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Before Vin Diesel, Timothy Olyphant Was the Studio's Choice to Play Dom in The Fast and the Furious
The Fast Saga without Dom's bald head and searing scowl? No thanks!
Like the great mascots of our time — Disney's Mickey Mouse and Pokémon's Pikachu — Dom embodies the entire franchise, holding the $7+ billion IP together with the strength of his beefy biceps and a lucrative partnership with Corona beer.
A high-octane and reality-defying chapter in the Fast & Furious canon just isn't complete without the gruff racer growling aphorisms about the power of family while wearing a tightly-fitted tank top. Besides all that, Diesel enjoys a ton of industry clout as both lead star and producer, which allows him to court the biggest actors in the world.
The world was almost robbed of Mr. Diesel's involvement when production began to ramp up on The Fast and the Furious (now streaming on Peacock) at Universal Pictures, which suggested a very different actor for the role of Dominic Toretto.
"The studio said, 'If you get Timothy Olyphant to play the role of Dominic Toretto, the movie's green-lit," longtime Fast producer Neal H. Moritz revealed during an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "We went to Tim and he passed, and we wondered if we were going to get to make it."
While this is just conjecture, the desire to cast Olyphant might have stemmed from his appearance in a different car-related movie, Dominic Sena's Gone in 60 Seconds, which opened to over $200 million the year before The Fast and the Furious hit the scene.
By the early 2000s, Diesel had a number of major films under his belt, including Saving Private Ryan, The Iron Giant, Pitch Black, and his own feature-length directorial debut — 1997's Strays. His rise to super-stardom, however, was still a quarter-mile or so down the road. He didn't know it at the time, but this was a role that would come to define his entire Hollywood career.
"I had seen Pitch Black and knew Vin from his earlier short film [Multi-Facial], and I had convinced the studio that he had to be the guy," Moritz continued. "We had our first meeting at the famed Kate Mantilini's in L.A., and I remember I'm sitting at the bar waiting for him, and, boy, when those doors opened, it was like there was a klieg light on him — here comes the biggest star in the world. Even though he didn't have that bankability at that point, he just had that confidence that he was a star. I thought Vin was coming there to convince me to hire him, and in reality I had to convince him to be Dominic Toretto."
"Before I got the script, [director Rob Cohen] described to me the scene of the camera going through my eyes and into the car and then the engine, merging man and machine," Diesel recalled. "That image made me go, 'That's insane — I'm all in.' And then I read the script and was like, 'Eh, I don't know.'"
He ended up accepting the part, of course, and was allowed to have his voice heard during the script rewrite overseen by Training Day scribe and future director, David Ayer. We'll touch more on Ayer's contributions in a follow-up story. Check back with us soon.
The latest chapter in the franchise — Fast X — is now playing in theaters everywhere. Click here to pick up tickets!