When Vin Diesel asked Dwayne Johnson to return to the Fast and Furious franchise in a sweet post on Instagram in November, most fans were elated.
But not Johnson.
In a new interview with CNN, the Jungle Cruise star didn’t hold back about how he really feels about Diesel’s request, even going so far as to call it a “manipulation” tactic.
“I was very surprised by Vin’s recent post,” Johnson said. “This past June, when Vin and I actually connected not over social media, I told him directly — and privately — that I would not be returning to the franchise. I was firm yet cordial with my words and said that I would always be supportive of the cast and always root for the franchise to be successful, but that there was no chance I would return. I privately spoke with my partners at Universal as well, all of whom were very supportive as they understand the problem.
“Vin’s recent public post was an example of his manipulation,” Johnson continued. “I didn’t like that he brought up his children in the post, as well as Paul Walker’s death. Leave them out of it. We had spoken months ago about this and came to a clear understanding.
“My goal all along was to end my amazing journey with this incredible Fast & Furious franchise with gratitude and grace,” he added. “It’s unfortunate that this public dialogue has muddied the waters. Regardless, I’m confident in the Fast universe and its ability to consistently deliver for the audience, and I truly wish my former co-stars and crew members the best of luck and success in the next chapter.”
Diesel’s post, which featured a screenshot of both men, was addressed to “my little brother Dwayne” and even referred to Paul Walker, the original Fast cast mate who died in a car crash in 2013, as “Pablo.”
“My little brother Dwayne… the time has come,” Diesel wrote. “The world awaits the finale of Fast 10. As you know, my children refer to you as Uncle Dwayne in my house. There is not a holiday that goes by that they and you don’t send well wishes… but the time has come. Legacy awaits.”
He continued, “I told you years ago that I was going to fulfill my promise to Pablo. I swore that we would reach and manifest the best Fast in the finale that is 10! I say this out of love… but you must show up, do not leave the franchise idle you have a very important role to play. Hobbs can’t be played by no other. I hope that you rise to the occasion and fulfill your destiny.”
Johnson’s rejection of Diesel’s olive branch is the latest installment in a years-long feud between the two alpha males.
The former pro wrestler joined the long-running franchise in Fast Five (2011) as Luke Hobbs, a highly skilled bounty hunter and the lead federal agent whose job is to capture Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and his team. Hobbs went on to appear in the sixth and seventh entries in the saga before spinning off into his own franchise with Hobbs & Shaw, alongside Jason Statham.
While everything seemed fine between the two actors during that time, Johnson set the fandom ablaze in a since-deleted Instagram post from August 2016 where he referred to unnamed cast members as “candy asses.”
“Some [male costars] conduct themselves as stand up men and true professionals, while others don’t,” Johnson wrote at the time. “The ones that don’t are too chicken s**t to do anything about it anyway. Candy asses. When you watch this movie next April and it seems like I’m not acting in some of these scenes and my blood is legit boiling — you’re right.”
Rumors began swirling that Johnson was referring to Diesel, who’d been an architect of the franchise since its launch in 2001. Johnson has since come to express his regret for ever sharing that post, telling Vanity Fair in October, “I shouldn’t have shared that.”
“At the end of the day, that goes against my DNA,” he continued. “I don’t share things like that. And I take care of that kind of bulls**t away from the public. They don’t need to know that. … It wasn’t my best day.”
Diesel responded to Johnson’s 2016 post days after wrapping The Fate of the Furious, assuring fans in a a cryptic Instagram video: “Honestly, give me a second and I will tell you everything.”
Adding to the conversation was co-star Michelle Rodriguez, who told People in September 2016 that the duo were indeed friends.
“They’re ‘bros’, man,” she said at the time. “They’re friends, and ultimately even friends reach a point where they have to set aside their differences to make a movie for multicultural people around the world, and that is the bigger scheme of things.”
Meanwhile, Fast Saga cast mate Tyrese Gibson seemingly blamed Johnson for the film’s production delays, writing on Instagram in October 2017, “Congratulations to @TheRock and your brother in law aka 7 bucks producing partner @hhgarcia41 for making the fast and the furious franchise about YOU.”
Diesel would later defend Johnson on Instagram, saying that the film’s delays weren’t his fault alone and that that franchise was “in need of maintenance.”
It was later assumed the feud was ongoing when the duo didn’t appear in any scenes together in Fate of the Furious. Then in September 2019, Johnson seemed to make a peace offering when he specifically thanked Diesel for his support of Hobbs & Shaw. “Lastly, but not least, want to thank brother Vin for your support of Hobbs & Shaw,” he said on Instagram. “I’ll be seeing you soon, Toretto.”
Earlier this summer, Diesel reignited the conversation in an interview with Men’s Health, in which he said that creating the Hobbs character required “tough love” on his part.
“We had to get there and sometimes, at that time, I could give a lot of tough love,” Diesel said. “Not Fellini-esque, but I would do anything I’d have to do in order to get performances in anything I’m producing.”
And Johnson fanned the flame even further by responding to Diesel’s statement, telling The Hollywood Reporter in July, “I laughed and I laughed hard” upon reading Diesel’s comments.
It seems Johnson will remain furious to the end.