Watch the Short Film That Launched Vin Diesel's Career
Disclaimer: Film contains some adult language and themes.
Before he was jumping out of exploding cars and fighting aliens for a living, Vin Diesel was a struggling actor and indie filmmaker. In 1995, he was living in New York City, working day jobs, and trying without much success to break into the film and television industry.
Though he'd had brushes with show biz in the past—he appeared in several hip hop instructional videos in the '80s—he was beginning to lose hope of ever becoming a star. He was auditioning constantly, and even briefly moved to Los Angeles, but casting directors kept passing over him because he didn't fit into a specific racial type.
Finally, fed up with being reduced to his appearance and racial characteristics, Vin Diesel decided to respond directly—by making a movie about it. The 20-minute short film, called Multi-Facial (a pun on multi-racial), follows an aspiring actor through a series of auditions, in which his ambiguous racial identity is a constant stumbling block.
The film is fascinating in its own right: It's an honest—if critical—look into Hollywood casting practices, where not having the right "look" can automatically disqualify an actor for a part. Plus, it's fun to see a young Vin Diesel (real name Mark Vincent, but he was calling himself Vin Diesel even back in 1995) giving a genuinely moving monologue in one moment, and rapping in the next.
Ultimately, the film was more than just a cathartic experience for the young Vin Diesel. It also got him his big break. Steven Spielberg was so impressed by the film, he wrote a part in Saving Private Ryan specifically for him.