Quickies: Vin Diesel's Multi-Facial
In everything he does, there are two Vin Diesels. There is a big action star Vin Diesel, bulging muscles, extreme sports, fast cars and beautiful women. His counterpart is giant dork Vin Diesel, the one who plays Dungeons and Dragons, voices a comic book character who only says three words in hopes of taking on a bigger more important role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s future, starred in and produced The Last Witch Hunter, and keeps the Riddick movies alive for their passionate fan base. Social Media Vin Diesel has embraced things like Facebook Live and lets you in on the glamour and glitz of a movie premiere and all the fun that seems like; and before those, there was Vin Diesel who performed a sad slow karaoke rendition of Rihanna's ‘Stay’ as a Valentine’s Day card, like a smitten teenager without shame or two nickels to rub together for a box of chocolates.
This mystique of the two Vin’s extends to his personal life, and his identity as a mixed race man in America. Diesel has spent his professional career being mostly cast outside of the context of racial identity; his mother, white and of European lineage, and his father, a man of color that Diesel never met. Diesel also spent his childhood with a African American father figure, an influential man who helped Diesel in identifying himself and his dreams. This confidence in who he is and living colorblind of the world has made Diesel one of the most popular and bankable performers in the world, but it once had him awash in talent without a venue to display it.
By the mid 90’s, DIesel had been batting about Hollywood for several years, mostly as an extra and in commercials. Frustrated by the lack of consistent work, he took the very 90’s step of creating his own film to showcase his talents and multi-hyphenate abilities as a Director, Screenwriter and Star. Diesel channeled these frustrations and energy into a short that skewed the Hollywood audition process, became a calling card for his ability, and pre-empt many of the questions about Diesel’s identity that fans and gossip writers would return for years. Diesel’s 1996 short Multi-Facial is a wonderful time capsule of the mid 90’s, and an intriguing portrait of a young artist.
Multi-Facial is less written and more curated on conversations that Diesel experienced all too often. It’s not an astonishing piece of filmmaking, but it’s an astonishing essay of what one man faced. It’s extremely humbling for a self made project; Diesel is the star but he’s rarely star like, blending into surroundings, casting attractive scene partners to play against. Like the questions of his ethnicity, Diesel does his part to blend in from role to role, opening as a very stereotypical ‘Meatball’ type, transitioning to a steamy Latin Lover, and producing an enthusiastic version of the authentic ‘Urban’ experience a casting director would want to see. It’s not these audition scenes that allow Diesel to engage as an actor, but the interstitials of an actor spending all their time auditioning; the doubt, the frustration, and the closing monologue that allows him to tap into depths of professional ability and personal strife that leave you somber and open to the frustrating reality he endures in the final stinger.
Multi-Facial can’t be denied for it’s impact on Diesel’s career. It allowed him the calling card for other’s to see his talent, and is considered the catalyst for Steven Spielberg’s casting of Diesel in Saving Private Ryan. Another self directed effort would follow before Diesel would break thru via Saving Private Ryan in 1998, The Iron Giant in 1999, and Pitch Black in 2000. 2001’s The Fast And The Furious would bring the worldwide box office success and tentpole stardom that became synonymous with Diesel, and solidified his ability to make any movie he wanted.
Multi-Facial is an answer if you’ve ever had a conversation about Diesel that was more substantial than ‘Does Vin slay ass in Fast and Furious or what?!?!?’. It’s essential to the 90’s in a way that the theme song from Portlandia wanted you to keep the dream alive. And it’s important to the understanding of another set of Vin’s: Vin, the artist, creating universally appealing characters with depth based on his many life experiences; and Vin, the creator, who knows the hard work in achieving dreams and wants that for his friends, his family and his fans won over with charm, authenticity and a lot of hard work.