How a Smart Deal Got Vin Diesel the Rights to Riddick

It required him to make a brief cameo in a movie

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Vin Diesel in Riddick
Jan Thijs / Universal Pictures

Vin Diesel, it seems, has the brains to go along with his considerable brawn.

As we learn this week from The Hollywood Reporter, the tough-guy actor showed a nice bit business savvy in 2006, when he shot a very brief cameo in The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift. While such appearances provide easy money to big-name actors (and give a movie a dash of credibility), Diesel negotiated an unusual deal with Universal studios: the rights to the space-faring character named Richard B. Riddick.

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Diesel, understandably, has always had a soft spot for Riddick. His first portrayal of the character, in 2000’s Pitch Black, proved to be a breakout role for him—leading to his being cast in The Fast and the Furious the following year and eventual superstardom.  The 2004 sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick, didn’t fare so well, pulling in just $16 million more than the film’s $100 million budget, essentially ending any hope of Diesel creating a long-standing franchise out of this anti-hero character.

Well, that was true until the actor traded out his appearance fee for the movie rights and teamed with writer-director David Twohy to craft a new—and more modestly budgeted—story. Not without a few financial hiccups during production—this movie has an underdog story of its own to tell—Diesel’s love of Riddick returns to the screen on Sept. 6 with the film simply titled Riddick (pictured). This time, though, Diesel hopes owning the love of a character has actual financial payoffs.