Since the dawn of man, there has been one question that has tortured the minds of philosophers, playwrights and poets alike: Who is Vin Diesel? Does anyone really know? It seems like he’s always been around—a permanent presence at the box office, ready to entertain us by racing fast cars, shooting guns, punching people, getting confused for Dwayne Johnson or, more recently, singing impromptu Sam Smith covers at the drop of a hat. But, that’s just scratching the surface. Vin Diesel is like a mystery, wrapped in a full-body tattoo, driving a Lamborghini, and it’s about time that we all get to know this curious creature a little bit better. Here are 20 things that you (possibly? definitely? maybe?) didn’t know about our old friend, Vin.
Let’s start with the easy stuff and work our way into the weirder facts.
0. His real name is Mark Sinclair Vincent, and he was born in Alameda County, California.
(We’re not even going to count that one.)
1. Ole’ Vinny had acting in his blood – his dad was a theater coach and acting teacher.
2. For a so-called “tough guy,” he sure does enjoy lip-synching, dancing, and singing.
Here he is offering up a touching tribute to Paul Walker at the MTV Movie Awards in 2014.
and on a less somber note, here he is doing a little sumpin’ to a Katy Perry song:
3. His mother is of English, German and Scottish descent, but he has never met his biological father which explains his claims of “ambiguous ethnicity.”
Although he has never verified his paternal heritage, he does identify as a person of color. He’s been pretty coy about the whole thing in an effort to keep from getting typecast as a specific ethnicity. So I guess you could say he could play anyone.
4. He used to rap under his given name, Mark Sinclair.
There is no online footage of him rapping when he was younger, which is a damn tragedy.
5. He changed his name to Vin Diesel when he began working as a teenage bouncer in NYC.
Because even bouncers need stage names, I guess.
6. Here’s what he looks like with a big-ass beard from the upcoming The Last Witch Hunter:
7. Even though he had a dad in the business, he didn’t became interested in acting until breaking into a theater with his brother when they were seven.
(There’s the tough guy we know and love!). He was paid $20 (and totally not ratted out!) by a woman at the theater in exchange for coming back and joining the after-school theater program.
9. Don’t let the stoic, mumbly facade fool you: he majored in English at Hunter College but dropped out after his third year to pursue acting.
10. Mr. Diesel’s first film role was a brief, uncredited appearance in Awakenings, starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.
11. He was featured in instructional break dancing videos in the eighties.
I wish we had some footage of that. Oh, wait. WE DO.
12. His semi-autobiographical movie, Multi-Facial, got the attention of no less than Steven Spielberg who cast him in Saving Private Ryan, which was his breakout role as an actor.
13. Diesel has played Dungeons & Dragons for over 20 years and wrote the foreword for the commemorative book 30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons.
Seriously, if you thought he was intimidating in The Fast and the Furious, you don’t want to step between him and a 12-sided die.
14. He honestly believed that Furious 7 will win an Oscar for Best Picture.
What? Yes. WHAT? YES. (Note that in that article he also refers to the film as the “biggest movie in history.” He sounds like a graduate of the Donald Trump School of Modesty.)
15. He was INCREDIBLY close with his late co-star Paul Walker.
He became the godfather to Paul Walker’s daughter, Meadow Rain Walker, and named his third child Pauline after his late co-star and best friend.
16. He has said that his biggest fear is of walking into a wall and busting his lip, which is perhaps the strangest “biggest fear” in the history for the human race.
However, my new biggest fear is Vin Diesel walking into a wall and busting his lip. I don’t ever want him to feel pain.
17. He moved to LA at 21, but left brokenhearted when his dream of acting didn’t pan out.
When he returned to NYC, he wrote, produced and directed two films; one went to Cannes in 1995 and the other showed at Sundance in 1997. So…never give up, kids.
18. He is the founder of a production company called One Race Films, a record label called Racetrack Records, and a video game programming company called Tigon Studios that has released versions of Riddick video games and Wheelman.
19. He doesn’t have any tattoos. Not a single one. That doesn’t seem right, does it?
20. He has a fraternal twin brother named Paul who looks absolutely nothing like him.
But to be fair, Vin Diesel’s twin brother doesn’t really look like anyone else in the world ever.
21. Vin Diesel is awesome.