Vin Diesel Recruits Jet Li for 'XXX The Return of Xander Cage'

Vin Diesel Recruits Jet Li And Tony Jaa For ‘XXX: The Return Of Xander Cage’

There are many methods to creating a successful sequel. Some work well and others fall by the wayside, which is brutally evident in Hollywood every day. One motto that seems to work, and has a healthy success rate, is the simple phrase: “Go big or go home.” Many, if not all, sequels follow this tried and tested method, and it seems that Vin Diesel is straying into this territory for XXX: The Return of Xander Cage, the third movie in the XXX franchise. With casting announcements coming furious and fast this week, Diesel has confirmed the addition of two martial art experts to the movie — Jet Li and Tony Jaa.

Jet Li and Tony Jaa’s inclusion in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage was announced by Coming Soon earlier today, and it’s the latest in a line of heavyweight casting announcements from the set. In the same bulletin, Indian actress and model Deepika Padukone, and UFC fighter Conor McGregor were also confirmed to be starring in unspecified roles. Earlier in the week, Cinema Blend announced the inclusion of Samuel L. Jackson, who will be reprising his role as NSA boss, Augustus Gibbons. Vin Diesel has also announced that he will be returning to the franchise as Xander Cage after missing out on the 2005 sequel, XXX: State of the Union. A recent draft of the script was written by Terminator Salvation scribes John Brancato and Michael Ferris. Fast & Furious series mastermind Neal H. Moritz will be on production duties, and D.J. Caruso will be directing.

Vin Diesel Recruits Jet Li for 'XXX The Return of Xander Cage2
Jet Li will join an action-heavy cast on ‘XXX: The Return of Xander Cage.’ [Image via Lionsgate]
Ong-Bak star Jaa was previously seen in Furious 7 alongside Vin Diesel, and it seems the relationship between the two has extended into another franchise. Jet Li was last spotted holding his own against his fellow Expendables 3 cast mates, in what turned out to be an extended cameo. The question on everyone’s lips is simple: Will we see a fight between Jet Li and Tony Jaa?

The potential of such a scene, which would fit perfectly into the extreme theme of XXX itself, will already have action film fans salivating. Deepika Padukone is one of the highest-paid film stars in India, and she will be making her debut here, and Conor McGregor’s star is currently on the rise, so seeing him cast in an action movie was inevitable. How these two newcomers will fare in a Hollywood action movie is yet to be seen, but it seems Vin Diesel is deadly serious in bringing XXX back in a big way.

The original XXX was released in 2002 and was a box-office success, raking in $277.4 million on a $70 million budget. Vin Diesel introduced us to Xander Cage, an extreme athlete and stuntman who is recruited by the NSA to become a spy. The concept was seen as far-fetched at the time, but the action film fared well in a period where Bond was struggling, Bourne was emerging, and Bauer was still new to TV screens. Fast-forward 14 years, and a XXX sequel has one major benefit: Vin Diesel’s profile.

The Fast & Furious franchise has made a global superstar/producer of Diesel, one that will no doubt secure more major castings and a budget to ensure the sequel outshines the previous movie, one that was panned by critics and failed at the box-office. In fact, the announcement of a sequel following the poor run of XXX: State of the Union is somewhat of a huge surprise.

Vin Diesel Recruits Jet Li for 'XXX The Return of Xander Cage2
‘Ong-Bak’ star Tony Jaa will also feature in ‘XXX: The Return of Xander Cage.’ [Image via Sahamongkol Film International]
With Diesel currently producing three action franchises — Riddick, Fast & Furious, and now XXX — the actor seems to have a busy 2016 ahead of him. We exist in a film climate where reboots are the norm, and with the revamp dominating the Hollywood scene and producing wads of cash in return, don’t expect this to end any time soon. Retreading old ground is insanely popular in modern film, and with exposure at an all-time high due to streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, as well as the standard cinema screen — both of which offer a bigger chance of success to producers and filmmakers alike — Diesel clearly sees life in the XXX franchise yet.

Production rolls forward on XXX: The Return of Xander Cage.

[Image via Columbia Pictures]

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