Vindicated: Vin Diesel is all smiles as “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” is kicking ass at the box office

By: Izumi Hasegawa   January 31, 2017


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Being a dedicated fan of action films, especially those centered on Hong Kong or Kung Fu, allow me to be your first self proclaimed expert to confirm, xXx: Return of Xander Cage is one of the greatest Kung Fu action film made in Hollywood to date.

Historically, whenever I watch a Hollywood created Kung Fu film, I am left disappointed because they just do not capture the pure choreography in the movements or the overall passion and spirit of Kung Fu, leaving the film feeling very unauthentic.  However, D.J. Caruso and producer/leading actor Vin Diesel changed all of that. They knew what they had to do to meet the expectation of loyal Kung Fu fans and exceeded them.  What also I like this film is the array of different nationalities and countries represented in the film. Caruso and Diesel seemly assembled not just a phenomenally talented global cast, but a message. Take that Donald Trump!

20170119HNW_xXxReturnofXanderCage_01Q:  What lead to your decision to make another xXx?

A couple of things. First of all, my sister told me not to say this, but I got to be real, I needed to do xXx for myself because I need to play a character that I could laugh again, smile again, and enjoy myself again. I also felt like it was time to introduce to the world a global cast in the way that we have introduced the world to a global cast. There’s something so cool about going into other film markets and recruiting their celebrated heroes, and incorporating them into this franchise. In addition to that, I don’t think people have been having that much fun in movies. I think that my son Vincent was saying on the way over here, how much he loves xXx. His sentiment was that, “It’s just fun daddy”. It’s just fun and that’s something I’m very proud of. I think that’s why right now, xXx needed to come out. Are there political parallels? I don’t know. More than anything, the world needed to have a movie you can just have fun in.

20170119HNW_xXxReturnOfXanderCage_PressConference_23Q: There are so many different nationalities in the cast. How did you pick and choose when you were exploring your options around the world?

That was something DJ Caruso (director) was very adamant and really ambitious about. It’s very ambitious to put a cast like this together. I had been a fan of Donnie’s (Yen, plays Xiang) for quite some time. I have to admit that at this time the franchise felt new, fresh, and right. There are so many different styles: the way that Donnie approaches a combat sequence is different than the way Michael Bisping (plays Hawk) approaches it. It’s different than the way Tony Jaa, plays Talon might approach it; any of the characters here. To go into Bollywood, again I knew Deepika (Pardukone, plays Serena Unger) from a screen test of Furious 7 and to go into Bollywood, and get the queen of Bollywood into our global cast was so cool. It just keeps going. This is Nicky Jam’s (plays Lazarus) first time being in a movie, and he killed it [laughs]. This is Ariadna’s (Gutiérrez, plays Lola) first time in a movie. X3-14081This guy over here, Tony Jaa, his fighting style is completely unique. He’s been in all of them. I remember Quentin Tarantino talking about Tony Jaa in my living room, and (he’s) saying, “Oh my god, you need to see him in Ong-Bak.” And he was my good luck charm in Furious 7. When he came to this cast, I felt, “Okay now this going to be as my son says, ‘a giant hit’”. You just look across the board, like I said going into Bollywood, Nina Dobrev (plays Rebecca “Becky” Clearidge) comes in and she wanted to audition for a role that was not written for her type. It was a comedic role. You see Nina, and you see her beauty, and you go, “How is she going to be so comedic”? Then she comes in and grabs a hold of that role, and you can’t stop laughing when you see her on screen. She just had that presence.
IMG_0856DJ says, “I got this guy Tony Gonzalez – (retired NFL player from the Atlanta Falcons).  Then Tony Gonzalez comes in and he brings something incredibly fresh. Then of course Hermione (Corfield plays Ainsley) is another incredible force in the film. Now my little brother who has never done an American film before, Kris Wu (plays Nicks), comes in and the second we get filming and do our first scene together, everyone goes, “You guys have known each other for 10 years?” I’m just going to take this moment to say, “Thank you God for this incredible cast.” The goddess Ruby Rose (plays Adele Wolff), you’ve heard me talk about this a million times. That relationship between Adele and Xander is not like anything we’ve seen on film. There is so much unconditional love; it’s such an irrelevant gender bromance. It’s so powerful, and it’s so today. She was conscious of creating/establishing that relationship and to see that play out in film right now is just remarkable. Thank you God for this amazing cast.

20170119HNW_xXxReturnOfXanderCage_PressConference_32Q: You are working with so many Asian cast members, what did you learn or find out about their attitude towards working with you?

I’ve got to be honest, I never think of people’s nationality too much. I look at everybody the same. Culturally, I had gone to China for the Furious 7 and fell in love with China. It’s impossible for me to just separate groups of people like that. Maybe because I was raised in New York City (New York), it was like this melting pot. Everybody was always the same, and the whole point of my film existence is to just say everybody is just one race. The essence of this movie is that they’ve got this global harmony.

20170119HNW_xXxReturnOfXanderCage_PressConference_44I can say specifically outside of the culture, working with Kris Wu, there’s so much we have in common, that when we went to work, that it felt like pure natural brotherhood. I could say that the second Donnie and I met, it must have been 60 seconds before we both started talking about our kids. We looked at each other like, “So you do it all for your kids and I do it all for my kids,” and our kids are running around us. We’re giving presents to each other’s kids. It was so clear that wanting to make our children proud of our work drove us both. In Hollywood I sometimes get a bad (reputation) for being a perfectionist. It’s something that’s not always welcomed in Hollywood, because you’re always pushing people, and you’re pushing yourself to be the best you can be. Meeting Donnie and working with Donnie, I saw a kindred spirit. I saw somebody that was unafraid and unashamed to strive for perfection in what he does and what he delivers to the world. There was great synchronicity in that. With Tony Jaa, right from the very beginning, some of the best moments and favorite moments in shooting Furious 7 were training with Tony Jaa. He has such a (masterful) approach, this gentle approach in getting you to do things you never thought you can do in Muay Thai and such. (This was) because of his gentle spirit, and his spirituality was something I connected with immediately. The fact that the one thing that he said today, he included spirituality, which is something I can identify with. It’s something beautiful and connects us. Just to answer, I can’t go, “White, Indian, Asian, Latin”. For my existence, and me if anything I’m inclusive with anyone, we are just one and I hope the global harmony is represented in this movie.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage is currently playing in theaters nationwide. For times and locations visit the film’s official website at, www.returnofxandercage.com

Interview by Izumi Hasegawa – @HNW_Izumi

Edited by: Jody Taylor – @RealJodyTaylor

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