American actor Mark Sinclair, popularly known as Vin Diesel is the cover star for Flaunt Magazine’s Home issue, sharing his rise as a director and actor, the deeply personal connection towards family and embracing vulnerability and compassion.
Vin Diesel might be the dudeliest dude in contemporary cinema. And if there by some chance is a dudelier dude, I guarantee, said archetype of man has appeared in at least one of the franchises Diesel stars in. Hell, the two of them have probably punched each other in the face on film.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. When you read up on Vin Diesel, descriptions of his craft as an actor are buried under lavish descriptions of the most salient features of his dude-bro man body: Gleaming muscles! Tough-guy shaved head! Voice so deep it ripples, like the tectonic rumbling of a world-destroying asteroid. He is so often defined as Vin Diesel: paragon of masculinity. Which presents a strange seeming contradiction: Vin Diesel’s persona is so hyper-masculinized that the media’s treatment of him goes almost the full 180, nearly landing him the very same treatment that many actresses endure—so preoccupied with the work of the body that they grow incurious about the life of the mind.
I’m not the first person to notice this. Iconic director Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico) made the same point to Diesel when they worked together on 2006’s Find Me Guilty. In a 2017 New York Times interview, Diesel recalls Lumet telling him: “You will suffer what beautiful women have suffered in this industry for 100 years. You will suffer for your action-hero physique.” On the one hand, I don’t know about suffering. Diesel seems to be doing just fine, with two major releases slotted for the first half of 2020. He plays the title character in Bloodshot, Valiant Comics’ first cinematic adaptation, out in March 13; in May, Fast & Furious 9, the tenth installment in the franchise. Diesel stars in and produced both.
But then again, the comparison is real. I find myself fighting the impulse to ask him every single dumbass question I’ve ever hated a reporter for asking an actress. What’s your workout routine? Do you ever get to eat bagels? Do people underestimate you because of your body? Is it a burden, having worked so hard to create the kind of body that will allow you to thrive in the industry, that people will become fixated on your body they might forget about the person who lives inside it? Seriously, how much do you want a bagel right now, because I can order you one on GrubHub. Vin Diesel’s body is the unspoken, unavoidable context for our conversation, as it is context for so many of his films. Body as commodity, body as signifier, body as fetish object, body as fitspo, body as multi-billion dollar, multiple-franchise box office draw. And it would be all-too-easy to focus so hard on the trademark tectonic-plate rumble of Diesel’s voice that you miss what he’s actually using it to say, most of which falls well outside the narrowly-defined spectrum we’ve been taught to expect from tough guys and action stars. Over the course of our interview, Diesel shifts between talking like a tenured film professor, interrogating questions of craft and story sense, to espousing sweet mantras from the Fred Rogers school of life coaching. (Though, presumably, Diesel is cardigan-free on the other end of the call.) Read also: Taraji P. Henson Covers Essence Magazine’s March/April 2020 Issue
“The best version of myself has always been just a pure message of love,” he tells me. “I really, really, really, really, really, really believe that. At my core.” And he as much as anyone seems aware of the complex relationship between physical and emotional strength; that the same physique that invites narrowed expectations simultaneously liberates him from those expectations. “Maybe because I was a bouncer in New York City, I don’t have to front to be tough. And because of that, I have more freedom to be—loving? If that makes any sense?” It makes every kind of sense. Photos Credit: FM