In a new interview with Men’s Health, the franchise lead and producer elaborated on how he worked with Johnson to bring Luke Hobbs, the former Diplomatic Security Service agent turned Toretto crew member, to the screen.
Johnson joined the franchise for 2011’s Fast Five, and Diesel says he took a “tough love” approach in his role as producer to induce the kind of performance that Hobbs required.
“It was a tough character to embody, the Hobbs character,” Diesel said. “My approach at the time was a lot of tough love to assist in getting that performance where it needed to be.”
In 2016 while filming Fate of the Furious, Johnson turned heads with a social media post about an unnamed male co-star, later assumed to be Diesel: “My female co-stars are always amazing, and I love ’em. My male co-stars however are a different story.”
In the Men’s Health interview, Diesel said that audiences came in with expectations and assumptions about the former Wrestlemania and WWE mainstay and that his handling of Johnson was in service to delivering the kind of character “aesthetic” that viewers wouldn’t expect. (It’s worth noting, Johnson was already an established movie star with a decade of credits under his belt when he joined the Fast franchise.)
“As a producer to say, ‘OK, 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. That’s something that I’m proud of, that aesthetic,” the actor told Men’s Health. “That took a lot of work.”
It’s an approach that Diesel says finds him doing “anything” to get the performance he’s seeking for these films.
“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,” Diesel said.
While the two have since seemingly made peace, with Johnson thanking “brother Vin” in an Instagram video following the release of the Johnson and Jason Statham-led 2019 spinoff Hobbs & Shaw, their feud impacted the promotional tour for Fate of the Furious. Sources told The Hollywood Reporter at the time that the two were being kept “separated as much as possible” for the press tour and that Johnson’s fiery social media post came after Diesel was repeatedly tardy to set when the pair were filming a scene together.