Vin Diesel bursts onto our screens this week in his latest action-fantasy epic, The Last Witch Hunter. He'll be swinging flaming blades as Kaulder, the witch hunter warrior cursed with immortality and destined to spend centuries obliterating evil. Simply put, this looks amazing: high-octane fantasy at its best, sword fights, curses, and good versus evil.
Vin Diesel is best known for his straight-up action roles: The Fast and the Furious franchise, xXx, Last Man Standing, and even more. In his long history of action (and the occasional comedy or drama), there is only one role that falls into the fantasy realm. Riddick, (the lead character in Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick, and Riddick) is a sci-fi mercenary with a well-hidden heart, and he's also one of Diesel's favorite characters. In fact, he loved the franchise so much that he now owns it (in return for his Tokyo Drift cameo) and refinanced his own home to make the third film.
He's well-known for being an avid Dungeons & Dragons player (even convincing Judi Dench to play with him on set!), a comic book reader, and a gamer (he has his own video game company: Tigon Studios). Essentially, if there's some geeky escapism to be had, Vin Diesel will be there. He even wrote the foreword to 30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons and Dragons.
Wait, What's D&D?
If you've always thought of Vin Diesel as little more than a fast-driving, hard-punching gangster-type, the idea of him passionately playing a tabletop game may be a totally new concept. So what's this game he's been playing with Dame Dench?
Dungeons & Dragons is one of a range of role-playing games (RPGs). A Dungeon Master sets up a storyline in a fictional realm, and the other players band together and roll the dice to try and solve puzzles, win battles, and win treasure. Literally "rolling the dice." When a decision is made in the game, the deciding player rolls, and the number he or she lands on determines the outcome of his action. Gameplay is also affected by the character themselves. D&D players create a character for themselves and their race, skills, and abilities are determined by their character's story and abilities.
It may sound complex—it's certainly a little more involved than Jenga!—but as with most games, it makes perfect sense when playing. And unlike most games, characters are ongoing, and players maintain them even after one round of play. RPGs are a chance to invent a persona that you can build and play for years.
Still not totally sure what's going on? Check out this video of Diesel playing with the Geek & Sundry crew, in a Last Witch Hunter-themed game.
So What Does This Mean For The Last Witch Hunter?
First off, there's no doubt this will be another passion project for Vin, a true fantasy devotee. How could such a D&D fan not leap at the chance to bring this world to life? RPG fans live these types of adventures in their imagination whenever they play, but it's not something that they get to take out into the world (with the exception of LARPing or creating a cosplay of your D&D character). With The Last Witch Hunter, Diesel gets to play a full-blown live action version of his avatar.
In fact, the character of Kaulder was specifically created around Diesel's D&D character, Melkor, a drow (dark elf) witch hunter with spell-casting abilities. Kaulder, on the other hand, is human (but immortal) and a witch hunter with spell-casting abilities. The only real changes have been made to race and to the setting; The Last Witch Hunter takes place in our world and during our time.
All of which means that Kaulder isn't a character that has been created for the movie. Diesel isn't being handed the character description and then fleshing it out before filming. He's been building this character for decades, developing his personality, his backstory, everything about him. In terms of bringing real depth to the role, there could really be no better way.
Vin Diesel's Commitment to Kaulder Is a Great Sign
In an interview with Hitfix, Diesel revealed not only that the film was written and designed around the concepts of D&D (and Melkor in particular), but also with a the hope in mind for an eventual franchise. Now, this decision is predicated on a wide variety of variables, and we shouldn't get too ahead of ourselves. But, the fact that Diesel's seems committed to the role for the long haul (however long that may be) is extremely promising.
Personally, I'm hoping for a huge success, and a Dungeons & Dragons Cinematic Universe in our futures. I would love to see the film bring D&D into mainstream popularity alongside comic books. There's more than enough room for a little more geeky goodness in the world!
The Last Witch Hunter hits theaters tomorrow!