The duo have been feuding publicly for years, blaming differences in their professional approaches for their strained personal relationship.
Diesel, however, has called out to Johnson on Instagram, urging him to return to the franchise a few months after Johnson said he wouldn’t return to star in Fast 10 and Fast 11.
“My little brother Dwayne… the time has come,” the 54-year-old F9 star wrote alongside a still of the duo on-screen as Dominic Toretto and Luke Hobbs.
“The world awaits the finale of Fast 10. As you know, my children refer to you as Uncle Dwayne in my house.”
“There is not a holiday that goes by that they and you don’t send well wishes… but the time has come,” Diesel continued.
“Legacy awaits. I told you years ago that I was going to fulfill my promise to Pablo [Paul Walker]. I swore that we would reach and manifest the best Fast in the finale that is 10!
“I say this out of love… but you must show up, do not leave the franchise idle you have a very important role to play. Hobbs can’t be played by no other. I hope that you rise to the occasion and fulfill your destiny.”
Johnson has yet to respond to Diesel’s message.
But what happened between The Rock and Vin Diesel in the first place, and how likely is it that Johnson will return to the franchise? Here’s what you need to know.
Johnson first starred as US Agent Hobbs in Fast Five (2011), reprising his role in Fast & Furious 6 (2013), Furious 7 (2015) and The Fate of the Furious (2017).
The former pro wrestler was noticeably absent from this year’s F9, but he did star alongside Jason Statham in the franchise’s spin-off film Hobbs & Shaw (2019).
Although the duo worked together almost a decade ago on the Fast & Furious franchise for the first time, their feud only heated up publicly in 2016 when an Instagram post written by Johnson lit a match in the Fast familia.
“Some conduct themselves as stand up men and true professionals, while others don’t,” Johnson wrote in 2016, when the cast were filming The Fate of the Furious.
“The ones that don’t are too chicken s–t to do anything about it anyway. Candy asses. When you watch this movie next April and it seems like I’m not acting in some of these scenes and my blood is legit boiling — you’re right.”
The post has since been deleted, but rumours swirled, suggesting Diesel was the “candy ass” The Rock was referring to — rumours that only grew when, a few days later, The Rock thanked some of his castmates by name after filming had wrapped, and pointedly did not refer to Diesel, who has been in the franchise since its inception in 2001.
“Family is gonna have differences of opinion and fundamental core beliefs,” the Baywatch star also wrote of The Fate of the Furious set at the time.
“To me, conflict can be a good thing, when it’s followed by great resolution. I was raised on healthy conflict and welcome it. And like any family, we get better from it.”
Johnson never officially confirmed he was referring to Diesel, but an Instagram video shared by Diesel himself once he was back home with his family after filming two movies back-to-back seemingly confirmed it was him.
“Honestly, give me a second and I will tell you everything,” Diesel said in a nod to the social media storm surrounding his relationship with Johnson. “Everything.”
Later that year, Fast & Furious star Michelle Rodriguez confirmed there was tension between Diesel and Johnson on the set, but implied it was a normal disagreement between friends.
“Any human being who knows what men are like knows to stay out [of those] situations and let them figure it out,” Rodriguez said in September 2016.
“They’re ‘bros,’ man. They’re friends, and ultimately even friends reach a point where they have to set aside their differences to make a movie for multicultural people around the world, and that is the bigger scheme of things.”
Meanwhile, Tyrese Gibson — who plays Roman Pearce in the franchise — was not as diplomatic.
“Congratulations to @TheRock and your brother in law aka 7 bucks producing partner @hhgarcia41 for making the fast and the furious franchise about YOU,” Gibson wrote on Instagram in October 2017, implying that F9‘s first filming delay — the second was due to COVID-19 — was due to Johnson.
One month later, Gibson threatened to quit F9 if Johnson returned. Diesel, at this stage, said the initial delay wasn’t any one person’s fault and that the franchise was “in need of maintenance.”
Johnson, however, left the main Fast & Furious series and moved onto his own spin-off, Hobbs & Shaw.
Later that November, Johnson spoke with The Los Angeles Times and implied the feud was free publicity for the upcoming film.
“I’ve been in the game a long time,” he told the publication.
“Would Universal have preferred that didn’t happen? Sure, we talked about it. The irony is after that and as they do their tracking and all their analysis, the interest shot through the roof to a whole other level.”
Diesel then told USA Today the situation had been blown out of proportion, and the duo were friends off-screen.
“I don’t think the world really realises how close we are, in a weird way,” Diesel explained ahead of The Fate of the Furious‘ release.
“I think some things may be blown out of proportion. I don’t think that was his intention. I know he appreciates how much I work this franchise. In my house, he’s Uncle Dwayne.”
Diesel also said he “protects the franchise” by taking hits for the good of the cast and crew.
“I protect everybody including Dwayne. I protected Dwayne more than he’ll ever know. And it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t have to know. But he appreciates it. He knows it. Dwayne has only got one Vin in his life. Dwayne Johnson only has one big brother in this film world and that’s me.”
The duo later appeared together at The Fate of the Furious‘ premiere in April 2017, with Diesel telling Entertainment Tonight: “We still love each other, that’s my boy. When I was making that difficult decision, should there be an 8 or not, I called [Johnson] and he said, ‘Brother, I will be there shoulder to shoulder with you to make sure it’s the best movie in history.’ And he delivered.”
Six months later, Diesel defended Johnson when Gibson accused him of being the reason F9‘s production was delayed, saying, “It would be unfair to say it is anyone’s fault.”
Johnson said at the time the conflict was the result of “differing philosophies” — and after the film’s premiere, fans noticed Diesel and Johnson did not appear in any scenes together. Johnson confirmed this in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2018.
Once Hobbs & Shaw premiered in 2019, Johnson shared an Instagram video specifically thanking Diesel for supporting the spin-off.
“Lastly, but not least, want to thank brother Vin for your support of Hobbs & Shaw,” Johnson said in September 2019. “I’ll be seeing you soon, Toretto.”
All remained quiet for the next two years, until Diesel reignited speculation in an interview with Men’s Health in June 2021.
“My approach at the time was a lot of tough love to assist in getting that performance where it needed to be,” Diesel, who is a producer for the franchise, said of his approach to Johnson on set.
“As a producer to say, ‘OK, we’re going to take Dwayne Johnson, who’s associated with wrestling, and we’re going to force this cinematic world, audience members, to regard his character as someone that they don’t know’ — Hobbs hits you like a ton of bricks.”
Diesel clarified the conflict was to do with his role as a producer specifically.
“That took a lot of work,” Diesel told the publication. “We had to get there and sometimes, at that time, I could give a lot of tough love. Not Fellini-esque, but I would do anything I’d have to do in order to get performances in anything I’m producing.”
Johnson responded in a July 2021 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, saying he “laughed and [he] laughed so hard” at Diesel’s “tough love” comments.
The Moana star also confirmed he would not be returning to the franchise after missing F9.
“I’ve wished them well,” Johnson said. “I wish them well on Fast 9. And I wish them the best of luck on Fast 10 and Fast 11 and the rest of the Fast & Furious movies they do that will be without me.”
Fast forward three months, Johnson said he does regret sharing the initial Instagram post in 2016 that started the public storm, but doubled down on the actual contents of his comments.
“I shouldn’t have shared that,” Johnson told Vanity Fair. “Because at the end of the day, that goes against my DNA. I don’t share things like that. And I take care of that kind of bulls–t away from the public. They don’t need to know that. That’s why I say it wasn’t my best day.”
“I mean what I say when I say it,” Johnson added. “But to express it publicly was not the right thing to do.”
The Jumanji star did say that some of the crew “quietly thanked” him for speaking out about Diesel’s behaviour, but he did not name any names. He also said there was a “meeting of clarity” in 2019, where the pair attempted to clear the air.
A few weeks after his Vanity Fair interview, Johnson commented again on the feud when asked about the jab at Diesel made in his new Netflix film Red Notice, in which Johnson stars opposite Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot.
“The jokes never end,” Johnson said on SiriusXM’s The Jess Cagle Show.
“People were asking me about that, and they find a way. These Vin Diesel jokes — which play great, by the way, to the audience, which is always a good thing because it’s all about them — people think these jokes come from me and they actually don’t.”
Although Johnson says the jokes don’t come from him, he still enjoys them.
“You’d be surprised with how many people come to me with, ‘I’ve got a great one. I’ve got another great Vin Diesel joke.’ I’m sure you do. [They’re] always funny,” Johnson added.
Diesel made the next move with his Instagram post in November, which The Rock has yet to respond to.
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