Every new generation demands its own action heroes. The Seventies had Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood: the Eighties brought Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson: the Nineties gave us Costner and Cruise. Then came the Noughties, complete with computer-generated super-SFX and anti-establishment, skateboard-slacker attitudes. A new kind of hero was called for, a man with the physique for the new extremes of stunt-filled action. He must have a true heart but have his morals warped and emotions hammered by the soul-destroying deceit of what passes for civilisation today. And he must, in a Western society gradually driving racism to the peripheries, be multi-ethnic. Step forward Vin Diesel: muscle-man thespian of no distinct ethnic origin- the first new cinematic superstar of the new Millennium.
He was born Mark Vincent on the 18th of July, 1967, in New York City. Never knowing his biological father, he was told by his astrologer mother Delora (holder of a master's degree in psychology) that he had many different cultural roots - African-American, Italian and possibly Cuban, amongst others. "I've always had less information than I would like to have had", he said later. Matters of identity were further confused by his twin brother, Paul, now a film editor, being blonde with blue eyes.
Young Mark was raised, along with Paul and two younger siblings, in the Westbeth project in Greenwich Village, a government-funded block peopled only by artists. Here he received a major grounding in the imaginative arts, not least from his adoptive father, Irving, an actor and drama teacher.
The kids would go swimming down at the Carmine Street pool, and play hide and seek on the broken-down piers on the Hudson River. And they'd get involved in the project's various projects. Mark made his starring debut onstage when only 5. He wasn't supposed to be the star, he was supposed to be a horse in a kids' production of Cinderella. But Paul, cast as Prince Charming, suffered stage fright after the first act and Mark, never slow in coming forward, stepped into the lead role.
Financially, times were usually hard. "Nobody had money", recalls Vin "so there was this underlying resentment towards money". Consequently, people would make their own entertainment. At 12, Mark became involved in a Sunday night game of Dungeons & Dragons organised by a friend's mother. He became heavily involved in the game and was still buying paraphernalia over 20 years later, when role-playing had become his career as well as his hobby.