Source: US weekly Magazine,July 02/01

By Irene Zutell

Even though he just bought a new puppy and a house in the Hollywood Hills, Vin Diesel hasn't changed much from when he was a scrappy k
id growing up on the streets of New York.

"Good boy, Good boy," says Vin Diesel as he leans over Roman, his Italian mastiff puppy, whom he has had for only five days. Diesel has been preoccupied with getting the dog settled into his new home, and it has made him late for the interview. He tries to explain his tardiness. "There was a lack of communication among my team," says Diesel. "Roman spent the morning at the vet for his checkup. We were running late." He considers what he just said. "I probably should hire somebody from my team to watch my dog."


Only two years in Los Angeles and already Diesel, 33, has an entourage. "He has a staff of people around him--it's like this ant farm--they just feed him all day," says Rob Cohen, the director of Diesel's new movie, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, which opened June 22. "He's got these runners, and he'll say 'Baja Fresh' or 'Starbucks,' and off they go."

Adjusting to celebrity has apparently come naturally to Diesel. "He's always had a strong ambition," says Kenna Doeringer, the film editor on MULTI-FACIAL, a 1995 short film that Diesel wrote, directed and starred in about an aspiring actor who faces prejudice. "The one thing Vin wanted was to be famous."

But he is still uncomfortable with media attention and doesn't handle interviews well. "Why do people feel the need to know things about me?" he asks. He won't say much about his family. He won't talk about his ethnicity("Just say I'm multicultural," says Diesel). He even finesses innocuous questions about his workout regimen.

Although he won't admit it, Diesel's real name is Mark Vincent. He has a twin brother, Paul, a sound editor(who is light-skinned with blue eyes and blond hair), and two younger sisters. The man who raised him, whom Diesel considers his father, is a theater director and a teacher. Diesel won't reveal anything about his biological father, other than to say "I have no overwhelming desire to meet him." His mother is an astrologer("No, she never predicted I would be a star").

He grew up in New York's Greenwich Village, where he lived in a small apartment in a building filled with artists. "I had this magical childhood. In the winter, I remember my father pulling my brother and me around Washington Square Park in a cheap red plastic sled," he says. "In the summer, my mother would take us to the fountain at the park, and we'd swim in it. When I was 5, I was like a little dog hustling around the neighborhood. I would go into a local restaurant and wash a few dishes for some French fries. I felt like the coolest guy in the world."

At 13, his squeaky boy's voice cracked into the deep bass that it is now. "Kids used to tease me about my voice. I remember calling my friends up , and their moms would say 'Don't you have a sexy voice.' I'm like 'Huh? Is Dave there?' I didn't even know what that meant."

Diesel graduated in 1985 from the Anglo-American International School in New York. The high school was private, and about half of its students were from other countries. Then Diesel studied English at Hunter College but dropped out after three years to pursue acting. "I knew this was what I wanted to do," he says "So I thought, Let's get on with it." To leave his days open for auditions, he became a bouncer at the Tunnel nightclub in New York.

Diesel wasn't getting movie roles. Frustrated, he put his energies and a few thousand dollars of his savings into writing and producing a screenplay. The result, MULTI-FACIAL, was screened at the Anthology Film Archives in New York. Other screenings followed, as did an invitation to the 1995 Cannes Film Festival, where Steven Spielberg caught a showing of the movie. He was so impressed with Diesel that he created the role of Private Adrian Caparzo for him, the first soldier in Captain Miller's squad to get killed, in 1998's SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.

Suddenly Diesel was gaining momentum. He was the voice of the title character in 1999's THE IRON GIANT. Last year, he starred as the futuristic convict in PITCH BLACK and as a trader in BOILER ROOM. He has just completed filming EL DIABLO, in which he plays a DEA agent, with MENACE 11 SOCIETY's Larenz Tate. In August, he turns up as a mobster in KNOCKAROUND GUYS. And there have been rumors circulating that he might replace Arnold Schwarzenegger as the cyborg in TERMINATOR 3.

Along with movie roles comes money, and Diesel has been reaping the rewards of his growing desirability. Last year, he bought an 1,800 square-foot bungalow in the Hollywood Hills, complete with a pool. "Getting a house was a huge, huge deal because my family always rented. But I'm not extravagant." Diesel scans his outfit--jeans, a white t-shirt, black work boots. "Look at how I'm dressed. I'm wearing the same things I wore when I didn't have the money."

But fame has forced him to change his lifestyle considerably. "My closest friends would say I was happier before I had money and fame," he says. "I was more extroverted. I used to be a clown. I used to really laugh at the movies, and now I can't. People judge me by these things."

Although he is single now, Diesel wants a family with a "Whole bunch of kids." And Roman is easing him into fatherhood. "I'm so tired. I was up every two hours with Roman last night," he says of housebreaking the dog.

Then he smiles. It's time to go. After all, the puppy is tired from his trip to the vet. And Diesel wants to be a good father.