Vin Diesel: “Paul Walker sent John Cena to me for ‘Fast & Furious’”

Vin Diesel has admitted he felt like Paul Walker had “sent” John Cena to play his on-screen brother Jakob Toretto in Fast & Furious 9.

Walker, who passed away in 2013, was an original star of the franchise, appearing as Brian O’Conner up until 2015’s Furious 7.

Speaking to NME, Diesel opened up about casting wrestler Cena in the most recent film, admitting: “I’m a multi-cultural actor, you could’ve picked anybody to be my brother.

“So there was a great moment of anxiety when it came time to think about who you would cast to be Jakob. And I was in my Dom shrine getting ready for the film, and getting into that Dom state of mind.

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker
Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. CREDIT: Getty/Kevin Winter

“And one morning John Cena walked in, and I don’t know – people might not get this or might think I’m crazy, but I felt like Paul Walker had sent him in to play Jakob. And I didn’t think about it anymore, I said, ‘That’s Jakob.’ And the rest is history.”

For his part, Cena admitted to NME that he didn’t initially realise why he was meeting with Diesel, recalling: “For one reason or another, Vin wanted to get together and talk, and after a lengthy conversation, I got an invite to the Fast family. Of course it would be something I’d want to do, but the question is how would I even go about it?”

He added: “He never once said. I loved our time together… I was hanging out with Vin Diesel! It was really cool!”

John Cena
John Cena. CREDIT: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Fast & Furious 9 is on track to break a big pandemic-era box office record in the US following its debut, Variety reporting that it is set for an intake of $68m (£49m) on opening weekend.

In NME’s review of the film, we wrote: “It all accelerates towards a genuinely thrilling finale that pivots between full-throttle action and intense sentimentality, making Fast & Furious 9 feel a bit like a bear hug from your gruff older brother after you’ve nearly chucked up on a roller coaster.

“Like so many things in the F&F franchise, it shouldn’t work but somehow does. Here’s to the next billion dollars at the box office.”

‘Fast & Furious 9’ is in UK cinemas now