Nothing could more perfectly reinforce stereotypes about preening, egotistical Hollywood primadonnas than the revelation that the three primary badasses from the Fast and the Furious franchise have negotiated deals to ensure they never lose a fight onscreen. According to reports, Jason Statham’s contract limits how badly he can be beaten in the F&F movies, while his musclebound co-star Vin Diesel has his sister, a producer, carefully monitor the number of times he gets punched. Meanwhile, the alpha dog, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, has a whole team working to make sure that he never comes off second-best on the screen. All three are apparently extremely sensitive about how tough they look, particularly when it comes to fighting each other.
As I said, this is just confirmation of the gargantuan egos that movie stars have. We always suspect that the world’s biggest celebrities are spoiled, pampered, and completely out of touch with reality, and a story like this is welcome proof that our suspicions were correct. Just like when we hear about rock stars with outrageous backstage rider demands, or actors who require that nobody on set make eye contact with them.
But the kind of measures the F&F trio go to are a very particular kind of diva demand: the kind where the stars themselves don’t understand what’s good for them. It’s pretty common for the biggest movie names to demand that their films make them look good, whether that be via obsessive adjustment of lights, script rewrites to make their character more sympathetic, or an insistence that the buff hero never lose a fight. But those demands just prove that the stars in question don’t really know what “looking good” means.
It may be that when you’re famous, your aesthetic sense gets warped, or it may be that too many minders and hangers-on getting in your ear is an occupational hazard, but either way, any actor who thinks the way to look good is to make sure their character never looks bad has lost touch with what acting even is.
Anyone who’s ever watched a movie knows that the most impressive acting performances tend to be in the service of flawed characters: great actors have always made their name playing morally compromised people, antiheroes, tragic heroes with fatal flaws, and outright villains. Making your character perfect tends not to make you look good: it makes you look boring. And the same goes for action heroes trying to make themselves invincible.
The greatest action heroes are the ones who cop a beating from time to time. The ones who get hurt, get bruised, get bloodied, and sometimes get their asses positively handed to them: they’re the ones we cheer for the most. Think Bruce Willis in Die Hard. Think Indiana Jones. It’s a simple equation: a man vulnerable to getting the crap kicked out of him is more human, more relatable, and therefore more heroic when he comes out on top.
Hell, a lot of the greatest bits in Johnson and Statham’s wonderfully over-the-top new F&F spinoff Hobbs and Shaw come when the two muscly baldies do take a bit of a pounding from a superior foe. It would be a shame to think that these two incredibly charismatic leading men, so good at what they do, were unable to recognise that as badass as they look, letting themselves lose the occasional punch-up will actually make their asses badder than ever.