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The Surprising Original Choice For xXx (Before Vin Diesel)


The xXx franchise is Vin Diesel’s second-biggest star vehicle, but before he was cast, a surprising actor almost signed on to play Xander Cage.

The xXx franchise is Vin Diesel’s second-biggest star vehicle, but before he was cast, a surprising actor almost signed on to play Xander Cage. Diesel’s biggest claim to fame is of course playing Dom Toretto in The Fast and the Furious franchise, although he’s also the lead in the Riddick franchise, and is beloved by MCU fans as the voice of Groot in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Diesel is one of the most bankable movie stars in the world, and while he does have his detractors, he also has a legion of devoted fans.

xXx, released in 2002, was one of the movies that served to establish Diesel as a leading actor, becoming a huge hit and putting Hollywood on notice that he was the next big thing. xXx followed 2001’s smash success of Diesel in the first Fast and the Furious movie, while 2000 saw Diesel draw widespread acclaim for playing anti-hero Richard Riddick in Pitch Black, with the character getting spun-off into his own adventures later.

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Related: xXx Film Series Ranked, Worst To Best

However, had Diesel not landed the role of Xander Cage, one wonders if his path to superstardom would’ve been completed, at least quite that soon. After all, Diesel not starring in xXx could’ve led to some type of negative butterfly effect for his career. In some section of the multiverse, he got to find out, as Diesel was not the original choice to lead the film.

xXx Almost Cast A Different Actor As Xander Cage

Eric Bana as Aaron Falk Shotgun The Dry

The original top choice to star as Xander Cage in xXx was none other than Australian actor Eric Bana. Bana was first starting to carve out a career in the U.S. at that point, having attracted some positive attention for his work in Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down in 2001. Playing the lead in a potential new action franchise seems like something most would jump at but, for reasons unclear, Bana turned down the role. Instead, Bana chose to star in the Australian comedy movie The Nugget, which concerned three friends whose lives change after finding a big piece of gold.

While The Nugget isn’t regarded as being a particularly bad film, it’s appears to not be regarded much in general, having come and gone without making a splash. Meanwhile, xXx made $277 million on an $88 million budget. True, money isn’t everything, but if Bana had chosen to star in xXx instead, it’s possible his career would’ve gotten a jolt into the stateside A-list, and he could’ve risen as high as Diesel off the back of Xander Cage. On the other hand, xXx: State of the Union failed without Vin Diesel, so perhaps the franchise would’ve only become popular with Diesel in the role. Bana went on to play The Incredible Hulk in 2003, and has certainly had a respectable career overall, but it’s a fun alternate timeline to consider.

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