chance to sit down and talk to Vin Diesel on the set of his upcoming fantasy film “The Last Witch Hunter.” Ostensibly we were supposed to discuss Diesel's immortal witch hunter character Kaulder and how the lore of the witch world differs from any other telling audiences have ever seen.

Instead we talked about Dungeons & Dragons. Oops?

What was it about “The Last Witch Hunter” that attracted you?
VIN DIESEL: Let me go way back. For the 30th anniversary Dungeons and Dragons the company at the time asked me to write the foreword for the book. [In it] I talked about my experience growing up playing Dungeons and Dragons religiously. I even talked about a character that I had named Melkor – a name that obviously I stole from The Silmarillion – and [how] that character was a witch hunter. 

[Then] about four years ago I met with a writer name Cory Goodman and we started talking. Someone put us together because he was a D&D player. [Afterwards, Cory] went off to write a whole film around my character Melkor. Just the very fact that I”d be playing a witch hunter speaks to how nerdy I was about the game, how committed I was to D&D because witch hunter [wasn”t a] class by TSR at the time. It was a character that you could get from a third party book of characters called The Arcanum. There were a few characters that started there that eventually Dungeons and Dragons took over; one of those characters was a witch hunter. 

What drew you to the witch hunter class?
VIN: I played the witch hunter because I was a huge fan of rangers and this was a class that was somewhat like a ranger and had a small spell class, called mysticism at the time.

What edition were you playing?
VIN: I was playing the second edition. When I first started playing Dungeons and Dragons, I think maybe a thousand people in the world knew what the word internet meant. And I say that to kind of contextualize how far back that experience was for me and how much of a pioneer Gary Gygax was at that time. Now we take it for granted and we get to play MMOs online and video games have gone to another level. But at that time when we started playing? We were just a bunch of artists living in an artist community in Manhattan. All the kids that I played with were sons of artist. And we had access to all kinds of great material.

We would go to the hardware shop, we”d go up to a place called The Complete Strategist.  We would go and buy these huge sheets of canvas and we”d slave over creating this world and we created worlds – which you often hear a lot of directors boast about how they can create worlds? Well there”s no training that you can think of that sets you up [at] creating these fantasy-like worlds [than D&D]. With just paper and old pieces of canvas.  We”d treat it and make it look aged and then we”d have these huge nets and we”d be able to delve into this thing.

So basically you”re living out every D&D player”s dream. You”re playing your avatar?
VIN: Cory went off to write “The Last Witch Hunter” and was attempting to speak to [my] D&D character. But [he was] also attempting to set it in a modern time which is kind of fun because. How could a D&D influenced genre live in a Bond-like cinematic world? And that”s [just] what he did. [Cory] was a forward thinker in all of this and was very, very ambitious.