Actor, producer, writer, and director Vin Diesel had a charmed entry into the world of screen acting: after seeing Multi-Facial, a short that Diesel wrote, produced, financed, directed, and starred in, Steven Spielberg created the role of Private Caparzo specifically for the talented young newcomer in his Saving Private Ryan (1998).
Born in New York City on July 18, 1967, Diesel made his stage debut at the age of seven in "Theatre for the New City," which was produced in Greenwich Village. He continued to be involved with the theatre throughout his adolescence, and he went on to attend the city's Hunter College, where his studies in creative writing led him to begin writing screenplays. Diesel became active in filmmaking in the early '90s, first earning notice for the short Multi-Facial, which was selected for screening at the 1995 Cannes Festival. He followed up Multi-Facial with his first feature-length film, 1997's Strays, an urban drama in which he cast himself as a gang boss whose love for a woman inspires him to try to change his ways. Written, directed, and produced by Diesel, the film was selected for competition at the 1997 Sundance Festival, which led to a deal with MTV to turn it into a series.
Following the success of Saving Private Ryan, Diesel could be heard voicing the title character of the animated The Iron Giant (1999), another critically praised feature. He then starred with fellow young actors Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Affleck, Jamie Kennedy, and Nicky Katt in Boiler Room, an off-Wall Street drama that cast him as one of the members of a shady brokerage firm. He also flexed his sci-fi muscles in Pitch Black (2000), an interplanetary thriller that featured him and fellow Earthlings doing battle with a host of nasty alien mutants. Diesel jumped genres yet again as a devious, determined hot-rodder in The Fast and the Furious (2001), a cheeky, action-packed street racing picture in the vein of '50s exploitation flicks. The low-profile, star-free summer release left skid marks at the box office as it grossed over $40 million dollars in its first weekend alone -- more than enough to cover its production costs, and enough to lead many to believe that Diesel had finally arrived as a bankable leading man.
Indeed Diesel was growing increasingly comfortable in his role as a tough guy action icon, though the ex-NYC club bouncer's prominent smirky scowl (usually accompanied by a hearty smile and laugh) proved almost a wink to his fans that while it worked well for him, he didn't take the image altogether seriously. The following year found Diesel teetering on the edge of mega-stardom with the release of his eagerly anticipated reteaming with The Fast and the Furious director Rob Cohen, XXX. With images of a bulky Diesel adorning movie theaters nationwide and an advertising campaign that left almost no viable stone unturned, the duo were undoubtedly aiming to repeat the success of the muscle-car extravaganza. This time setting their sights on breathing life into the ailing secret agent action adventure genre, XXX's protagonist, a former extreme sports athlete recruited by the government to take on a dangerous mission, would prove a large-scale attempt at bringing James Bond style thrills into the 21st century.
With his reputation set in stone, Diesel would spend the 2000's enjoying a steady stream of similar work, starring in action adventure films like The Chronicles of Riddick (a sequel to 2000's Pitch Black) and Babylon A.D., as well as occasional comedic turns, like The Pacifier. He eventually rejoined the Fast & Furious franchise, reprising his role of Dom Toretto in numerous sequels, and also working as a producer on the films. In 2014, he voiced the role of Groot in the smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy, and also recorded his iconic line "I am Groot" in numerous languages for international versions of the film.