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Vin Diesel in xXx

It's been nearly 20 years since audiences first entered the Xander Zone in Vin Diesel's 2002 spy film xXx. With more stunts than anyone knows what to do with and some early 2000s set pieces and story elements, it's no wonder people are still interested in the film after all these years. But behind the explosions, car chases, and that freaking ridiculous avalanche scene, there are some great stories and behind the scenes facts.

Over the course of the past few days, I've watched xXx with director Rob Cohen's commentary, as well as interviews with the cast and crew to find out just how they pulled off the introductory scene where Xander Cage driving a car off a bridge, the thought process behind the movie's story, and what special and visual effects went into the movie's most action-packed set pieces. So sit back, grab a bottle of Sobe, and prepare to enter the Xander Zone.

The spy from the opening of xXx

The Opening Scene Was Both An Homage To Classic Spy Films And A Step In A New Direction

You might not remember, but xXx doesn't open with Xander Cage taking a senator's car on a joyride (more on that scene in a bit). Instead of introducing the film's protagonist from the jump, the movie opens with an American spy (tuxedo and all) sticking out like a sore thumb during the middle of a Rammstein concert.

During the DVD commentary, director Rob Cohen explained that he loves the classic James Bond movies, but thought that the traditional spy wouldn't cut it in the story the movie was trying to tell:

A man in a tux trying to deal with a tattooed, dirty, dangerous, uncivilized world was the perfect metaphor for the beginning of this film.

Not Vin Diesel in xXx

Vin Diesel Performed All But One Shot Of The Famous Bridge Scene

When we're first introduced to Xander Cage, he is seen stealing a senator's red Corvette and taking it on one hell of a joyride for his extreme sports show The Xander Zone. Diesel, who had already proven his prowess behind the wheel in The Fast And The Furious performed all but one stunt in the action-packed scene and it wasn't because he was afraid of doing so.

In Cohen's commentary, the director revealed that a stuntman had to step in and perform the shot of Cage driving the Corvette off the Forest Hills Bridge because Diesel was sick the day of the shoot. Those of you with a good vision can see that the driver of the car is wearing a Vin Diesel mask during the car's fall and when Cage's character comes parachuting to the ground.

Tony Hawk, Carey Hart, and Rick Thorne in xXx

Tony Hawk And Other Extreme Sports Athletes Were Cast To Help Cage's Character

The conclusion of the Corvette chase and subsequent party featured some of the biggest professional extreme sports athletes of the era. During his commentary, Cohen explained that X-Games veterans like Tony Hawk, Mat Hoffman, Rick Thorne, and several others were all brought on board to add credibility to Xander Cage's character and make the character seem like he belonged in the extreme sports world.

Cohen also revealed that he met with several of the athletes during pre-production to find ways to flesh out Cage's character, his actions, and motivations both before he becomes an NSA secret agent and after.

Vin Diesel in xXx

Vin Diesel Saw The Character And Movie As Way Of Better Appealing To Underserved Audiences

In addition to the director's commentary track, the xXx DVD also features an assortment of behind the scenes documentaries as well as interviews with Xander Cage himself, Vin Diesel. During the interview in which Diesel explains the reasoning behind joining the project, the action star explained that he was doing it to better serve an audience that doesn't see a lot of love from Hollywood, stating:

The least likely of us can be heroic and be patriotic. We were very conscious of the spy films at the time, and we felt like there was a growing generation that was being underrepresented. I guess the humor and fun and taking someone from this new generation and giving them the task of being a secret agent [was appealing].

Vin Diesel in xXx

The Filming Of the Cartel Escape Scene Was Just As Intense As The Finished Product

We first see Xander Cage in the field after he and two other prospects are sent to Colombia on a mission where they have to escape a drug cartel's plantation during the middle of an army raid. Shot over the course of seven nights, the cast and crew worked together to create one of the most explosive action sequences in the early goings of the movie. During his commentary, Cohen revealed that this scene was one of the producer's least favorite solely due to the fact that the rounds being shot from the helicopter chasing Cage cost an astounding $10,000 per minute.

If the helicopter's firing capability wasn't enough, the production team actually blew up the barn that Cage jumps over as he escapes the army chopper. Although Diesel performed much of the stunts in this scene, he left the infamous jump to professional motocross rider and stuntman Jeremy "Twitch" Stenberg, who pulled it off in a single take. Diesel's face was later added digitally.

Vin Diesel in xXx

Director Rob Cohen Had To Hold Back Vin Diesel In Terms Of Performing Stunts

There are only a few scenes throughout xXx where Vin Diesel doesn't perform his own stunts, but he might have gotten his way (and found himself getting injured) if it weren't for director Rob Cohen putting the stop to a few of the actor's attempts. During an interview with Hollywood.com after the film's release, Diesel painted a picture of how those scenarios would play out:

I was very ambitious about doing the stunts, and it wasn't uncommon for Rob to come over and say, 'What are you doing, Vin? We have stunt guys here for that. You can't do it.'

Diesel also explained that he and the director would go back and forth until one of them prevailed and filming would continue.

Vin Diesel in xXx

The Iconic Avalanche Scene Featured An Ungodly Amount Of Sound Effects

Remember the scene where Xander Cage outruns an avalanche with nothing but his wits and a snowboard to get him to safety? Well, as you can imagine, most of the scene was CGI with only a few brief segments featuring Diesel showing off his snowboarding skills. And while the effects might have been on par with other movies in 2002, the snow effects just don't look that great in 2020. But that's not why we're here. We're here for the insane sound effects featured in the scene.

According to Cohen, the post-production team added around 20,000 sound effects to create a "sound symphony" that admittedly makes an okay action sequence into one that we remember to this day. In the commentary, Cohen suggests watching the scene twice — once without the sound and another time with it. This way, he explained, the viewer will have a great appreciation of the electrifying scene.

Vin Diesel in xXx

The Crew Thought Diesel Had Seriously Injured Himself During The Avalanche Scene

Vin Diesel didn't sustain any serious injuries in performing a lot of his own stunts, but there was a brief moment during the avalanche scene where the crew, especially director Rob Cohen, thought the star of the film had broken his neck when he took a bad fall. Cohen explained the situation during an interview with Hollywood.com, stating:

There were times with the snowboarding in Austria where he wanted to go higher and higher jumps, and he took one big jump… and he came across on the other side and planted his head vertically into the snow, and he was not moving. I went 'Oh my God, did he break his neck?'

Vin Diesel and Samuel L. Jackson in xXx

The Czechoslovakian Government Helped Make The Prague Chase Scene A Lot More Epic

One of the biggest moments of the final chase scene through Prague is the introduction of the fighter jets who are called in to blow up Ahab before it can release "Silent Night." The story behind the production team securing the Czechoslovakian fleet for the short scene is even more fascinating.

According to the Cohen, producer Dave Kennedy talked to the Czechoslovakian government about using one or two of the planes, but the government suggested letting the filmmakers use the entire fleet for the shot. Cohen explained that he had a wonderful time working with the pilots and that their level of cooperation was enormous.

Harry O'Connor in xXx

Stuntman Harry O'Connor Died While Filming A Scene

It wasn't all fun and games with the shooting of the river chase scene as one of the stuntmen involved with the shoot perished when a stunt went wrong during the production.

Harry O'Connor who served as both the aerial stunt coordinator and a stuntman filled in for Vin Diesel during a scene where Xander Cage releases himself from a parachute with the help of a zipline in an attempt to catch up with the unmanned boat. During the shoot, O'Connor came in a little high and flew into a bridge, breaking his neck and killing him instantly. Cohen dedicated the film O'Connor, who the director described as a friend, stating:

We had 500 stuntmen involved with this picture, 499 didn't get a scratch. It shows the lengths we will go to bring this intense experience to the viewer. Stuntmen know they're in danger, they make their living through danger. Most of the time, it's all right. Sometimes, unfortunately, it isn't.

Those are just a few insane facts from the first xXx film. Who knows, maybe if we're all lucky, we'll get the chance to reenter the Xander Zone and take a look at behind the scenes facts from xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage in the near future. In the meantime, check back for the latest on Vin Diesel here at CinemaBlend.

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