Diesel: 'Working with Lee a dream come true'
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk actor Vin Diesel wanted to work with Lee Ang for the past 10 years
When the film-makers reached out to Vin Diesel to play Shroom, one of Lynn's sergeants in Lee Ang's new film Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, he thanked them for making his dream of working with the Taiwan-American director come true.
"I have wanted to work with Lee Ang for the past 10 years!" says the US actor, 49, best known for his work in the Fast & Furious movie franchise.
The kind of soldier who feels things deeply, but is also a leader, a thinker and a philosopher, Shroom is the heart and soul of Bravo squad, the older warrior among a group of kids.
"So Lee calls me on the phone and says, 'I want you to play Shroom, it's the role that I put myself into'.
"I was immediately intrigued by that. The role (Lee) identifies with. The Shroom character in the book isn't as elaborate as Shroom in the movie. So in some ways I was channelling my Lee Ang to play the character."
We talk about heroism and how the public has such a short attention span about it. He blames social media.
"It's amazing that heroism is not something focused on nowadays... Maybe social media has had something to do with it. Whenever you notice anything has changed in the last 10 years, the first culprit is social media, hands down, about anything.
"If we want to know what is the most significant change in this millennium, it's social media and how it's impacted everything. Just look at our Presidential campaign."
The hero in Diesel's life is the late Paul Walker, his co-star from the Fast & Furious movies.
Diesel says: "Paul was a hero. He was a guy that came to Haiti with me after the 2010 earthquake.
"I received a phone call that there was this horrible earthquake the night in Haiti, and the President of the Dominican Republic asked me to get on a plane and fly there immediately and just walk the streets.
"He said we need people to come. I called everyone in Hollywood and the only person that came was Paul. He was there the next day and visited an orphanage, and to me there was something beautifully heroic about that."
I ask him to reflect on his career and whether he had been ready for success.
He says: "I did. I did dream about it. Even as a kid I always dreamed about it and always knew. But even when you knew, you are always shocked when it happens."
And the downside of fame?
"That you have got a magnifying glass on you at all times. It was (US actor) Richard Dreyfuss who said that when you are famous, everything that you do on some level, is suspect. And that is kind of a drag."
The father-of-three adds: "My kids are young, I dread my kids getting older and hearing false stuff about me. You want to try to maintain as much mystery as possible."