Diesel admits he was wrong not to have wanted Fast & Furious sequels
Now a dad both on and off screen, star Vin Diesel loves how his character has developed
Back in 2000, when Vin Diesel was attending racing and stunt driving school and watching illegal street car races in Los Angeles to prepare for his role as badass crew leader Dom Toretto in 2001's The Fast And The Furious, never did he imagine the action film franchise would turn into a cinematic universe of sorts 20 years later.
One where the upcoming ninth instalment, Fast & Furious 9, is set to open in cinemas here on June 24.
After the success of that first film, the 53-year-old US actor said he told movie studio Universal Pictures not to make another, because "every time someone does a sequel, you ruin the opportunity for a film to be a classic".
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) went ahead without Diesel, who returned to the series only in the fourth film, Fast & Furious (2009), and has been co-producing ever since.
He said in a recent Zoom interview with Asian media while based in the Dominican Republic: "That was in the last millennium, and I was wrong. And I couldn't believe how wrong I was.
"But I wasn't wrong not to do the second one though, because that established a respect. They were initially going to make the franchise in a way that they would make the movie and put the branding on it and not continue the story like a Coppola or Tolkien, where you are evolving the story and your characters are growing.
"But look at where we are now. We are at a place where Dom Toretto is a father, and we are living with that, and that is part of who he is."
Helmed by returning director Justin Lin, Fast & Furious 9 features Dom and his crew stopping a world-shattering plot led by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they have ever encountered - Dom's estranged younger brother Jakob (John Cena).
And yes, a Pontiac Fiero gets sent to space.
Diesel said: "After nine movies, you have to commit to defying expectations, you really have to think about what else can you do that could add an 'ohhh!' or a 'what?!' spectacle moment. So it is always challenging when you are making the next one.
"Justin and I were working 15-hour days for the whole of last week on (the concluding two-parter) Fast & Furious 10, because you want to earn every single piece of it."
The muscleman with the distinctive deep baritone may be fast and furious on the big screen, but it was a slow and steady presence that emanated from the small screen via Zoom.
A well-oiled public relations machine, he fielded questions with a mix of patience, savvy and gratitude, often pausing to gather his thoughts - which explained why our group was warned beforehand that not every journalist would get the chance to ask one.
But when the moderator announced that we were out of time and had to wrap up, Diesel spoke up: "Is there anybody who didn't get a question in that I could (answer)? Who didn't get to ask? Please go ahead."
Our session ended up receiving an extra six minutes.
Diesel was also guilty of hearty laughs over some questions, like whether we would ever see Dom drive an environmentally friendly electric car in the future.
Responding in comic disbelief, he replied: "Wow, okay. I don't think anything is impossible."
And when asked why he did not choose to show off his vocal chops in Fast & Furious 9, having released his debut electro-pop single Feel Like I Do last September, he shook his head, chuckled and threw his arms up: "Yeah, I didn't think about it!"
He added: "There are a lot of things that came out of not going to set for a whole year. One of them was me searching for other outlets to be creative, organic and artistic. And something that I've always wanted to do was music, and because last year, all the productions stopped, I had the opportunity to make music.
"On hindsight, (recording a song for the movie) was not something that I thought about before. I never even connected the two."
Another thing that never crossed his mind was casting his 11-year-old son Vincent, who appears as Dom as a child in a brief flashback scene, in the movie.
The proud papa said: "I think if somebody asked me (prior), I might have said that is a little tricky, because I am very present in that scene (as a near-dead Dom entering the flashback).
"So it might not have been the best idea to have his debut in the scene that his father is completely Dom and can't sit behind the monitor and coach him and applaud him.
"It was Justin's brilliance to do it, because it added something special and real in that scene. As Dom is looking into the past and trying to understand the message from his father, my son is looking at me."
Diesel also endeared himself by laughing at his own dad jokes, one of which came after he praised New Zealand actor Vinnie Bennett, who portrays a younger Dom, as "a real gem".
"It is surreal when somebody is studying your past work as much as he was to find the nuances, and I was there to encourage him.
"It is funny that when you're 10-year-old Dom, you're Vincent, when you're 18-year-old Dom, you're Vinnie, and when you're full-grown Dom, you're Vin. Wow," he said, breaking into yet another guffaw.