By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com July 13, 2011 at 12:56PM
It's not that the movie star is dead, as such, it's that domestic audiences (viewers abroad are still very much in thrall to "the star") are less and less willing to watch actors outside of the genre in which they made their name. It's arguable, for instance, whether Hugh Jackman is much of a draw when he's not playing Wolverine, while any hint of intelligence in an Adam Sandler film sees the box office takings plummet, and Denzel Washington is sensible enough to stick to the middle-brow thriller: when he tries something else ("The Great Debaters," "Antwone Fisher," "The Preacher's Wife") the box office plummets.
So, the stardom of Vin Diesel isn't the clear-cut fact you might think for the man who topped one of the biggest films of the year: outside of "The Fast and The Furious" franchise, "xXx" (which is virtually part of the same series), and surprise family comedy "The Pacifier," his starring efforts have mostly tanked at the box office, with few managing to take over $50 million. But despite the lack of success of films like "A Man Apart" and "Babylon A.D," "Fast Five" has made Diesel firmly bankable again, so long as he sticks within established genres.
As Diesel's gearing up for a September shoot on a third, lower-budget stab at "Riddick," he's signed on to another 'Pacifier'-style family comedy, "The Machine," and, according to Variety, he's now going to star and produce in a new, untitled action film. His company One Race Productions has teamed with U.K. production company The Ink Factory, and hired Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell, whose sole big-screen credit to date is the recent Liam Neeson guilty pleasure "Unknown," to write the script.
The duo previously worked with Diesel on a film adaptation of his videogame "Wheelman" -- although that disappeared when the game was released in 2009 to lukewarm reviews and disappointing sales -- also penned a possible remake of Sydney Pollack and Paul Schrader's "The Yakuza" for Warner Bros, and wrote an adaptation of the Warren Ellis comic "Gravel" for Legendary Pictures. Obviously, with the log-line firmly under wraps, it's hard to know what to expect, but if it's something as gloriously, knowingly stupid as "Unknown," Diesel may have found the people to bring him a home-grown hit of his own.