BEVERLY HILLS, California — Some said it would never happen. Some said Vin Diesel had become too big a star or was too proud to look back. Those people, apparently, were as confused as a NASCAR driver looking to make a right turn.
Eight years ago, Vin Diesel and fellow fast-rising stars Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez burned rubber with "The Fast and the Furious," a hugely successful film that rocketed Diesel to the top of the Hollywood race. In a high-profile, ill-advised series of steps, the star turned down sequels to "Furious" and "xXx," opting instead for "The Chronicles of Riddick," "Find Me Guilty" and the successful but critically loathed "The Pacifier."
After the car-racing sequels moved on without him, Diesel was persuaded to come back for a top-secret cameo at the end of 2006's "Tokyo Drift." Audiences went crazy, bridges were mended, new contracts were offered, and the rest is racing history.
"What convinced me to come back was Universal approaching me about the cameo," Diesel told us last week, explaining his return as Dominic Toretto alongside the original cast in this weekend's "Fast & Furious." "And after deliberating if I should do a cameo on a film that I am not a part of with a character that's so obviously the audience's character, they sweetened the deal."
At that point, the studio told Diesel that it had plans to use his "Tokyo" appearance as a way to relaunch the Dominic story line, and now the fourth "Furious" film is picking up at that point. "They said, 'You haven't returned to this franchise, but if you do this cameo, we'll let you produce this thing into a true continuation piece of the first story,' " Diesel recalled of how the negotiations went down. "That's how it all started."
After he agreed to return, Universal and Justin Lin — the director of the third and fourth "Furious" films — tracked down Walker, Rodriguez and Brewster. Now, the film's poster says it all: "New model, original parts."
"Getting everybody onboard was just a matter of saying, 'We're going,' " Vin Diesel said with a grin. "And we're going for real."
Check out everything we've got on "Fast & Furious."
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