"Riddick" is the third movie in a series that began with the 2000 sci-fi film "Pitch Black" and 2004’s "The Chronicles of Riddick," all from writer/director David Twohy. Vin Diesel reprises his role as the anti-hero Riddick, a dangerous, escaped convict wanted by every bounty hunter in the known galaxy. The infamous Riddick has been left for dead on a sun-scorched planet that appears to be lifeless. Soon, however, he finds himself fighting for survival against alien predators more lethal than any human he’s encountered. The only way off is for Riddick to activate an emergency beacon and alert mercenaries who rapidly descend to the planet in search of their bounty.
The first ship to arrive carries a new breed of merc, more lethal and violent, while the second is captained by a man whose pursuit of Riddick is more personal. With time running out and a storm on the horizon that no one could survive, his hunters won’t leave the planet without Riddick’s head as their trophy. At Comic-Con International 2013 in San Diego, sneak-preview clips of "Riddick" were publicly shown for the first time during a "Riddick" panel, which featured Twohy, Diesel and Katee Sackhoff, who plays Dahl, one of the tough mercenaries who are at odds with Riddick. Here is what they said during the Q&A part of the panel.
How did you come up with the story for "Riddick"? What were the challenges?
Twohy: Once we realized that we were not going to be a studio picture, and we were going to be an independent picture, it was both daunting and liberating for us. And the process became very streamlined. Creative meetings were in Vin's kitchen. I would sit on the counter. Vin would walk around, trying not to smoke his American Spirits. And I would throw out ideas, and we would spend the whole night, until 2 or 3 in the morning, trying to top those ideas.
And we finally settled in on a survivor story. We didn't have all the money in the world to spend on this one, but a survival story was the way to go. So, very streamlined. I wrote a spec script. We took it down to Berlin, sold it in overseas markets, brought it back home, and got Universal to come on board again as the American distributor. It was a very streamlined, liberating process. I think we did a pretty good job of paying off past debts and moving into new territory too.
In the "Fast & Furious" movies, your Dom Toretto character is driven by family. What do you think drives "Riddick"?
Diesel: That's a very good question. I guess there are very few similarities between the two different characters. I think at the core of the Riddick character, he's driven by a quest for identity. We're introduced to this character in "Pitch Black," and he's kind of mocking where he comes from for his own amusement. And we threw out the mythology, learning more and more about who he is and where he's from.
Katee, you have a lot of sci-fi fans because of your role on "Battlestar Galactica." When you get material like "Riddick," what is the barometer for you to sign on to do the movie?
Sackhoff: First of all, science-fiction fans are the most loyal fans in the world. It's true. They'll watch things that you actually should give them their money back for. And [they] love it, create drinking games out of it and stuff. Really, the most important thing for me is, "Would I want to see this project? Would I want to see this movie?" I have been a fan of Vin and "Pitch Black" and "The Chronicles of Riddick." I jumped on the bandwagon from the very beginning. So when ["Riddick"] came up, I was like, "What do I need to do to be in this? I'll do anything, pretty much." And it was amazing.
I loved Dahl. I loved how strong she was. I love that she didn't really apologize for anything. I don't see a weakness in her. And that's something I hadn't played before. I usually play vulnerability with a character. With Dahl, there was no vulnerability, other than that she was a woman. So I loved it. I loved the script, and I loved that I got to shoot really big guns, which is always fun for me. I think my gun was the biggest one!
Vin, you're one of the few celebrities who admits that you love playing role-playing games. Has your life as a role player influenced the way you approach a character such as Riddick?
Diesel: Yeah, very much so. "Dungeons and Dragons," for me, was a training ground for imagination in so many ways. I have friends in Hollywood that tease me and say that I'm attempting to DM [dungeon master] Hollywood. When we played "Dungeons and Dragons," I had already started acting, but it was this wonderful gig before there was "Blizzard" or before there was anything online.
We would all act out these characters that we were playing. And it didn't take more than a couple of hours before you really believed you were this witch hunter, and the dice that you were rolling was really your weapon. But I think the "Dungeons and Dragons," the fantasy role-playing world, ended up playing itself out in the way that I approached the mythology.
You asked a very good question in the beginning, which was, "What kind of considerations did we take? How did we succeed in honoring both the mythology of 'The Chronicles of Riddick' and the core character drive of 'Pitch Black'?" I assumed that kind of DM approach to the problems kind of helped us, because it was something that we were very, very conscious of. We (David and I) really enjoyed the idea that we were expanding this mythology when we did "The Chronicles of Riddick." And yet, at the same time, in order to do a film of that size and that budget, we had to go PG-13.
And we had a long period of time when we couldn't get this movie ["Riddick"] made. And we were struggling. And we were telling the studio that this is something that the whole audience did connect to and something we as artists connected to. And so when the audience asked for this movie to be rated R, it actually helped us get this movie made, because we didn't have to spend $200 million to make the movie.
Why am I telling you that? Because one of the thing we're really proud of here is ["Riddick"] maintains the style of "Pitch Black" and the tempo of "Pitch Black" while still servicing the mythology. So if you're following the mythology, you can only imagine where you'll be at the end of this movie. And if you've been following this mythology, you know that eventually, you will end up in the Underverse.
Vin, fight scenes are what you do best. Do they come naturally to you, or are they difficult for you?
Diesel: The fight sequences, do they come easy? Nothing comes easy when I'm in character, because everything I do in character, I take seriously. And I have to say something about this [Riddick] character. You know, I was just traveling around the world talking about Dom Toretto [for "Fast & Furious 6"]. Dom Toretto is a character who has a certian amount of anger in him, but ultimately he has love and a regard for family.
The inside of Riddick is so scary, that now that I have kids, there's a part of me that feels guilty for having such a darkness in that character. And I look at what he's doing, and I go, "That wasn't cool. He shouldn't have killed that guy." And I'm telling you, it's only because I have kids now.
But the physical aspect of these characters is a little bit more natural for me, but the emotion that you put behind the fighting is really what the weighty part of that process. That classic fight that we had in "Fast Five," between Dwayne Johnson and myself, that was a fight we shot over five days, but what was so taxing was all the emotional component to fight sequence.
So, fight sequence to me isn't just about the athleticism. It so often is about what the emotion that is behind it and how willing you are to really, really challenge that emotion or really take that emotion to that place so you're feeling a certain intensity for the whole time when you're shooting the actual physical scenes. I hope that answers your question. But the physical is always backed by [he makes a heart shape with his hands].
Katee, how did you bring your unique energy to the Dahl character?
Sackhoff: I think there's an element to Dahl that inside of her, we talked a lot about Dahl before we even started. We talked about back story, that you won't necessarily get to see in dialogue but that she kind of carries with her. There's a lot about Dahl that is trying to prove something to not necessarily herself but to the people in her life.
So I think there's a lightness to it that she brings to it. She's funny and ironic, but there is a hurt inside of her that is incredibly dark. And I think that she's constantly punishing herself and putting herself in circumstances that she feels she deserves.
I think she there's a side to her that understands the darkness in Riddick. I don't necessarily think it's compassion she feels for him, but it's a kinship where she feels there's a piece of her that finally makes sense because she's seen it in somebody else. There is lightness and darkness to her.
Vin, can you tell us one thing that we don't know yet about Riddick from these films?
Diesel: That's tricky, because that's the next movie ...
Vin, it seems like you become the face of every movie franchise that you've done. What's your vision for any Marvel movies that you might be doing?
Diesel: [He laughs.]You asked the one question I'm not supposed to say anything about! What do you think?
Twohy: [He says to the audience member who asked the question] What do you want it to be? Always put that stuff back on the audience.
Diesel: What I will say is that there is some very big news coming at the end of this month. Poor Marvel! Poor, poor Marvel!
For more info: "Riddick" website