The Last Witch Hunter is Summit/Lionsgate's upcoming fantasy/action/horror epic starring Vin Diesel, and after the trailer came out today, casual fans of the action hero might be a little surprised to see him in a role like this. Sure, he's rocking his usual smolder and has a whole lot of butt-kicking to do (to save the world, no less!) but this isn't your standard action flick. Check out the official teaser trailer below thanks to MTV:
The Last Witch Hunter follows Kaulder, an immortal spiritual warrior who is called to save the world against monsters, demons, and of course - witches. While he's got some incredibly impressive weapons to play with and the gorgeous Chloe (Rose Leslie) at his side, he also has to deal with an eternity of solitude as the last of his kind. We've got elements of the supernatural and the occult, warriors of fate, monsters and demons and what look like historical flashbacks.
With Vin Diesel starring, we're sure to see some insanely impressive battles, but beyond the weapons and the larger-than-life demons, we could see a huge range of other genres, from comedy to drama, from the family friendly to the heart-string-tugging emotional.
Don't believe me? Well, if you are only thinking of Diesel driving fast cars and taking down drug cartels, it might be time to learn a little bit more about him. Let's take a look at some of his lesser-known back catalog to see how much of a chameleon the big man really is, and why The Last Witch Hunter will be the Fall fantasy movie to look out for.
1. He's a writer, director and producer as well as an actor.
Don't let the brawn fool you, this guy has some serious brain. Diesel got his start in the business as a screenwriter, having studied English at Hunter's College in New York (although he dropped out to move to LA).
He got his first big break in the industry through his own film projects Multi-Facial and Strays, and he now has his own production company (One Race Films), record label (Race Track Records) and video game development company (Tigon Studios). He has worked as a producer in many of his best known franchises, including XXX, Riddick and, of course, Fast and the Furious.
2. He's not afraid to do funny
I don't just mean the kind of raised-eyebrow smart-assery that we see in his action films, either. There are a couple films in his history that are out and out funny, and it's worth remembering that he's not always the smoldering serious one. The Pacifier (2005) is a straight up slapstick Disney comedy, where he plays a disgraced Navy Seal turned glorified babysitter. It's not the most high-brow humor (there's a baby. Ergo, there's a lot of poop jokes.) but it's fun for kids and explains his intimidating size without requiring any real violence.
A much more adult comedy under his belt is the 2006 film Find Me Guilty. Based on a true story, it follows a mobster defending himself in court, and doing surprisingly well despite an entirely unorthodox approach. I'm constantly surprised that this isn't talked about more often, as although it may not be a perfect film, it's sweet, funny, and an incredibly interesting departure from the GI Joe norm.
3. He's A Bit Of A Fantasy Fan
It's commonly acknowledged that when it comes to the recent surge in comic book and fantasy adaptations, fans want to see actors who have as much love for the characters as they do. So when it comes to films grounded in the worlds of monsters and epic battles, we want someone who loves those concepts as much as we do... say, a Dungeons and Dragons player?
Vin Diesel has been a D&D man for a long time, even paying homage to it in the XXX films, where one of his tattoos for the role was the name of his D&D character. On top of which, he is so well-known as a player that he wrote the foreword to the book "Thirty Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons and Dragons", and apparently taught Judi Dench to play on the set of Riddick.
4. And He Clearly Loves Playing Fantasy and Sci Fi Characters
He had admitted that one of his favorite characters to play was Riddick, in the franchise that now covers three movies as well as multiple video games and a novelization. This is definitely still an action role, with plenty of fighting and firing to keep the fans happy, but it's also very clearly sci-fi, with plenty of different worlds and planets, space mercs, alien races and power verging on magic.
Diesel loved this franchise (and it's fans) so much that when a third live-action movie wasn't going to be bankrolled by the studio that put out the first two, he took matters into his own hands. He took out loans, and even re-mortgaged his house to get the film made, saying that playing the character "felt like coming home".
Babylon AD also crossed firmly into the sci-fi genre.
5. He's Had Some Surprisingly Sweet Roles
Just like his comedic turns, you may not expect Vin Diesel to have any roles in his history that are straight-up-sweet, but did you know that back in the 90s he was the voice of the Iron Giant? That's right, that adorably innocent robot who became friends with a boy (back when children were allowed to play in the woods and meet friendly aliens, of course) is none other than Vin Diesel.
Much more recently, he was voice to another tear-jerker of a character in the form of Groot for Guardians of the Galaxy. Ok, Groot also did his fair share of ass-kicking, but who didn't shed a little tear at the end when he told his friends that "we are Groot"? It takes a lot to convey that level of emotion with a grand total of four words in your entire script, and he did it brilliantly.
Add to this his forays into more dramatic territory with movies like Saving Private Ryan, A Man Apart and Boiler Room, and this gun toting action hero starts to seem like his size eclipses his range.
I'm looking forward to The Last Witch Hunter (and his next project Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk) showcasing how far he can take us on screen, and can't wait for this fantasy epic bring in fans of more than just his martial arts and broad shoulders.