The Fast and Furious Life of Vin Diesel

The bald-headed Vin Diesel is best known for his role as Dominic Torreto in the Fast and Furious films and for voicing Groot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The gruff New York native has been in the industry since the early ‘90s, but no one talks about his early acting career.

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker / Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel and Vin Diesel / Vin Diesel and Paloma Jimenez / Vin Diesel
Source: Getty Images

Diesel initially struggled to get acting roles, so he wrote a short film to create an opportunity to get into the industry. He supported himself by working odd jobs, but now, Diesel is one of the most well-known names in Hollywood. Find out how Vin Diesel raced his way to the top.

What Is Vin Diesel’s Real Name?

Vin Diesel, born Mark Sinclair in California, never met his biological father. His mother, Delora, worked as an astrologer to support Diesel and his fraternal twin, Paul. Shortly after Diesel and Paul were born, Delora moved the family to New York City, where she married Irving H. Vincent.

Vin Diesel as a little child.
Source: Tumblr

Vincent, an acting instructor, and theater manager, adopted and helped raise Diesel and Paul. His stepfather influenced him to become an actor, so he honored Vincent by using Vin as his stage name. The name Diesel was what people called him as a teen because he was always energetic while working.

Causing Trouble Got Him the Role

When Diesel was seven, he made his stage debut in the children’s play Dinosaur Door. He didn’t plan to audition for the production, but he had to choose between getting in trouble or taking a role in the show. Diesel, Paul, and some friends had broken into the Theater for the New City, intending to vandalize it.

Photos of Vin Diesel as a young kid.
Source: Reddit

They were caught by the theater’s artistic director, Crystal Field, who offered them roles in the show instead of calling the police. It was a good opportunity for Diesel because he found a passion for being on stage, and he continued with theater throughout his youth.

Getting Into Screenwriting

After graduating high school, Diesel attended Hunter College in New York to study creative writing. It led him to begin screenwriting, but that didn’t pay his bills, so he started working as a bouncer at the NY nightclub Tunnel. Around this time, he started using the name Vin Diesel to sound tougher.

A headshot of Vin Diesel.
Source: Twitter

Because of his stepfather’s career, Diesel was exposed to actors talking about methods and techniques since he was a child. It inspired his future work when he started creating screenplays and helped him improve his acting skills. After college, he moved to LA to pursue an acting career.

Return to New York

Diesel found little success in Hollywood. His only notable work was an uncredited role in 1990’s Awakening. Therefore, he returned to New York to write a short film, which he hoped would help him secure funds for a feature film. He thanks his mom for giving him a book with practical advice about filmmaking.

The DVD cover of Multi-Facial.
Source: eBay

The book, Feature Filmmaking at Used-Car Prices, inspired his first short film, Multi-Facial. In 1994, Diesel wrote, directed, and produced the semi-autobiographical short about a struggling multiracial actor stuck in the audition process. Diesel’s film was selected for screening at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.

The Plan Worked

Multi-Facial helped Diesel secure funds for his first feature-length film, Strays. The 1997 film written, directed, and produced by Diesel was about a gang leader whose love for a woman makes him change his way. Many people were impressed, and it was selected for the competition at the 1997 Sundance Festival.

Vin Diesel as Rick in the film Strays.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: First Look International

The Sundance screening led to a deal with MTV to turn Strays into a series, but it never came to fruition. However, Diesel’s work caught the attention of director Steven Spielberg. The award-winning director was impressed with Diesel and offered him a role in his new film.

Not an Easy Task

Spielberg cast Diesel in his 1998 Oscar-winning film, Saving Private Ryan. Diesel’s role as a soldier was small, but he said it was one of the most difficult films he acted in. Saving Private Ryan was based on real people, adding pressure to do them justice.

Vin Diesel in a still from Saving Private Ryan.
Source: DreamWorks Pictures

Diesel said it was very different from playing fictional characters. The film was his big break. With his shaved head, muscular physique, raspy voice, and rough charm, Diesel started working regularly. His next role was voicing the title character in 1999’s The Iron Giant.

His Breakthrough

Although The Fast and the Furious films propelled Diesel to A-list status, his breakthrough in a leading role came in 2000. He starred in the low-budget, sci-fi film Pitch Black as Riddick. No one expected it to do well, but the film surprisingly grossed $53.1 million.

Vin Diesel as Richard B. Riddick in Pitch Black.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: USA Films

It gave audiences a first look at Diesel’s commanding presence on screen. Pitch Black cemented him as a capable leading man, and people in the industry noticed his potential for other films. It led Diesel to the role that would shape his career.

An Action Film Star

Diesel’s career completely changed in 2001 when he landed the role of Domenic Torreto in The Fast and the Furious. Diesel nailed the charismatic street racing/thief character, attaining action hero stardom in the box office hit, which grossed $145 million.

Vin Diesel and Asia Argento in a still from XXX.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: Sony Pictures

He followed it with another action movie, xXx, where he played extreme athlete turned secret agent Xander Cage. The film was another box office hit for Diesel, grossing over $277 million worldwide. Although it was a hit, he had to make a sacrifice to be in the movie.

Turning Down the Role

When producers rushed to make a sequel to The Fast and the Furious, Diesel was shocked and unsure if the second movie would be a success. He was offered the role in xXx at the same time, so he had to choose between the two films.

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in a still from The Fast and The Furious.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: Universal Studios

The sequel to The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, was the only movie in the franchise that didn’t feature at least a cameo by Diesel. He couldn’t participate in the movie because he was filming xXx. However, he reprised the role of Dominic in future films.

A Need for Speed

Working on The Fast and the Furious was exciting for Diesel because he is a thrill-seeker. While in college, he found his need for speed, purchasing his first motorcycle. Diesel loved the feeling of driving fast on empty roads, and the Fast and Furious films revived that passion.

Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez in a scene from Fast & Furious.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: Universal Studios

While he performs many wild stunts and lives for driving fast cars, Diesel has his limits. He might understand the thrill of speed, but he is afraid of roller coasters. He does many things that are much more dangerous, but Diesel won’t get on an amusement park ride.

Switching It Up

After reprising his roles as Xander Cage and Riddick for the sequels to xXx and Pitch Black, Diesel chose a different type of character. In 2005, he starred in the comedy The Pacifier. The lighthearted role of US Navy SEAL lieutenant Shane Wolfe was very different from his previous characters.

Vin Diesel as Shane Wolf in a still from The Pacifier.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: Walt Disney Pictures

The Pacifier showed audiences Diesel’s softer side. The film was a success, allowing him to try roles in other genres. The following year, he played real-life mobster Jack DiNorscio in Find Me Guilty. The dramatic role earned him critical acclaim.

Transforming for the Role

Diesel is known for his muscular physique, so it was a shock to see him gain weight for the role in Find Me Guilty. The actor gained 30 pounds to portray the mobster and wore a wig because Jack DiNorscio had hair, unlike Diesel.

Vin Diesel as Jackie DiNorscio sits in prison.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: Freestyle Releasing

It pushed Diesel to do something different and depart from characters that incorporated physicality. Diesel revealed that he ate a quart of ice cream per day to gain weight. He enjoyed getting into the role and meeting DiNorscio, who defended himself in the famous 650-day trial.

Is Vin Diesel Married?

Diesel’s success on the big screen made him a household name, but the actor keeps his personal life out of the spotlight. While not much is known about their relationship, Diesel has been dating Mexican model Paloma Jimenez since 2007. The two are not married.

Vin Diesel and Paloma Jimenez attend the 2017 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
Photo by Presley Ann Slack/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

He rarely talks about his relationship, stating, “I’m not going to put it out there on a magazine cover like other actors.” Diesel and Jimenez maintain their privacy, but we know they have three children: Hania Riley, Vincent Sinclair, and Pauline.

Returning to the Franchise

Although Diesel skipped 2 Fast 2 Furious and only made a short cameo in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), he returned full-time to the franchise in 2009. When he was presented with scripts for the fourth installment, Diesel said they weren’t good enough.

Vin Diesel, as Dominic Toretto, sits in his car.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: Universal Studios

The producers were annoyed, so they told him to produce it himself. Diesel took them up on the challenge starring in and producing Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, and Furious 7. It wasn’t his first time in the producer’s chair because he previously produced Agent 47.

Hard to Work With

Diesel might be a great actor, but he is not friendly on set. Because he typically plays the lead role, he feels entitled and looks down on the camera crew, cast members, and stuntmen. Diesel has a lot of creative control because he started the Fast and Furious franchise.

Vin Diesel, as Dominic Toretto, poses on the set of Fast & Furious 8.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: Universal Studios

The films were box office hits, but not everyone agreed with Diesel’s creative vision. It was hard for some of his costars to pitch their ideas. Diesel’s arrogance on set caused a feud between him and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Butting Heads

Diesel and Johnson haven’t seen eye-to-eye for several years. Their feud started while promoting The Fast and the Furious when Johnson posted an Instagram with the caption, “Some male costars conduct themselves as stand-up men and true professionals, while others don’t.”

Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson face off in a scene from Fast Five.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: Universal Studios

He didn’t directly mention Diesel, but he continued, “When you watch this movie next April, and it seems like I’m not acting in some scenes and my blood is legit boiling – you’re right.” People later figured out his post was about Diesel after seeing the film.

Blown Out of Proportion

Ahead of the film’s release, Diesel told USA Today that there was no bad blood between him and Johnson. He said the situation was blown out of proportion by fans, adding, “I don’t think the world realizes how close we are, in a weird way.”

Johnson and Diesel pose together at a premiere.
Photo by Buda Mendes/LatinContent/Getty Images

Diesel went on to describe himself as the “punching bag” for the franchise because he “takes hits for the good of the cast and crew.” He claimed to “protect the franchise,” stating he protects Johnson “more than he’ll ever know,” and Johnson “only has one big brother in the film world.”

Not Close to Paul Walker

Although they never had a feud, Diesel was never as close to the late Paul Walker as they appeared on screen. Their characters have a special bond, but Diesel said they weren’t best friends in real life. However, he was devastated by Walker’s untimely death.

Paul Walker and Vin Diesel attend the world premiere of ‘Fast And Furious 6’.
Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

When Diesel’s third child was born in March 2015, he named her Pauline in honor of Walker, who died in November 2013. He might say they weren’t close, but Diesel is Walker’s daughter’s godfather. He and Walker knew each other before starring in The Fast and the Furious.

I Am Groot

In 2014, Diesel lent his voice for the character of Groot in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Initially, most people didn’t know Diesel was the voice behind the character because it sounded nothing like him. He also says the same sentence repeatedly, “I am Groot.”

Vin Diesel attends the UK Premiere of
Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

Diesel wasn’t sure about taking the part, so he took the question to his kids, asking them, “Who do you think they want daddy to play?” His daughter immediately pointed to Groot, so he knew he had to accept the role.

Very Little Help

In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Diesel’s character is reduced in size with a child-like voice. Although he has a deep voice, Diesel said there was little audio processing to make him sound pipsqueak-ish. Diesel said he had a lot of fun making the film.

A screengrab of baby groot.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: Walt Disney Pictures

Diesel shared, “Groot has always had an innocence, but this time he has a fun, certain naïve aspect because he really is just a baby. For this installment, I needed to not only pitch up the performance, I needed to embed even more wonder than he usually possesses.”

How Much Is Vin Diesel Worth?

As of 2022, Diesel is worth an estimated $225 million. While his lines in the Marvel films only consisted of three words: “I am Groot,” he made a whopping $54 million, meaning he was paid $13 million per film. Diesel also raked in millions from the Fast and Furious franchise.

Vin Diesel attends “The Lion King” European Premiere.
Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press/Getty Images

Diesel earned $47 million for Furious 7 and was paid $20 million upfront for F9. The actor has earned about $50 million annually, and his films have generated more than $7 billion worldwide. Diesel is among the highest-paid actors, but some of his projects are for fun rather than money.

Getting Into Gaming

In the mid-2000s, Diesel wanted to be part of the booming video game industry, so he started a gaming production company. Tigon Studios gave Diesel more control of the products he was associated with and allowed him to get in on the rapidly expanding market.

Vin Diesel is represented in a video game.
Source: Tigon Studios

The company’s goal was to find a way for Hollywood and the gaming industry to work together. Diesel has loved video games for most of his life, so creating the production company became a passion project. The studio’s biggest titles include Wheelman and Fast & Furious Crossroads.

Dungeons & Dragons Master

When he is not working on a film or taking care of his family, Diesel can be found playing Dungeons & Dragons. He has played the game for several years and it has influenced many of his movies. The Chronicles of Riddick is the biggest reflection of Diesel’s love for D&D.

Diesel is taking part in a D&D game.
Source: YouTube

Diesel’s affinity for D&D also inspired the 2015 film The Last Witch Hunter. He had the honor of writing the introduction to the book Thirty Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons. Sadly, Diesel won’t be in the upcoming D&D film.

Spielberg Has High Hopes

Diesel’s work as a leading man made him one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, but some prefer his ventures into directing. Diesel’s directing style is very different from the explosive films he typically stars in. His directing is closer to that of Steven Spielberg.

Vin Diesel and Steven Spielberg at HBO's
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

In 2020, Diesel ran into Spielberg, who directed him in Saving Private Ryan. Spielberg reportedly told Diesel, “When I wrote the role for you in Saving Private Ryan, I was employing the actor, but I was secretly championing the director in you.” Spielberg wanted to see Diesel in the director’s chair again.

He Can Carry a Tune

He might be known for acting, but Diesel has other hidden talents. In 2020, he began pursuing a singing career. Diesel was looking for a new outlet for creative expression during the pandemic, and music was perfect because it didn’t involve gathering a large cast and crew like a movie.

Vin Diesel is singing a song live.
Source: MTV

Diesel released his debut single entitled “Feel Like I Do,” followed by “Days Are Gone.” His music premiered on The Kelly Clarkson Show, generating lots of attention. However, Diesel’s music was met with mixed reviews.

Diesel Can Break It Down

Besides singing and acting, Diesel can break it down on the dance floor. In his early days in New York City, he would perform on the streets between shifts as a bouncer. He moved on to bigger and better things, but many people ask about this awkward time in his life.

Vin Diesel is dancing with Helen Mirren.
Source: Instagram/@helenmirren

The actor recalled this part of his life during an appearance on Live With Kelly & Michael. Diesel said, “That was the real thing… this was back in the ‘80s; I used to dance at Columbus Circle and Washington Square Park. It was my first gig!”

That Awkward Interview

Celebrity interviews don’t always go well, but Diesel’s 2016 sit-down with Brazilian journalist Carol Moriera takes the cake for one of the most awkward interviews. Diesel spent most of the interview commenting on Moriera’s looks and interrupting her. It was too cringy to watch.

Vin Diesel and Carol Moriera during the interview.
Source: YouTube

Moriera tried to get the conversation back on track, but Diesel kept interrupting to flirt with her. It’s surprising, considering he was in a committed relationship. The uncomfortable interview taught him a lesson on how to interact with female journalists because he hasn’t done that again.

He Gave Up the Role

In Ben Affleck’s Reindeer Games, Diesel was supposed to play Pug. It wasn’t a significant role, but Diesel decided to walk away from the film because of creative disputes with director John Frankenheimer. The part was played by Donal Logue instead.

Vin Diesel attends Universal Pictures “F9” World Premiere.
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Diesel didn’t just miss out on the role but also lost a $500,000 payday. However, it turned out to be the right career move because it allowed Diesel to star in the career-changing The Fast and the Furious. They say when one door closes, another opens, which helped Diesel.

He Was a Telemarketer

Before Diesel climbed to the top of Hollywood, he worked different jobs to earn a living between auditions. His first job in LA was as a telemarketer. Diesel said, “The time I went to Hollywood, I couldn’t even get an agent. I ended up telemarketing, selling tools over the phone.”

Portrait of Vin Diesel.
Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage/Getty Images

His skills of selling people things turned out to be useful because he used them to pitch movie scripts and promote his future projects. Diesel’s confidence as a salesman came from his telemarketing days. It shows how far he has come in life.

What Could Have Been

While he joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Groot, Diesel could have played a different hero. Rumors spread like wildfire that Diesel would play Black Bolt in Marvel’s Inhumans, but he said he was only looking to play Black Bolt if the film seemed appealing.

Vin Diesel takes part in an interview.
Source: YouTube

Diesel already had connections to Marvel, saying, “It’s not a matter of me wooing Marvel; It’s a matter of Marvel wooing me.” The “wooing” process was cut short when Marvel announced that they were turning Inhumans into a TV show instead. For now, Diesel’s chance to be another superhero is on hold.

What Nationality Is Vin Diesel?

Diesel is American, but many people have questioned his ethnicity. His mother is white with English, German, and Scottish roots. While raised by an African American father, Diesel didn’t know his biological father’s ethnicity. Diesel said, “All I know from my mother is that I have connections to many different cultures.”

Vin Diesel attends the UK Premiere of
Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

Many people have said that Diesel has African American features. His mom never told him much about his birth father, but he believes his parents’ relationship would have been illegal in parts of the U.S. due to anti-miscegenation laws.

He Wants to Keep It Going

Following Paul Walker’s death, producers of Fast and Furious wanted to figure out how they could finish the film without the actor. They thought of replacing Walker with his brother Cody, but many people felt uncomfortable with the idea. However, Diesel was on board.

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker arrive on the red carpet.
Photo by Jeff Vespa/WireImage/Getty Images

Friends close to Walker felt Diesel was trying to cash in on the late actor’s death and wanted to keep the franchise going at all costs. The producers found a way to honor Walker and kept the franchise going in a respectful manner.

Dumped by His Management

Diesel is known for being difficult to work with, and many on his management team felt the same way. They dumped him after the tour to promote 2009’s Fast & Furious. They said Diesel was lazy, and they had trouble communicating with him during important times.

Vin Diesel accepts an award onstage during the People's Choice Awards.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

He was reportedly late for work and avoided his management team. Diesel only responded to a Universal executive, claiming he was sick. He eventually showed up to his work commitment and didn’t appear sick at all. Diesel had to find new management.

How Tall Is Vin Diesel?

Diesel’s height has been a highly talked-about detail of his life. Although he said he is 6’1” on a radio show, most people believe he is between 5’10” and 5’11”. Diesel often wears thick-heeled boots, which make him appear taller. There are rumors that he also wears lifts.

Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel and Vin Diesel attend the Fast & Furious F9 After Party.
Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Diesel is 5’11” when he isn’t wearing shoes. We don’t know why his height is such a mystery because 5’11” is above average. Diesel is shorter than some of his Fast and Furious costars like The Rock.

Turned Down Daredevil

In 2003, Ben Affleck starred in Marvel’s Daredevil. The movie was a flop, with critics saying the film almost destroyed the superhero genre. It turns out, Diesel was offered the role before Affleck. However, he declined because he wasn’t a fan of superhero films at the time.

Vin Diesel as Xander Cage in a publicity still for the film 'xXx'.
Photo by Murray Close/Getty Images

Instead, Diesel took the lead in xXx. He made the right decision because of the way Daredevil bombed. He later changed his opinion about superhero films when he saw The Avengers and was offered the role of Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy.

He Started Smoking

The actor always seemed like a healthy man, but he used cigarettes to cope with the stress of his taxing career. He isn’t proud of the bad habit, but it was hard to stop once he started. When Diesel’s schedule gets crazy, he smokes more often.

Vin Diesel arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere 'Guardians Of The Galaxy'.
Photo by Barry King/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Diesel has also admitted to smoking weed on occasion. No one is perfect, including Diesel. Although he picked up the bad habit, Diesel doesn’t want his children to think smoking is OK. He tries not to smoke cigarettes in front of them, so they don’t try it in the future.

Body-Shamed

In 2015, shirtless pictures of Diesel went viral. Instead of his typical toned body, the actor was snapped rocking a softer “dad bod.” People attacked Diesel online, body-shaming him for not having a perfectly toned stomach. He didn’t even know people were taking pictures of him.

Vin Diesel attends the premiere of “xXx: Return of Xander Cage”.
Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic/Getty Images

In response, Diesel posted a photo on Instagram the following week. He shared a picture lifting his shirt to reveal his ripped abs. The caption said, “The pic from yesterday for those who wanted the show… for all the angels that love dad bods regardless.”

A Loving Father

When Diesel’s children were little, he wanted to spend as much time with them as possible. He would bring his children to the film sets, holding them between takes. People thought he was always pacing, but he was just trying to get his children to sleep.

Vin Diesel and his children attend
Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

Diesel is somewhat private, but he has brought his children to film premieres and other appearances. He might be busy, but he always makes time for his kids. It’s not easy when he has to go somewhere for a film, so the pandemic gave him much-needed time at home.

He Has a Doppelganger

A man in Thailand has been getting a lot of attention lately because of his resemblance to Diesel. The 38-year-old man, Arthid Diangsri, is now an international star after he was pictured driving cars like those Diesel drove in the Fast and Furious films.

Arthid Diangsri is driving a car dressed like Dominic Toretto.
Source: YouTube

Diangsri shaved his head and worked out vigorously to look more like Diesel. The actor hasn’t commented on his doppelganger, but Diangsri is more like Dom Toretto than the real Diesel. Maybe he can be Diesel’s stunt double in the next Fast and Furious film.