Celebrity feuds aren’t anything out of the ordinary in the entertainment industry; after all, Hollywood is full of big personalities and even bigger egos. But in the case of the rumored feud between action stars Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the bad blood that resulted in a fracturing of the Fast and Furious franchise actually stems from a difference in acting method. This isn’t your regular celebrity beef — it's about art.
In a new cover story with Men’s Health, Diesel opened about the specific approach he’s taken to his career over the last few years. The conversation naturally led to his record-breaking film franchise, The Fast & Furious, and a discussion of his alleged often-terse relationship with former co-star Johnson. Both Johnson and Diesel made their careers as the driving engines behind massive action films like The Scorpion King and XXX, but despite having similar professional trajectories, working together proved difficult for the actors. The release of Fate of the Furious (F8) was wrought with drama; Johnson called out some of his “candy-ass” male co-stars on Instagram, and other actors within the franchise confirmed that the men had been at odds a number of times during production.
Looking back, Diesel shared with Men’s Health, his role in the tension was due to a difference in work styles. To hear him tell it, he just wanted to see Johnson fully embody the role of Luke Hobbs, and doing that required a significant amount of pressure.
“It was a tough character to embody, the Hobbs character,” Diesel explained. “My approach at the time was a lot of tough love to assist in getting that performance where it needed to be.”
“As a producer to say, Okay, we’re going to take Dwayne Johnson, who’s associated with wrestling, and we’re going to force this cinematic world, audience members, to regard his character as someone that they don’t know— Hobbs hits you like a ton of bricks,” he continued. “That’s something that I’m proud of, that aesthetic. That took a lot of work. We had to get there and sometimes, at that time, I could give a lot of tough love. Not Felliniesque, but I would do anything I’d have to do in order to get performances in anything I’m producing.”
Invoking the name of Federico Fellini, widely considered to be one of the most influential directors of all time, in connection with a project that sees a tricked-out Pontiac Fiero blasting into outer space (no, seriously) is more than a little out there. But the reference just speaks to how passionate Diesel is about his craft, and about the Fast & Furious franchise. As the main character of the series’ many films, and the glue holding the cast and crew together, he clearly felt like it was his duty to get everyone on board, even if that meant ruffling a few feathers along the way.
The men have since made up, chalking up their issues to “different fundamental philosophies.” However, Johnson doesn’t appear in F9 — he claims that his absence is due to a scheduling conflict with the production of the sequel to Fast & Furious spinoff Hobbs & Shaw, as well as other projects — and there's no word yet on whether he'll be taking part in the franchise’s tenth and final chapter. If there is an on-screen reunion down the line for these two in Fast 10, let's just hope that it does Fellini proud. La Veloce Vita, if you will.