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Two brawny, bald, box office titans pitted against each other in a movie mega-franchise. What could possibly go wrong? A lot.
It seems like forever now Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, 49, and Vin Diesel, 54, have been publicly feuding. They've talked trash in interviews, on social media and face-to-face as their "candy ass" dispute gained momentum.
The latest twist now years later, however, is Diesel publicly reaching out to Johnson, via social media, to get him to appear in Fast & Furious's 10th film. Though we'll see if it happens — as Johnson didn't mind Diesel being the butt of a joke in his new film, Red Notice.
So how did they get from franchise co-stars to being in one of the longest-running celebrity grudge matches? Here's how it played out, from start until... no finish in sight.
2010: It's reported that Johnson will join Diesel's Fast and Furious franchise for the fifth film. It's described as a "match-up between action icons," so it could really only go downhill from there.
2011: The superstars share the screen in the heist action film, Fast Five, and it becomes the highest-grossing film in the franchise. Critics praised Johnson, who plays newbie Hobbs, for reigniting an aging franchise and called having Diesel, movie fave Dom Toretto, and Johnson on screen together a "cosmic event."
2013: Furious 6 comes out — and does even better than Fast Five. Their rival characters become allies in this version. Powerhouses working together? Win-win.
2015: While Johnson thought Hercules may interfere with his participation, it worked out and Hobbes joins Dom and the gang for Furious 7 which is released this year. However, production was a rough one as Paul Walker, F&F star and Diesel's close friend, died in November 2013 as it's being made. While the film does really well — it has the fifth-highest opening of all time — it also seemingly marks the end of Johnson and Diesel's cordial working relationship on the set.
2016: The Fate of the Furious, or F8 is underway.
Separately, Johnson hints at an F&F spin-off around Hobbs and Jason Statham's Shaw to help grow the franchise.
Johnson then blows up the perception of a happy "family" with a since-deleted social media post putting on blast unnamed "candy asses" on the set whose work ethic contradicts his own:
“There’s no other franchise that gets my blood boiling more than this one. An incredibly hard-working crew," Johnson writes. "Universal Studios Entertainment has been great partners as well. My female co-stars are always amazing, and I love 'em. My male co-workers, however, are a different story. Some conduct themselves as standup men and true professionals, while others don’t. The ones that don't are too chicken s*** to do anything about it anyway. Candy asses."
There are reports Johnson and Diesel hold a secret meeting to hash out their differences.
After production wraps, Diesel shares a cryptic post saying he promises he'd "tell [fans] everything. Everything."
Months later, Johnson speaks out about his candy asses post, telling the Los Angeles Times, "I was very clear with what I said. I’ve been in the game a long time. Would Universal [Pictures] have preferred that didn't happen? Sure, we talked about it. The irony is after that, and as they do their tracking and all their analysis, the interest [in the film] shot through the roof to a whole other level."
2017: After initial speculation about who Johnson was referring to (Diesel? Tyrese?) with the candy-ass drama, it's clear it was Diesel. His take, however, is that it's a spat between "two alphas" being magnified by the media.
"I don't think the world really realizes how close we are, in a weird way," Diesel tells USA Today. "I think some things may be blown out of proportion. I don’t think that was [Johnson's] intention. I know he appreciates how much I work this franchise. In my house, he's Uncle Dwayne."
Diesel adds that any drama was merely creative tension on the set — and, as producer, he takes the heat for it.
"I protect the franchise," he says in the same interview. "I protect everybody including Dwayne. I protected Dwayne more than he’ll ever know. And it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t have to know. But he appreciates it. He knows it. Dwayne has only got one Vin in his life. Dwayne Johnson only has one big brother in this film world and thats me."
However, he calls himself "the first multicultural megastar in Hollywood," making it clear he sees The Rock in the second spot — and the feud grows.
They both attend the F8 premiere but don't pose for photos together.
Diesel tells Entertainment Tonight, "We still love each other, that's my boy. When I was making that difficult decision, should there be an 8 or not, I called [Johnson] and he said, 'Brother, I will be there shoulder to shoulder with you to make sure it's the best movie in history.' And he delivered."
Meanwhile, Johnson tells ET he and Diesel had "differing philosophies."
Johnson finalized a deal for Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw — and adds more fuel to the fire by tagging his social media announcement post: "#NewOpportunities" and "#CandyAssesNeedNotApply."
Tyrese is upset with Johnson that Fast & Furious 9 is pushed back to allow for the spin-off, but Vin defends the decision, saying, "I know there has been a lot of speculation as to why the Fast 9 release date was pushed... but it would be unfair to say it is anyone's fault."
While teasing the spin-off, Johnson tells Entertainment Weekly, "At the end of the day, the only thing I want to do is make a great movie for the fans. I never ever get wrapped up in the sludge of the bulls— that can be connected at times to a franchise. So I never get dragged into it. I never respond to any of that."
2018: Fans notice that Johnson and Diesel shared no scenes in F8.
"That is correct," Johnson tells Rolling Stone. "We were not in any scenes together."
He goes on to say their disagreement is about professionalism and says they had "a few discussions, including an important face-to-face in my trailer. And what I came to realize is that we have a fundamental difference in philosophies on how we approach moviemaking and collaborating. It took me some time, but I’m grateful for that clarity. Whether we work together again or not... I wish him all the best, and I harbor no ill will there, just because of the clarity we have. Actually, you can erase that last part about 'no ill will.' We'll just keep it with the clarity."
2019: The Hobbs & Shaw film comes out, which is another success.
Johnson posts a thank you to fans, crew and" lastly, but not least, I want to thank brother Vin for your support of Hobbs & Shaw." He ends with, "I'll be seeing you soon, Toretto," hinting he'd be back for F9.
Johnson later confirms he wouldn't be F9, but wouldn't rule out F10, saying Hobbs and Dom had "unfinished business."
2021: F9: The Fast Saga comes out in June and it's the first film Johnson wasn't in since he joined the franchise.
Diesel is asked about the Johnson drama and suggests it was something he created to get a better performance out of The Rock.
"It was a tough character to embody, the Hobbs character," Diesel tells Men's Health. "My approach at the time was a lot of tough love to assist in getting that performance where it needed to be. 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. That took a lot of work. 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."
Johnson reacts Diesel's Fellini comments, saying "I think everyone had a laugh at that — and I’ll leave it at that." Though he says he's done with F&F films. "I wish them well on Fast 9. And I wish them the best of luck on Fast 10 and Fast 11 and the rest of the Fast & Furious movies they do that will be without me."
A few months after that, Johnson addresses the "bulls***" with his rival, saying the most he has to date.
He tells Vanity Fair he only agreed to do F8 if there were no scenes with Diesel, saying, "I wanted to forgo drama. I thought that that was the best thing to do. For everybody."
As for the candy-ass post, Johnson says "nothing specific happened" the day he posted it "just the same old s***." While he "meant what I said," he says he shouldn't have shared it "because at the end of the day, that goes against my DNA... I take care of that kind of bulls*** away from the public." However, he says nearly "every single crew member found their way to me and either quietly thanked me or sent me a note."
Johnson addresses their infamous face-to-face meeting over the candy-ass callout, saying, "I wouldn’t call it a peaceful meeting... He and I had a good chat in my trailer, and it was out of that chat that it really became just crystal clear that we are two separate ends of the spectrum. And agreed to leave it there."
Johnson says "philosophically" they're "two different people" and "approach the business of moviemaking in two very different ways." He says he works hard every day and treats everyone, top to bottom respectfully, implying Diesel doesn't.
Johnson also responds to some of Diesel's past comments: about being two alpha males ("sounds like him to say that, sure"), calling Johnson Hollywood's second "multicultural megastar" behind him ("he talks like that") and Diesel saying he's Johnson's protective big brother ("I have one big brother and it's my half brother"). As for the Fellini comments, "One part of me feels like there's no way I would dignify any of that bulls*** with an answer. But here’s the truth: I've been around the block a lot of times. Unlike him, I did not come from the world of theater. And, you know, I came up differently and was raised differently. And I came from a completely different culture and environment. And I go into every project giving it my all. And if I feel that there's some things that need to be squared away and handled and taken care of, then I do it. And it's just that simple. So when I read that, just like everybody else, I laughed.... And somewhere I'm sure Fellini is laughing too."
Johnson's new Netflix movie, Red Notice, comes out and includes a joke, said by Ryan Reynolds, about Diesel — who is not in the film.
"You know, Ryan loves to improv, and I love that," Johnson tells Entertainment Tonight. "I've known Ryan for a long time, 20 years. Man, we go way back. I've known Ryan longer than anyone in Hollywood, and so that's how close we are and the Vin joke, audiences love it, very, very funny. But that was Ryan. He came up with that."
Johnson says on SiriusXM’s The Jess Cagle Show, "People think these jokes come from me and they actually don’t." However, fans offer him a lot of material. "You’d be surprised with how many people come to me with... 'I've got another great Vin Diesel joke,' I'm sure you do. [They’re] always funny."
In the same interview, Diesel suggests that Hobbs may get killed off in a Hobbs & Shaw sequel.
Diesel posts an open letter to Johnson to end their feud — and sign on for Fast & Furious 10. He makes a plea to "little brother Dwayne" and the man his kids still call "Uncle Dwayne" asking them to bury the hatchet in order for him to fulfill his promise to the late Walker (whom he calls "Pablo") and give the franchise a fitting end.
"I say this out of love... but you must show up, do not leave the franchise idle you have a very important role to play. Hobbs can't be played by no other. I hope that you rise to the occasion and fulfill your destiny."