Fast and Furious Stars, Vanity, and ‘Alpha Male’ Burden

A new report reveals literal scorekeeping in fight scenes between Fast and Furious' Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, and Jason Statham.

Fast and Furious Vin Diesel Dwayne Johnson Jason Statham Fights

It’s tough being the king, and according to Vin Diesel, the star of six Fast and Furious movies, that goes for being an onscreen alpha male as well. Diesel previously told USA Today that his well-documented beef with Dwayne Johnson—the MVP of the franchise who is now co-leading its first spinoff in Hobbs & Shaw—can be reduced to, “It’s not always easy being an alpha. And it’s two alphas.”

Well according to an eye-opening report from The Wall Street Journal, Diesel, Johnson, and Jason Statham, the three alphas currently leading the franchise in its many forms, are not making it easy on the crew when it comes to determining how the series’ endless fight scenes should go. Their trio of characters have often been at odds from Fast Five onward, yet, according to the paper, each have engaged in complicated negotiations to make sure that they’re never seen as the loser when they come to blows.

For example, WSJ confirmed the long whispered about rumor that Diesel developed a sophisticated point system for each move choreographed in his fight scenes, so as to make sure his character of Dom Toretto always landed the most high-ranking blows, even against other members of the “Family.” This apparently was pitched by the star during rehearsals for Furious 7 (one of the better installments) when it came to him facing off against Jason Statham as the new villain of the series. However, it proved too complicated to be implemented by the filmmakers. This does not, however, prevent Diesel having his sister, producer Samantha Vincent, keep tabs from rehearsals all the way to editing, making sure Diesel never looks weak or beaten.

“Mr. Diesel’s sister, Samantha Vincent, weighs in on rehearsals and edits, people familiar with the situation said. ‘He’s falling down right here,’ she once observed during a fight rehearsal, according to one person on set. “Is he going to get his licks back in?'”

Not that Statham, his foe in Furious 7, is any less sensitive about how he looks on screen. It’s worth noting that in his climactic duel with Diesel in that movie, it is as much a helicopter blowing up the parking garage they’re fighting in that defeats him as it is being solely overpowered by Dom’s muscles.

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“According to producers and crew members on the films, Mr. Statham, 51 years old, negotiated an agreement with the studio that limits how badly he can be beaten up on screen. Mr. Diesel, 52, has his younger sister, a producer on the films, police the number of punches he takes. And Mr. Johnson, 47, enlists producers, editors and fight coordinators to help make sure he always gives as good as he gets.”

WSJ goes on to note producer Michael Fottrell was asked if vanity plays a role in this, to which he responded, “No comment… of course it does.” The paper also reports that the editing bay is likewise known to get visits from some of the stars.

“Mr. Statham has been known to swing by the editing room to weigh in on fight scenes, according to postproduction crew members. ‘It’s like that old trope where an actor comes in and wants more close-ups,’ said one Furious editor. ‘They want more muscles.'”

None of this is terribly surprising, especially considering Johnson allegedly called Diesel a “candy ass” on the set of The Fate of the Furious. Movie stars being especially precious about their close-ups or how they’re perceived is nothing new. Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, has a field day making fun of the vanity of actors and how overly sensitive Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton is to how he looks in Western TV shows and films.

However, while the good guy almost always wins at the end of Hollywood movies (which leads to some problems since Statham and Johnson at various times have been antagonists in the Fast & Furious movies), many of the best action movies have had no problem showing heroes down or beaten. Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones roughly lost as many fights as he won, getting pummeled multiple times in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and more recently, even a movie star as self-aware about his image as Tom Cruise is cool with Ethan Hunt almost getting killed or occasionally made to look the fool in the latter-day Mission: Impossible movies.

Even the type of action movies that Fast & Furious feels most descended from—Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone beefcake showcases from the ‘80s—tend to be populated with better remembered entries where the hero is pushed to his breaking point, such as Schwarzenegger looking absolutely terrified as he’s hunted by the Predator or Stallone always being the underdog in the Rocky movies (a trick Johnson seems to at least follow in his more comedic fare, like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle).

In any event, it’s interesting to know that heavy lies the sleeveless shirts.

Read and download the Den of Geek SDCC 2019 Special Edition Magazine right here!

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David Crow is the Film Section Editor at Den of Geek. He’s also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. Read more of his work here. You can follow him on Twitter @DCrowsNest.