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Ice Cube in xXx: State Of The Union

Who says you can't make a xXx movie without Vin Diesel? Well, it appears the producers behind xXx: State Of The Union didn't get the memo before they released the 2005 followup film starring Ice Cube. How the film even got produced is still a feat upon itself, especially when you consider the fact the sequel lacked the one thing that made the original movie stand out in the first place — Xander Cage. But it's not all gloom and doom as I recently discovered looking into some of the most interesting behind the scenes facts that I could find in interviews, documentaries, and director commentary tracks.

Trading in adrenaline junkie Xander Cage for former U.S. Navy Seal Darius Stone, the sequel to the popular and successful xXx got rid of the action sports elements and took a more old-fashioned action thriller approach to the 21st spy with an attitude. But how the movie got to that point is quite interesting, especially when you consider everything that happened in the three years between the release of the two movies.

Vin Diesel in xXx

Vin Diesel Dropped Out Of The Project Early In Development

Coming off of the success of multiple projects in the early 2000s, Vin Diesel became one of the hottest action stars of his generation, so it was almost guaranteed that he would return as Xander Cage whenever a sequel hit theaters. Things didn't work out as planned, and very early on in the development of xXx: State Of The Union, Diesel dropped out. The reasons for his departure, however, have changed over the years.

In October 2003, Variety (via EW) reported that Vin Diesel dropped out of the project after filming the Pitch Black followup The Chronicles Of Riddick, due to not wanting to shoot two back-to-back sequels. The actor's tone changed several years later when he revealed in Los Angeles Times (via Chicago Tribune) interview that the quality of the script might have had a role in his decision (as well as 2 Fast, 2 Furious), stating:

I always get afraid of being pigeonholed. The real reason why I didn't return to the characters in the scripts hadn't been right. The characters haven't been right. It's not like I ever said I wouldn't be there.

Ice Cube in xXx: State Of The Union

Once Vin Diesel Dropped Out, The Producers Saw Ice Cube As A "Perfect Fit"

When Vin Diesel dropped out of xXx: State Of The Union, the film's producers were forced to find a worthy replacement that wouldn't be seen as a carbon copy of the departing Xander Cage. In October 2003, EW reported that Ice Cube had signed on to play Darius Stone in the 2005 action flick.

And it seems that the producers behind the film were looking for someone who could portray a badass former Navy Seal turned criminal, which Ice Cube was more than capable of doing solely based on his career as a rapper with NWA and his solo career as well as some of the roles he had taken on throughout his acting career. During the XXX: According To Ice Cube documentary found on the xXx: State Of The Union DVD, producer Neal H. Moritz saw everything needed for the character in Ice Cube, stating:

There aren't that many manly men in Hollywood, and Cube seemed to be the perfect fit.

Ice Cube in xXx: State Of The Union

Ice Cube Attempted To Perform As Many Of His Own Stunts As Possible

Although xXx: State Of The Union utilizes much more CGI than its predecessor, the movie has plenty of jaw-dropping stunts, and by the sounds of it, Ice Cube performed as many of them as he could during shooting. During the film's world premiere, Ice Cube told an interviewer from Hollywood.com that he did everything he could to join in on the action, stating:

I tried to do as much as they would let me do. I tried to get my hands dirty. I think when you sign up to do a movie like this, you gotta be ready to get your hands dirty and it paid off. It shows.

John G. Connolly in The Final Chapter: The Death Of Xander Cage

There Is A Prequel Showing The Death Of Xander Cage And It's Disturbing

Even though Vin Diesel didn't come back to play Xander Cage in the xXx: State Of The Union, the character appears in a short film that serves as a prequel to the 2005 action thriller simply called The Final Chapter: The Death Of Xander Cage.

Instead of Vin Diesel portraying Cage, this time the honor went to the actor's stunt double from the first movie, Kristian Lupo, but you never see the stuntman's face, though the camera sticks to the character's iconic xXx tattoo on the back of his neck. The four-minute short mainly consists of Xander Cage being baited into a building that is rigged with explosives.

After the explosion, nothing is left of Xander Cage except for his fur-lined coat and a piece of flesh that just so happens to feature his trademark tattoo, which is picked up by Lt. Colonel Alabama "Bama" Cobb (John G. Connolly), one of the villains from xXx: State Of The Union.

Samuel L. Jackson in xXx: State Of The Union

There Were Two Scripts In Development At One Point

Anyone watching xXx: State Of The Union will notice the movie is a major departure from the first film in the franchise. You still have a lot of the crazy and off-the-wall stunts, but the extreme sports angle has been replaced by a more grounded political-focused story. This will probably come as a surprise to no one, but the film's producers were exploring both options when planning the direction of the 2005 sequel. During a January 2003 CNN interview, Rob Cohen, who directed xXx and produced xXx: State Of The Union, explained that two vastly different scripts were being written at the time, stating:

There're two scripts being developed. One by Rich Wilkes, the original writer, our buddy from No. 1, and that will take place in Southeast Asia, in the Malacca Straits, and [there are] dirty doings going on in a much prettier place than Central Europe. [Also,] I've just hired Simon Kinberg to write more of a thriller that would take place in Washington, D.C., which isn't as pretty as Prague, but as we know, there's lots going on there today. I think Xander should save the United States, I think that's the next thing.

Peter Strauss in xXx: State Of The Union

Screenwriter Simon Kinberg Wanted The Film To Be More Of An Action Thriller

Obviously, the more grounded option of having a political thriller set in Washington, D.C. won out and audiences were given a movie focused on the events preceding and following an attempted coup by American interests in the nation's capital. Simon Kinberg, whose script won out and was pushed to production, explained in the xXx: State Of The Union DVD commentary track (via Pop Matters) that he and the film's producers wanted to have a political thriller as opposed to the over-the-top adrenaline thrill-ride of the first movie, stating:

[It is] less of a straight-up action-adventure movie. And that was part of the challenge of making the sequel, was to give it all the bells and whistles and all the action that people expect of the franchise, but also make it a little more like the '70s thrillers that we both love, like The Parallax View and All The President's Men, Three Days Of The Condor.

Well, this is probably the first place you've heard xXx: State Of The Union and All The President's Men mentioned in the same article.

Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, and Jamie Foxx in Stealth

Rob Cohen Dropped Out In Order To Direct Stealth

Rob Cohen was all about continuing on with the daring adventures of Xander Cage shortly after the release of xXx in 2002, but with production of the sequel slowing down as the studio worked on deciding which script to use, Cohen vacated the director's chair and decided to stay on as a producer.

In a 2005 article on Bombreport.com, it was reported that Cohen had turned down the chance to direct the sequel in favor of bringing the big-budget science fiction military film Stealth to the big screen. In 2012, the Guardian reported that Stealth was one of the biggest box office flops of all time, losing a reported $111 million.

Vin Diesel in The Fast And The Furious

This Is The Second Time Vin Diesel And Rob Cohen Opted Out Of A Sequel

xXx: State Of The Union wasn't the only time the actor-director pairing of Vin Diesel and Rob Cohen opted out of getting involved with a sequel of a film they helped launch. Although both were instrumental in getting the Fast And Furious franchise off the ground in the summer of 2001, Diesel and Cohen both the franchise to work on xXx.

During a 2012 interview with We Got This Covered (via Indiewire), Rob Cohen shed light on one of the reasons he didn't have involvement with future Fast And Furious movies, stating:

The first couple sequels though, what I hated about them was that it was just for money, the studio was just milking the cash cow. It's a miracle they didn't kill it. If you were to just watch Tokyo Drift, you'd say, 'I never want to see anything related to Fast And Furious again.'

Willem Dafoe in xXx: State Of The Union

xXx: State Of The Union Has Multiple Connections To The James Bond Franchise

From the very beginning, the xXx franchise has taken inspiration from the James Bond franchise, but with xXx: State Of The Union, the action series had some connections to the classic English spy.

For starters, Willem Dafoe, who plays the movie's villainous Secretary of State General George Deckert played the main antagonist the highly regarded 2004 video game James Bond 007: Everything Or Nothing, which was essentially a new Bond story told through a game instead of a theatrical release.

The other connection to the world of James Bond movies comes from the involvement of director Lee Tamahori, whose most recent film before xXx: State Of The Union was the 2002 007 movie Die Another Day, which happened to be final appearance of Pierce Brosnan.

Ice Cube in xXx: State Of The Union

The Movie Made $70.6 Million At The Worldwide Box Office On A Reported $113 Million Budget

To say that xXx: State Of The Union was a box office bomb would be too kind to the numbers the movie brought in during is 2005 theatrical release. According to a 2011 report from Reuters, the sequel brought in $70.6 million at the worldwide box office. This wouldn't be that bad if the movie didn't reportedly cost Revolution Studios a staggering $113 to produce and fund its marketing campaigns. What's even worse is that only $26.8 million was made domestically, according to Box Office Mojo.

Those are just 10 of the most interesting behind the scenes facts from xXx: State Of The Union. Did any of those stand out to you, or are you still in shock that Vin Diesel would turn down the chance to appear in such a great action flick? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to check back to see if we'll find some fascinating items from the production of xXx: Return Of Xander Cage here at CinemaBlend.

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