Entertainment

23 Weird Things You Didn't Know About Vin Diesel

It's a dark year for fans of Vin Diesel. Typically, the 48-year-old actor is the shiny, bald-headed centerpiece of at least one blockbuster a year that roars through theaters, leaving a scorched path of destroyed muscle cars, burned rubber, and monosyllabic one-liners in his wake. But besides a role in Ang Lee's award-seeking war film Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, the muscle car-loving star has no big projects coming this summer. Forget oil -- we're in a Diesel shortage.

To help you quench your thirst for tight tank tops, confessional Facebook videos, and sweet, sweet Coronas, we've put together a list of surprising Diesel facts to hold you over until Fast 8 speeds through theaters in spring 2017. As Dominic Toretto would say, ride or die.

1. He changed his name when he was a bouncer in the '80s

You probably assumed Vin Diesel's real name wasn't Vin Diesel, right? That would be a little too badass. Turns out his real name is Mark Sinclair, which is still pretty badass. The name change occurred when he was working at New York's famous Chelsea nightclub, The Tunnel. So, if you were an asshole at The Tunnel, you might've gotten kicked out by a young Xander Cage.

2. His mother was an astrologer, but she never did his chart

Diesel is a mystical guy, so it's not surprising that his mother was in tune with celestial movements. But did she give him any career advice based on his sign? "She said she was too close to me to do an unbiased chart," he told USA Today. Damn, that's cold. She could've warned him not to make Babylon A.D.!
 

3. He got his first role in a play by vandalizing the theater

According to an oft-repeated origin story, Mark Sinclair snuck into a Greenwich Village theater with his brother and some friends, but was caught by the theater's artistic director. Instead of punishing the young goons, she offered the boys parts in a children's play, a production of Barbara Garson's The Dinosaur Door. The lesson here: crime pays.

4. He has a twin, but he doesn't have crazy hair

Diesel has a fraternal twin named Paul, often affectionately referred to as "Brother Pablo" by Vin. Contrary to claims made by gossip magazines, he's not the guy who looks like a Miami Vice villain from this photo. That's not him! Paul is the guy standing next to Paul Walker in this photo Diesel shared on his Facebook. Make sense? Good.

5. He used to call his biceps his "kryptonics"

Hulk Hogan has pythons; Vin Diesel has kryptonics. According to a 2005 interview with Conan O'Brien, Diesel and his buddies used to refer to their growing biceps as "kryptonics," a popular brand of skateboarding wheels. Years later, Diesel would give his Furious 7 co-star Tony Jaa an electric skateboard as a gift. Coincidence? I think not.

6. He wrote the foreword to a book about Dungeons & Dragons

By now, you know that Diesel is a fan of Dungeons & Dragons -- that's covered in Diesel 101. But did you know he's such a big fan that he wrote the foreword to Thirty Years of Adventure, a hardcover retrospective book about the history of the game. "Ironically, my first game was DM'ed by a childhood friend's mother," Diesel writes. "She hosted a Sunday evening D&D campaign for the kids that lived in the building." Heartwarming! 

Vin Diesel XXX
XXX | Revolution Studios

7. He got a fake tattoo of his Dungeons & Dragons character

If you read his essay in the D&D book, you'd know that Diesel's character is named Melkor Tar Morloth, a name he drew from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. He loves Melkor so much that Xander Cage, his character from the 2002's extreme sports action movie XXX, even had a Melkor tattoo across his belly. Long live Melkor.

8. And then he made a whole movie inspired by Melkor!

If you learn one thing from this list, it should be this: Diesel loves Melkor. In an interview with HItFix he revealed that 2015's The Last Witch Hunter was created after a conversation with Cory Goodman, a screenwriter and fellow D&D player. "Cory went off to write The Last Witch Hunter and was attempting to speak to [my] D&D character," says Diesel.  "But [he was] also attempting to set it in a modern time which is kind of fun because, how could a D&D-influenced genre live in a Bond-like cinematic world?" It turns out, the answer is very confusing.

9. He pitched Street Sharks at a toy fair

Back in 1994, Vin Diesel worked a lot of odd gigs, one of which was serving as a pitchman for Street Sharks, a toy brand that looked like scary Ninja Turtles on steroids. As he says in the video, it's Fin-tastic!

10. He has an insane amount of Facebook fans

With over 99 million likes, he's the third-most-liked celebrity on Facebook, falling behind only Shakira and Cristiano Ronaldo. What's Diesel's social media secret? Dance videos. Lots and lots of dance videos. 

11. He bonded with Steven Spielberg over video games

When Steven Spielberg cast Diesel in Saving Private Ryan after seeing the young actor's directorial debut Multi-Facial, he probably didn't realize he was casting a fellow gamer. "When I realized Steven Spielberg was entering the game world unabashedly, somehow that gave me the ‘green card’ to launch a video game company that would speak to a favorite pastime -- or one of my favorite pastimes," Diesel said in an interview from 2009. A true modern Renaissance man.

Chronicles of Riddick Vin Diesel
chronicles of riddick | Radar Pictures

12. He traded his cameo in Tokyo Drift for the rights to Riddick

Melkor isn't the only character Diesel is committed to. When he returned to the Fast and Furious franchise for a cameo in The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, he wasn't paid in cash. Instead, he demanded the studio give him the rights to his character Riddick from Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick, setting the stage for the sequel Riddick to come out in 2013.

13. He leveraged his house to get Riddick made

Financing Riddick almost put him on the street. "I had to leverage my house," Diesel told the Hollywood Reporter in an interview at the film's Los Angeles premiere. "If we didn't finish the film, I would be homeless." Luckily, they finished the the film and Vin Diesel is not homeless… for now! You never know when the Riddick expanded universe will call for another sequel.

14. He doesn't watch TV

Don't ask Vin Diesel about Game of Thrones. According to an interview with Esquire, the film buff doesn't watch TV. He's probably too busy making movie history!

15. He loves looking at movie art

Some actors tolerate the geekier aspects of filmmaking; Vin Diesel relishes them. When he decided to voice Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy, he was swayed by the awesome concept art that Marvel sent him. His daughter pointed at a picture of Groot and the rest was nerd history.

 

Happy V day...

A photo posted by Vin Diesel (@vindiesel) on

16. He posted this amazing photo on Valentine's Day

Vin Diesel's Instagram is for lovers.

17. His cousin is the rapper Kwamé

Kwamé was a rising star in the early '90s, scoring hits with tracks like "The Rhythm" and "Oneovdabigboiz." He's since transitioned into producing songs for other artists and scoring films, but, really, he should work on bringing the polka-dot trend back. '90s fashion is in now. 

18. He was in an amazing break-dancing video

Kwamé isn't Diesel's only hip-hop connection. He was also in a beautiful, body-moving break-dance video. This is what the internet was made for. 

19. He once rapped over an Arthur Russell beat

Who knew there was a connection between Dominic Toretto and avant-garde disco king Arthur Russell? You do now! Listen to this track where he calls himself "a man of steel" a bunch of times. Vin had bars.

20. He had a record label

A spin-off of his film production company, One Race Films, Racetrack Records was the home for artists Diesel was looking to make big stars. Sadly, it appears the label's web domain is currently for sale. We know Diesel has some killer freestyles he could record. Let's get that prog-rap Chronicles of Riddick-inspired album you know Diesel has in his head.

21. He also has a video game company

Tigon Studios helped develop The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, a critically acclaimed game that came out in 2004, but the company has been pretty quiet since Diesel talked about reassembling the team for another Riddick game in 2013. Personally, I'm waiting for the A Man Apart video game too. All Diesel movies deserve video game adaptations.  

22. He gained 35 pounds for a Sidney Lumet movie

Most people know Diesel as the bald king of action blockbusters, but he's got serious actorly ambitions too. He even had hair in 2006's legal drama Find Me Guilty, a movie he gained 35 pounds for by eating a quart of ice cream a day. Don't ever say Diesel isn't committed to his craft. 

23. Some people think he believes in chemtrails

Does Vin Diesel believe in chemtrails, the popular conspiracy theory about the condensation trails left by planes? Does he not? Take a look at this curious Facebook photo and judge for yourself. And look for Fast 18: Chemtrails Drift arriving in theaters in 2034.

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Dan Jackson is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment, and he lives his life a quarter mile at a time. He's on Twitter: @danielvjackson.