Actor Vin Diesel has been mired in a years-long struggle for an illustrious credit from the Producers Guild of America for his contributions to the billion-dollar “Fast and Furious” movie franchise, numerous sources tell Variety.
A cryptic Sunday night Instagram post from Diesel about “mitigating a war” with the PGA, a trade association representing film and TV producers, was only the latest round in a fight that has ensnared the likes of NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer and added to a long history of family drama in the high-flying action films.
The struggle boils down to Diesel’s desire for the Producers Guild of America’s mark of distinction, an addendum to a film credit that signifies to the industry and audiences that a producer has been verified as a substantial contributor in the making of a movie.
Diesel has attempted to receive the mark for nearly every film in the “Fast” series, sources said, which have grossed over $5.9 billion worldwide to date. He has consistently been denied and sought appeals, which have turned ugly. In his Sunday post, Diesel called the group “the prejudice guild of America.”
Diesel also said the war in question was between Universal Pictures, the studio home of “Fast,” and the PGA. Individuals familiar with Universal disputed this, saying it was entirely Diesel’s beef. The actor has since removed the attack on the guild from the caption on his Instagram account. A rep for Diesel did not return multiple requests for comment. Universal Pictures did not immediately respond to Variety’s request for comment.
“It is the policy of the Producers Guild not to comment on individual arbitrations. The purpose of the Producers Mark is to protect the integrity of the ‘Produced By’ credit. A panel of experienced producers reviews anonymous firsthand accounts from filmmakers and key crew in order to determine who performed a major portion of the producing functions on a single film,” a PGA spokesperson told Variety.
Diesel has had many powerful friends appeal directly to the PGA and its executive director Vance Van Petten, said three insiders familiar with the calls, including Meyer. While the elder statesman of NBCUniversal is one of the honorary creators of the mark, his pleas have not altered the guild’s rigorous determination process. That process, by the way, prohibits oral testimony from the producer seeking the mark.
The PGA mark appears after a producer’s name almost always in end credits, branded with the letters “p.g.a.” The most important function of the mark is that it makes someone eligible to receive the Oscar for best picture, a prize that goes to producers. On the studio level, producers with the mark are often entitled to early and increased bonuses based on box office performance and award nominations.
“Vin is a complicated guy,” sighed one executive familiar with the “Fast” franchise.
Diesel’s contributions to the films, which began as gritty street racing thrillers and escalated into a joyous slap in the face to the laws of physics, are unquestionable. His mumbling machismo has captivated fans around the globe, and his portrayal of Dominic Toretto is undoubtedly the signature role of his career.
But the idea that Diesel is active in the daily slog that gets the movies made — films where Mustangs drop out of aircraft carriers and land safely on mountaintops — is dubious to people involved in these projects. Diesel “leans in” to behavior typical of star talent, despite being listed on call sheets as a producer, said two sources familiar with numerous “Fast” productions. That behavior includes arriving hours late on pricey stunt days, said one source, behavior that costs time and swells budgets — two of any producer’s biggest obstacles.
The vetting process for the producers exists for that very purpose, the PGA states plainly on its website.
In determining eligibility, the guild “may contact key creative participants and department heads (e.g., writer, director, casting director, unit production manager, production designer, cinematographer, post-production supervisor) to obtain confidential information” about the level of work contributed by a producer, the rules say. The process is also entirely anonymous.
The “capital P” producers, as another executive familiar with the movies put it, for the “Fast” franchise are currently veteran producer and former Universal executive Jeff Kirschenbaum, Samantha Vincent of Diesel’s One Race Films, and producer-director Justin Lin.
Thanks to coronavirus shutdowns, the planned summer release of Diesel’s next ride as Toretto in “Fast 9” has been delayed to April 2021. His appeal to the PGA remains open.
“It’s clear that Vin wants this, and is willing to get dirty,” concluded another source.