I like to think of myself as a nerd ally — I only mock nerds relentlessly because I am one, and this distinction comes with so very few benefits that I try to take full advantage of each and every one. I’m not the particular subspecies of nerd that likes to fuck fluffy line drawings, but you better god damn believe I use my discount card for 10% off anime body pillows at Walt’s Waifu Warehouse. So it is with great love and respect that I say this: Vin Diesel is a fucking nerd.
He’s just the first nerd that actually followed through after telling the whole class that his goals over the summer were to start working out and see a vagina in real life. Once the derisive laughter subsided, Vin Diesel got to work, and now everyone who knows what a Yoshimura is looks up to a Level 20 Dweeb. But there’s only so long a nerd can go without slipping up and screeching something well over the line of societal dork tolerance. Vin Diesel wound up blowing his carefully constructed geekoflage when he got too excited and pitched the dorkiest movie of all time: The Last Witch Hunter.
Guys, it’s about his Dungeons and Dragons character. And not in a broad strokes, Conan-esque kind of way — this is a movie about his actual character sheet. Plus his character is nerdy even for D&D — Vin Diesel is the guy that refused to play a drunk barbarian or a well-hung bard like the rest of us, and instead spent hours arguing to the DM that he could never ride RAW. He wanted to pull an experimental third-party class from a magazine and here’s the craziest part: It worked.
And not just with the DM, which is honestly where this should have failed — your average DM says “no” to more unreasonable roleplay requests than any woman who’s ever met Logan Paul. This shit actually worked on Hollywood: They made a movie about an obscure unauthorized D&D character — and it wasn’t even an interesting variant! As the movie title should have given away, this guy doesn’t like witches and Vin Diesel stole his name from The Silmarillion. That’s the character. That weak shit would get you laughed out of an Adventurer’s League game, Vin. Adventurer’s League.
But Vin Diesel never met a bad premise he couldn’t franchise, so his story got made. I was so excited to write about this abomination. I woke up every day looking forward to making fun of somebody else’s hard work, and then the time finally came, and the movie was nothing. Just a blank spot in the world. Not good enough to be enjoyable, not bad enough to be funny.
But that’s okay, because much like Vin Diesel with the first draft of every single idea he’s ever had, I was not willing to give up on this. So I went dumpster diving in the Carl’s Jr. Expired Horsemeat Disposal Chute of mass media — the press junket.
There was a lot of weirdness here: Vin Diesel was strangely adamant that Michael Caine had to be in this movie — and because Vin Diesel once tricked a leprechaun into saying its real name aloud, Michael Caine is technically in The Last Witch Hunter.
Knowing Bumblejig O’Dangleberries might get your wishes granted, but you will feel his reluctance in every detail: Michael Caine is in The Last Witch Hunter for a grand total of about 3 minutes, before he’s put into a magical coma and replaced by Elijah Wood, who should also be too good for this film but is miraculously not.
For every second of his screentime, it is so very clear that Michael Caine just has no patience for this shit.
He doesn’t understand it, he doesn’t care to, and he’s counting the mumbles between now and paycheck day. In one interview, the intern who drew the short straw at MovvvieZapp or whatever mentions that Vin Diesel once taught Dame Judi Dench to play Dungeons and Dragons on set, because she is a nice, patient lady and Vin Diesel burns through leprechaun favors like there’s not a curse barreling toward him as they run out. So the intern wants to know… did he get Michael Caine to nerd up?
Vin chuckles. He blushes. He does a godawful Michael Caine impression — somehow worse than the one Michael Caine has been doing for the last fifteen years — and says “‘e didn’t want te play!” More hurt laughter. “Couldn’t be bovvered!”
That’s his Michael Caine face, because that’s the only face Michael Caine ever made at him.
It is strange to watch Journalism School dropouts coerced into asking about obscure third-party D&D variants — forcing the normals to pretend to care about Arcanum is like nerd struggle-porn, and you can’t blame Vin for getting off to it. But for the most part he’s actually pretty charming. He’s as normal as a dork walking the knife’s edge of cultural acceptance can be, until this interview:
Where he is so clearly rolling deep with both Kelly and Molly. He won’t take his sunglasses off, he gets lost in sentences like every noun is a wardrobe to lexical Narnia, and he’s doing constant mouth gymnastics.
And normally that would be fine: Nobody watches press junket videos except for press junket reporters reliving their worst moments after the gin runs out. So Vin Diesel stumbled in fairy-slapping and expecting to face a few hours of softball questions… but this interviewer is German and she is not open to mitigating that fact. She came to pepper Vin Diesel with heavily accented questions predicated on existential absurdity and Vin Diesel is in no state to answer the door, much less backwards-worded queries about the nature of remembrance.
Right out the gate the interviewer says she’s very fascinated by witchhunts, which is your first sign to stop hitting on the goth girl in the airport bar, and Vin is in so much fucking trouble: He thinks this interview is a singalong and he knows all the lyrics to the questions she’s about to ask.
She asks him how much of this movie is influenced by events that happened in the real world, and the correct answer to that is shameful giggling and the ruffling of a character sheet. But Vin Diesel is so flipped that he thinks the lights being too bright means he should whisper. He quietly agrees “so true, this has been happening in the real world.”
This should be a cue to dial it back a bit because Vin is lyrically flaccid right now, but the interviewer presses him: She insists there has to be a sequel to this film about Vin Diesel punching magic because there’s just so much to say about the world with his character, which is a preposterous leap from a German film intern who should be more worried about talking Frank Furious out of this K-hole. Vin is overcome with emotions that came out of nowhere and feel less like sadness and regret and more like hot pink and slippy cold, so he quietly whispers, “there is so much to say.” Hushed breath, awestruck sincerity: “There’s just so much to say.”
Yeah, Mr. Diesel? Like we’re really going to go out on a limb and tackle the unjust persecution of women in The Last Witchhunter, in which your character does kill several witches, including the Witch Queen, whom your movie says was actually responsible for the Black Plague? This poor son of a bitch showed up utterly flattened to an interview with a barely comprehensible woman who throws him wild curve balls like “there is a memory bar in your film, so if there is a good memory bar of your films which memory bar would you like to go back to?” That is not a sentence, it is a word fight. It’s a syntax dare, and Vin Diesel did not show up ripped to the gills to a press junket about his Dungeons and Dragons character to play linguistic double dutch.
He desperately needs a minute, so he starts downing water which is a smart move in that it buys you a few seconds of not talking and also oh my god isn’t water the fucking best? How do we forget it’s the best have you guys ever had water holy shit try this water-
When he’s finished, she asks him about his fans, and he says “I trust them, uh, I’ve, I’m prime of them?”
He somehow stops short of clarifying that he is ‘Optimus Prime of them’ followed by forty minutes of blathering about the Autobots, so whatever else we take from him, at least know that Vin Diesel handles Kitty Flipping better than I do.
Finally, when asked about the progress on another project of his, Vin Diesel claps like he’s excited, then relays a fun anecdote where somebody else asked that same question and nothing — that’s it: somebody asked the question and he didn’t have an answer for it then, like he doesn’t have an answer for it now.
Here’s how the interview ends: In rapid-fire order, he asks nobody off camera what’s happening with his own project, quietly prays to the ceiling, and then oddly whispers while slam-pronouncing every syllable: “I’m working towards getting that dream realized.” Then the interview smash-cuts out of there so fast that Vin Diesel absolutely just leapt to his feet to reveal he’d been naked from the waist down that whole time.
I had such a struggle with this column. I just knew in my soul that this movie should not exist in an entirely correct universe, but the actual product was unmelted Velveeta. It was a block of room temperature calories, and it broke my heart. But I needed to experience that pain to get me here, where I was always supposed to be: in this bonkers interview between Bob Bloodshot and the Manic-Depressive Pixie Dream Girl of Das Uproxxen.
So true. I’ve emerged from it changed, like a white girl returning from India: I don’t actually know what I’m talking about and it will certainly make knowing me a worse experience, but I won’t have to think of a new topic of conversation for the rest of the year. I can just tie everything back to that one trip I took, when I visited the birthplace of mouth-yoga.
This article was brought to you by our fine patron and Hot Dog Supreme, Eric Spaulding: The only man alive who remembers the Berlin Foosball Massacre from an erased timeline. Pity him as much as you envy him.