Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Vin Diesel are two of the biggest action movie stars, having squared off in the Fast & Furious movies and in real life.
When two alpha male Hollywood superstars team up to headline a blockbuster franchise that touts the importance of loyalty and unwavering familial bonds, it may be a bit surprising when that camaraderie fails to follow suit off-screen. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Vin Diesel are two of the greatest movie action heroes, squaring off as adversaries-turned-allies Luke Hobbs and Dominic Toretto in the Fast & Furious franchise.
When Johnson signed on to first portray the Federal Agent in 2011’s Fast Five, Diesel and director Justin Lin redesigned the role initially meant for Tommy Lee Jones to instead suit the actor; fans on Facebook had been vocal about their desire to see the action stars face off on film. The Fast & Furious series has become notorious for its adrenaline-pumping street racing, gripping heists, and gravity-defying stunts, with the franchise’s dazzling ensemble cast further propelling the films to success.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Speeds Up Fast & Furious The addition of Johnson to the Fast family was met with widespread praise, with audiences raving about the tough-guy chemistry between the actor and Diesel. Empire couldn’t get enough of the former WWE star’s performance, declaring in their review, “How to re-ignite an aging franchise? Drop Johnson on it. The best thing, by far, in Fast Five … Dwayne Johnson hulks through the movieDwayn leaving testosterone trails in his wake.” He would reprise his role through the eighth installment, but tension between Johnson and Diesel would ultimately lead to him parting ways.
His departure was first announced in 2016, when the actor posted a since-deleted Instagram post calling unnamed members of the franchise “candy assess”, thus causing a media and fandom frenzy. A beef between Johnson and Diesel was heavily speculated and eventually confirmed in the coming years, leading many to wonder what occurred between the two. Johnson was technically still in the franchise though, teaming up with action great Jason Statham to star in 2019’s smash hit spin-off Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, raking in $760 million at the box office and revamping the series once again. Let’s take a deep dive into the tumultuous relationship of the macho leading men.
A Cryptic Instagram PostIn August 2016, Johnson caused quite the stir when he released a lengthy Instagram post regarding his completion of The Fate of the Furious and his experience with the franchise. The actor commended the hard-working crew and female co-stars but criticized some of his male cast members, while not directly naming names. Rumors began to swirl that Johnson was taking a shot at Diesel, assertions that were later substantiated when the latter star took to Instagram and in a video mysteriously stated, “Honestly, give me a second and I will tell you everything. Everything.” While he never followed through with his explanation, Diesel’s response only added fuel to the feud fire.
Fast & Furious alum Michelle Rodriguez addressed the conflict to Us Weekly, revealing: “They’re ‘bros,’ man. 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.” Appearing to reiterate Rodriquez’s sentiments, Diesel spoke in a Spring 2017 interview with USA Today and said: “I don’t think the world really realizes how close we are, in a weird way. I think some things may be blown out of proportion. I don’t think that was his intention. I know he appreciates how much I work this franchise. In my house, he’s Uncle Dwayne.”
While some wondered if the whole fiasco was a marketing ploy, fellow Fast & Furious actor Tyrese Gibson entered the mix when he seemingly blamed Johnson for the delay of F9, claiming the actor was attempting to make the franchise about him. Diesel once again took to social media, and in a heartfelt Instagram post reflected on his time with the enduring franchise and the forthcoming ninth installment, claiming no sole person was at fault and exciting things were in the Fast & Furious future.
Diesel and Johnson: Nothing But Love? When The Fate of the Furious made its highly-anticipated premiere, fans of the franchise were quick to notice that Johnson and Diesel shared no scenes together throughout the flick; when directly asked about the discovery, Johnson told Rolling Stone simply, “That is correct. We were not in any scenes together.” After the smash success of Hobbs & Shaw in 2019, though, it seemed as though the Jumanji star had a change of heart regarding his relationship with Diesel, thanking him in an Instagram video: “Lastly, but not least, I want to thank brother Vin for your support of Hobbs & Shaw. I’ll be seeing you soon, Toretto.”
After the apparent olive branch was extended by Johnson, any inkling of a beef with Diesel seemed a thing of the past; F9 finally had its premiere in June 2021 and unsurprisingly dominated the box office, earning over $1.2 billion worldwide. Despite seemingly having a peace treaty between one another for a few years, the duo’s drama was swiftly reignited following a June 2021 interview with Men’s Health, in which Diesel alleged that the conflict was a result of “tough love” and that the tension was more between a producer and an actor. On the process of turning Johnson into Luke Hobbs, Diesel expressed, “We had to get there and sometimes, at that time, I could give a lot of tough love. Not Fellini-esque, but I would do anything I’d have to do in order to get performances in anything I’m producing.”
Diesel and Johnson’s Permanent GoodbyeJohnson seemed final in his decision to part ways with the Fast & Furious franchise in July 2021, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “I’ve wished them well. I wish them well on Fast 9. And I wish them the best of luck on Fast 10 and Fast 11 and the rest of the Fast & Furious movies they do that will be without me.” The superstar also couldn’t help but address Diesel’s previous remarks and “tough love” statement, telling Vanity Fair, “I laughed, and I laughed hard.” In retrospect, Johnson has acknowledged how social media wasn’t the right outlet to turn to over his frustrations with Diesel and while he may regret the initial post, he doesn’t take back the message: “I mean what I say when I say it, but to express it publicly was not the right thing to do.”
The constant back and forth between the action stars seemed to hit a bit of a lull, but once again took a fiery turn when Diesel made a public plea in November 2021 to Johnson, asking him to return for the final film installment. He posted a letter to Instagram addressed to his “little brother Dwayne” in which he petitioned the Jungle Cruise actor to come back for F10, bringing up his own children and the late Paul Walker to appeal to Johnson: “…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 was none-too-pleased with Diesel’s very public plea, calling his post a “manipulation” and that the pair had previously spoken privately about his firm decision to not return to the franchise. He also took offense to the actor using Walker’s name in his efforts to coax him back, and was upset the constant push-and-pull overshadowed the positive memories he had with the series.
In a CNN interview Johnson said: “My goal all along was to end my amazing journey with this incredible Fast & Furious franchise with gratitude and grace. It’s unfortunate that this public dialogue has muddied the waters.” While no one knows what truly went down between the successful movie stars, it’s abundantly clear that they won’t be sharing the screen again anytime soon.