Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds. Jon Lovitz and Andy Dick. Theirs are the celebrity feuds that nearly shook Tinseltown to its cheap tinsel-filled core, the clashes of ego that briefly threatened to derail this very serious business of vanity. And they were all fucking weak compared to the fuming Cold War that’s so bitterly divided the Fast & Furious franchise like an Iron Ampersand, creating a rift between co-stars Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson that no one involved will ever be able to get over, not even in a car that is driving very, very fast. Incandescently fast.
From Johnson’s first passive-aggressive volleys against his “candy-ass,” “chicken-shit” male costars, to the reports of secret, ass-hatchet-burying meetings, to Johnson’s Tolstoy-like assertions that all families are candy-asses in their own way, the narrative of this entire feud has been all about trying to move past it—albeit in the most public, self-promotional way possible. But what caused it to erupt in the first place? According to The Hollywood Reporter, it can all be blamed on Vin Diesel’s habit of keeping everyone waiting while he sits in his trailer, something the crew has been complaining about since the 2014 filming of Furious 7. “Vin spent a whole day in his trailer one day,” THR’s insider source said back then, morbidly noting that he’d held up production so frequently, “some on set have fantasized about using the facial-replacement technology being deployed to put [Paul] Walker in the film as a sub for Diesel as well.” Well, whatever gets you off.
But of course, they opted to stick with the tactile, meatbag version, and so THR says the Fast 8 ensemble was once again kept waiting “with the 90-degree Atlanta sun beating down,” their own asses sweating in the, frankly, pretty moderate Atlanta heat while Diesel cooled his candy-ass in his trailer, making copious script notes or folding his tank tops, or whatever he was doing. And so it was that on August 8, the day he was to film his final scene opposite Diesel, Johnson—whom other sources claim had rankled Diesel with his own tardiness—decided he’d had enough of the tension simmering between them, so he called out Diesel’s cowardly refusal to man up and confront him by posting something snotty on Instagram. That reportedly led to this fractious attempt at parley between very large, extremely well-paid adults:
Though Johnson’s words were cryptic, Diesel, 49, is said to have confronted Johnson, 44, the next day over the post and a joke Johnson said on his HBO show Ballers about being “better looking” than Diesel, leading to a heated exchange in Johnson’s trailer.
While there’s obviously nothing about Ballers worth arguing over—other than your spouse saying, “Let’s watch Ballers”—the sight of these two exceedingly grown men fighting because of a joke about which one’s better-looking is something we cannot wait to see in Ryan Murphy’s inevitable dramatization of this entire rivalry. But on the Fast 8 set, it was such cause for concern that Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley was asked to fly to Atlanta to mediate, something she balked at only “because the spat never escalated into a physical altercation.” Having decreed that it’s gonna take some blood to rouse the grizzled Donna Langley from her 1,000-yard stare, it was apparently left to poor executive VP Mark Sourian to get in between them and start “smoothing egos.” Presumably he began by reminding Diesel that the joke was on Ballers, and therefore may as well have never happened.
Happily, Diesel and Johnson were able to tamp down their petty posturing in order to film one final scene of indignantly flexing their pecs at each other. And the studio has since been doing everything it can to insist that “what happened is over, and no one expects there to be any lingering effects”—beginning with posting a cast photo to prove they’re all one happy, deliberately spaced family:
Still, as THR notes, the whole kerfuffle obviously has Universal worried about the working environment on future Fast & Furious sequels, of which there are at least two more officially planned (and at least a dozen more cynically predicted). While studio execs “stopped short of reprimanding Johnson,” having gotten a look at his arms, they did reportedly “warn him” about spilling any other complaints on social media in the future. Meanwhile, Johnson has “quickly lost goodwill” from the rest of the franchise team, leaving him solely with the cold comfort of Tyrese Gibson and the difficult task of rebuilding the phony, forced friendships between professional actors that are required to get through a few months of filming and press junkets before never interacting again. One hopes that Johnson’s learned a valuable lesson from this whole experience—that he also has a trailer, and next time he could just go hang out in his trailer, too. It’s probably pretty nice.