Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto is one of two characters in Fast Five who has made an appearance in four of the (now) five Fast and Furious franchise films. In the fifth installment, Dom will lead an even bigger team and face tougher foes.

Diesel’s stake in the Fast and Furious franchise is unrivaled. He jumped on as a Fast & Furious producer and has explored the possibilities of doing a sixth movie.

Diesel’s career has been defined by more than just the action-racing franchise. The actor has established relatively iconic genre movie roles as Xander Cage (xXx) and Riddick (Chronicles of Riddick). But ever since regaining control of the franchise with Fast & Furious, Diesel has put himself back in the driver’s seat.

After a long day of fighting Dwayne Johnson (as Luke Hobbs), Vin Diesel sat down for 30 minutes with myself and other journalists on the set of Fast Five in Atlanta, GA. Needless to say, he was bloodied and sweaty from a day of combat. During other interviews, the two heavy-hitters could be heard grunting, yelling, screaming and crashing into tables in the background. The fight sure sounded epic – but time will tell how they translate to film.

Vin Diesel: [Dwayne Johnson and I have] been filming this pretty intense scene. We’ve been filming this fight sequence that has been going on for what feels like a week. It’s been pretty intense.

Question: We talked to Dwayne and he said, “Yeah, I kick his ass.”

VD: Dwayne’s great. He’s been a buddy of mine for a long time. The role was initially written for a Tommy Lee Jones/Josh Brolin and with today’s level of physicality and, I guess the physicality that fans would expect from Dom — I mean, Dom’s a mechanic who races cars. He’s not as vain as xXx. He’s not an athlete like xXx. He’s not a sci-fi/intergalactic killer like Riddick. He’s like the most normal guy I got, really. But at the same time, the studio was wanting to find somebody who would be formidable enough to, I guess, increase the legend of Dom and whatever. Whatever way you could. I’ve known him for ten years. We’ve always wanted to do something together. When you do a fight sequence like that, if you’re working with an athlete like I did on Babylon – I did it with a mixed martial artist named Jérôme Le Banner – it added something dynamic to that scene. Who better skilled at the art of creating choreographed fight sequences than somebody who comes from a world of choreography? It was almost a perfect match in that regard to have somebody who would be taken that serious as a formidable opponent.

Not to mention that, when Fast & Furious came out last year and opened at $72.5 [million] opening weekend, the only person in Hollywood that called me to congratulate me was Dwayne. Kind of weird. Only person, out of all the people I’ve worked with. Not that they should. The only person who said anything, that said, “Congratulations, brother” was Dwayne. Long before we really knew when we’re going to shoot the next one.

Vin Diesel has taken it upon himself to assure fans that the subsequent Fast and the Furious movies are better than 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift. While both have their fair share of dedicated fans, the general consensus is that they failed to successfully follow-up on the strengths of The Fast and the Furious.

Fast Five Vin Diesel Dwayne Johnson Vin Diesel Says Fast Five is Part of a New Furious Trilogy

The franchise could have easily fallen into Direct-to-DVD territory – but Diesel knows more about filmmaking that some fans might realize.

VD: I was raised in New York City and raised in the New York City theater world. It was how we approached acting. My father was a theater director and an acting teacher. It was not uncommon for me to have long discussions about the method and what the various different processes were to finding a character and exploring character and realizing that character. For me, I’m not in a good mood today because I’m thinking about beating the f*** out of somebody. Somebody is gonna get punched. I’m in an angry mode. That’s inside me. That’s the character. So I’m not the nicest person right now. Whereas if you’ve interviewed me at any other time, I’m the nicest guy in the world.

Diesel’s experience, in all forms of entertainment, has given him a balanced perspective on what makes a quality film. He may stay close to the action genre, but he obviously cares about the movies he becomes involved with. It comes as no surprise to hear Diesel discuss the importance of maturity – as it pertains to the cast and crew of The Fast and the Furious franchise.

VD: I guess there’s more pressure now than there was then. But I always thought there was pressure. I was of the mindset that I was lucky to work. I was of the mindset that nobody wanted me in Hollywood. I approached Hollywood with that idea – nobody wants me here, so I’ve got to work extra hard. There’s a great benefit to working with actors that you’ve worked with for ten years. The idea of exploring character relations and their development over a decade has to be appealing for any actor who cherishes his craft. When I first did The Fast and the Furious, I didn’t want there to be a sequel on the first one. I thought, “Why would you rush to do a sequel just because your first film is successful?” I’ve always had kind of an allergic reaction to taking a reactionary approach to a sequel.

My gut feeling about sequels is that they should be premeditated. You should try to write a trilogy first or at least sketch out a trilogy if you have any faith in your film. You should think about where the film is going over a series of films. Our public is so apt for episodic storytelling. I grew up with Goodfellas and then the next generation was growing up with TheSopranos. It’s the same genre and the same genre, but one you’re able to see every week and one you see when it opened up in the theater. So, when I did Tokyo Drift, they asked me to do this cameo. I had always said no to doing sequels to Fast and the Furious and I had said no because of the script. And the producer said, “If you don’t like the scripts that we’re producing, then you produce a script.” And that was the last Fast & Furious.

In the trailer for Fast Five, there is a lightning-fast shot of Dom making out with a beautiful woman. Of course the love of his life, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), died in Fast & Furious, so either Dom got over her absence quickly – or there is more to it than meets the eye.

Diesel briefly explained to us the state of Dom’s heart and how it might affect the rest of the franchise beyond Fast Five.

Q: Has Dom finally gotten over Letty in this one?

VD: That’s a dangerous question.

Q: Well, because she was so important to that character.

VD: So important to that character. So important to that character. I will answer you this way: When I was thinking of this Fast and the Furious, I thought of it as three stories. The one that you saw, this one and the final one.

Q: So this is a trilogy?

VD: This is a trilogy. In the same way that we’ve seen other franchises reinvent themselves and it was kind of what they had to do. If you remember seeing the posters for Fast & Furious, there was no number on the poster. That’s bizarre. That doesn’t happen a lot. It was a subliminal way of saying, “We’re not going to go on and on and on. We closed up the last three and it’s almost a fresh start.”

Q: Do you think you’ll take it to Europe in the last one?

Diesel: I think we’ll be in Europe in the last one.

Like any franchise, Fast and the Furious has a core group of fans that have stuck with it through thick and thin. Tokyo Drift was a hiccup before a resurgence to box office success and a re-energized trilogy. With another movie already in development, Fast Five has the luxury of resting on the success of Fast & Furious, but also the pressure of moving the story along for Fast and the Furious 6.

Vin Diesel has fought a number of enemies, both real and imagined. His best competitor may be on the horizon in Fast Five. If the fight between Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel is as epic as many fans hope, we could be in store for one of the better battles in recent memory.

However, as Diesel says, story is the most important aspect of the movie. It rises above the ensemble cast or the new additions. Diesel’s focus on improving the franchise with each subsequent movie will be the deciding factor on whether Fast Five has a purpose in the saga, or is just an attempt at capitalizing on the financial success of Fast & Furious.

SIDENOTE: if you haven’t already, be sure to read our other Fast Five set visit posts:

Fast Five crashes into theaters on April 29th, 2011.