Vin Diesel had a few feature films under his belt — including Saving Private Ryan — before he starred in 2001's The Fast and the Furious, but it was the street racing film that launched him to superstardom. According to Box Office Mojo, the movie made over $207 million worldwide on a $38 million budget. All the sequels performed better than their predecessor, except for 2006's Tokyo Drift.
Diesel won moviegoers over with his portrayal of Dominic Toretto, a street racer who forms an unlikely bond with an undercover cop, played by the late Paul Walker. The duo had an undeniable chemistry, and the first film made the pair friends for life until Walker's untimely death in 2013.
With eight current films in the franchise, and three more in the chamber, it's hard to remember which characters of Dom's squad were in which movies. They came and went quite frequently, and not all the memorable names from the current Fast family have been in the gig since day one. Some have stepped away for a movie or two. Shockingly enough, Diesel didn't reprise his role as Toretto in the second film, 2 Fast 2 Furious, a move that almost cost fans the entire Fast franchise. The reason for Diesel's absence in the first sequel is pretty clear.
Vin Diesel thought a sequel would hurt the first film
Diesel confirmed that he did not join the sequel for The Fast and the Furious because he was afraid it would taint the first movie. In an interview with #Legend in 2017, he explained, "If we 'sequelised' it the way studios were doing at the time, just slapping a story together, I'd ruin the chance of that first one becoming a classic." Diesel also admitted he was offered $25 million to return as Dom, but it just wasn't about the money for him.
"After I made the first one, I remember being in a room full of big CEOs and the people who owned the franchise," he continued. "We were at a dinner in London celebrating the success of the film. One of the guys said to me, 'We have to do this again.' I remember telling everyone at the table, 'You can't do this again. You can't touch it. You have to leave it alone.'"
2 Fast 2 Furious was still a success without Diesel, making over $236 million worldwide, per Box Office Mojo. Diesel had a small cameo in the third film of the series, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, and officially came back on board for the fourth film, Fast & Furious. "After The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, it came to me: why don't I be the producer? Why don't I oversee the work and write and create what I want for this film?" Diesel said about rejoining the franchise.
Since the fourth film, Diesel has appeared in every sequel and it's hard to imagine the Fast and Furious franchise without its patriarch.