Vin Diesel 'crying for the last year and a half' over late Fast & Furious 7 co-star Paul Walker
Appearances aren't everything.
While Vin Diesel was completely pumped up on the red carpet in front of the fans for the promotional tour of Fast & Furious 7 in Beijing last week, the US actor revealed that he is still coming to terms with the tragic death of co-star Paul Walker.
Walker, who portrayed beloved protagonist Brian O'Connor in five films since the original The Fast And The Furious in 2001, was killed in a car accident in November 2013 at the age of 40.
The US actor died halfway through filming Furious 7, so his brothers Caleb and Cody were drafted in to complete his remaining scenes.
Last month, Diesel, 47, named his newborn daughter Pauline in Walker's memory.
When asked by the media during a press round table at the Park Hyatt Beijing if he cried when he saw the ending of Furious 7 - which features a moving tribute to Walker - Diesel, who plays O'Connor's partner Dominic Toretto in the series, said: "If you want to know the truth, I've been crying for the last year and a half.
"And when I saw the movie, even though I'm a producer and started the franchise 15 years ago, I couldn't stop crying.
"The thing about the tears that come from Furious 7 is that you don't just cry in the theatre, wipe them up and leave. When you think about it later, you cry again."
Helmed by Malaysian-born Australian director James Wan and opening here tomorrow, the latest instalment pits Diesel and Walker against Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), a disavowed black ops assassin out to avenge his brother Owen (Luke Evans) after the events of the last movie, Fast & Furious 6 in 2013.
BIGGER AND BETTER
The movie is not just a send-off for Walker. Diesel has touted Furious 7 as destined for big things and has even gone as far as to say that it should win the Oscar for best picture next year.
He said: "We were not only successful in one-upping the action, one-upping the spectacle and making it bigger, this movie is so much more emotionally powerful than anything the world would expect.
"It's the seventh chapter and it marks the end of an era, a 15-year run of what started as a Brian and Dom duo, so it's very special. We're very proud of it.
"There is a magic in making movies that have been severely overlooked as an art form... What Furious 7 does is that it makes you laugh, cry, gives a huge spectacle and, unique to the saga, it makes you cheer."
It is clear that, like their on-screen counterparts, Diesel and Walker shared a close bond in real life.
Sharing one of his most personal and final memories of Walker, Diesel recalled an incident that took place a month before the fatal accident.
Frustrated that his mother could not understand his problem about feeling financially exploited by his family members, Diesel asked Walker to speak to her when she visited the Furious 7 set.
"He was the only one in my universe who knew what it was like to go from no one to something, anonymity to icon," said the father of three.
"Money comes when you have success. And while everyone thinks money changes the person, what's less obvious is how it changes everyone around you.
"There was only one person I could call - the person that was dealing with it himself.
"Paul had a conversation with my mother in the only way that he could - and he made my mother understand how I felt."
Diesel concluded the press session, saying in a soulful voice: "I only have one Paul Walker, I only have one."
'I'm not the bad guy'
Whether he's Lee Christmas in The Expendables or Frank Martin in The Transporter, Jason Statham is used to being the good guy.
But that's not the case with the British action star's latest role in Fast & Furious 7, where he portrays main antagonist Deckard Shaw, the badass ex-black ops big brother of the baddie from the previous film, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans).
Even though he plays the vengeance-seeking nemesis of Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto, Statham doesn't think the character is a total heel.
Speaking to M in a separate interview, the 47-year-old said: "I'm not the bad guy - I'm not trying to steal the God's Eye (a plot device in Furious 7), I'm not blowing up the world - I'm just taking care of my brother.
"It's not revenge for me, I'm avenging my brother and doing this for him, so that doesn't make me the bad guy."
That doesn't mean that he didn't enjoy taking on the good guys in Furious 7, a film that Statham considers to be a tribute to the late Paul Walker.
Apart from squaring off with Diesel in a climactic street fight, armed with wrenches and metal rods, Statham also took on another muscleman in Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who plays Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs.
While it wasn't a "grease-down and a shiatsu" facing opponents he described as "big mountains to climb", Statham relished the combat, especially when his opening fight scene results in a broken arm for Hobbs.
Statham, who broke into Hollywood with Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000), said: "It feels great. I loved doing the fight sequences.
"It's great to do them with athletes who know what they're doing, but putting The Rock in hospital, that's got to feel good, right?"
Statham is likely to reprise his role in a future Fast & Furious movie, something Diesel indicated at the press conference, but Statham is open to venturing out of the action genre - maybe even a romantic comedy.
Just don't expect to see him in a superhero flick.
"I don't look good in tights, so I'm not going to be breaking down doors or running around in a silly outfit and a cape - it's (the superhero genre) just not for me," said Statham.
"I just wouldn't do that and embarrass myself!"
Michelle Rodriguez: Dressed to kill
It's pretty clear Michelle Rodriguez loves to fight - whether it is on the big screen or for better female roles in Hollywood.
But while she admits she is a tomboy, that didn't stop her from leaping at the chance to doll up her character Leticia "Letty" Ortiz in Fast & Furious 7.
The film's scriptwriters reportedly caved in to her whining, so the 36-year-old US actressgets to appear in a sexy red satin dress for her fight sequence set amid an opulent party in Abu Dhabi.
In it, Letty trades blows with UFC champion Ronda Rousey's character Kara, who dons a gold Herve Leger gown.
Even though the frocks looked more like potential wardrobe malfunctions than attire fit for hand-to-hand combat, that was far from the case.
Rodriguez, who made her movie debut in the 2000 sports drama Girlfight, told M in a separate interview: "We developed the wardrobe around the fight. Ronda basically took into mind that she was going to be doing stunts and she found something that was really comfortable for her.
"For me, the wardrobe designer for the film just came up with this amazing dress.
"I was like, 'I want it to be 1940s and I want it to look really elegant, but we need to be able to fight in these things.'"
While the dress allowed for easier movement and what Rodriguez described as an evolution for Letty's character, there was a painful trade-off.
"It was designed for a fight, but it wasn't designed for the stunt person to be protected in the back.
"My stunt double, Heidi Moneymaker, was really pissed off because there was no place for any back protection and she had to fly through a wall.
"At the end of the day though, she was really, really thankful I looked beautiful."
Rousey is Rodriguez's second MMA-trained opponent in the franchise, having taken on Gina Carano in Fast & Furious 6.
While most actresses might have winced at the thought of the assignment, this gutsy babe wouldn't have it any other way.
Asked if she found it tough to keep up with professional fighters, she said: "I love it. I would prefer them over actresses because a grand majority of the time, an actress doesn't care that much about action sequences.
"It's hard to find actresses that do and it's hard to get them to do extraordinary things. For me, since I'm a girl, I feel this pressure to push harder and harder to make something better and bigger.
"I feel that someone from an MMA or UFC background... will bring some inspiration to the stunt coordinator to make it the best fight ever.
"He knows he has me because I'm always pushing the line, but to have professionals come in and bring their own taste and their own talent to it really makes the stunt coordinator's eyes sparkle."
By the numbers
14 Number of years since the first The Fast And The Furious movie in 2001.
40 Paul Walker's age when he died in a high-speed car crash in 2013.
$3.3 billion Global box-office takings so far for the Fast & Furious franchise.
$1.08 billion Global box-office takings for 2013's Fast & Furious 6.
$344 million The production budget for Fast & Furious 7.
137 minutes Fast & Furious 7's runtime, making it the longest film in the series.