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The man behind 'XXX' talks 'XXX2'

Director Rob Cohen discusses future of franchise

By Douglas Hyde
Special to CNN

XXX
Vin Diesel's Xander Cage will return in "XXX2," scheduled for 2004.

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(CNN) -- Last summer's hit "XXX" introduced a new spy action hero, Xander Cage, an extreme sports athlete recruited by the government for top-secret missions. The movie catapulted star Vin Diesel to new heights (in more ways than one) and was successful enough to spawn a sequel, currently titled "XXX2" ("Triple-X squared").

With the DVD of "XXX" out earlier this week, director Rob Cohen talked to Daily News from Entertainment Weekly correspondent Douglas Hyde about what viewers can expect from "XXX2," which is due in 2004.

CNN: So tell us about "XXX2."

COHEN: I'm dedicated to the idea that there'll be no template for [agent] XXX. Xander's adventures will always be different. It will not be going to another foreign place and having another exotic villain.

You know the Bond template, which is basically, James Bond stops a man or woman who would like to dominate the world from succeeding in eight to 10 beautiful, exotic locations, and eight to 10 different beautiful, exotic bodies and bedrooms. It's a beautiful formula and it's worked magnificently for 40 years.

[But] I would like you to come to XXX squared, as I call it, [in which you'll] think you're going to see the NSA and another Xander-defeats-the-bad-guys-in-strange-locales, and in fact I have something very different in mind. And so the hope is this series will not have a rubber stamp quality. It will in fact, almost be a different genre of movie each time.

CNN: Speaking of locales, I imagine you want something that's the complete opposite of Eastern Europe (the setting of the original "XXX"), where it's kind of gray and dark. You're probably looking for something a little brighter this time?

COHEN: There's two scripts being developed. One by Rich Wilkes, the original writer, our buddy from No. 1, and that will take place in Southeast Asia, in the Malacca Straits, and [there are] dirty doings going on in a much prettier place than Central Europe.

[Also,] I've just hired Simon Kimberg to write more of a thriller that would take place in Washington, D.C., which isn't as pretty as Prague, but as we know, there's lots going on there today. I think Xander should save the United States, I think that's the next thing.

CNN: That'll be fun. You've got these two competing screenplays to consider.

COHEN: It's good, it's good, because the zeitgeist of our world changes so quickly, that ... [Simon's] script has a little more grit and thriller tension. Rich's is a splashy, fun, off-the-chain kind of adventure.

Vin Diesel
The hit status of "XXX" cemented Diesel's star status.

Now we could get to 2004 and find out the nation needs pure escapism, you know. ... [Or] we may find that it would interesting to do something quite thought-provoking and surprising.

CNN: Is the development of Xander as a character even a concern of yours or is the focus just on telling a very fun, entertaining story?

COHEN: I've started both scripts with the one idea that he can't go home again. ... It's not a thrill anymore. You throw a tabletop on a 250cc Husquavarna motorcycle, that's great. It's a lot greater when you have to stuff it between an electrified, barbed wire fence and helicopters are shooting at you with Vulcan cannons. ... He has to find another life and he's not an NSA agent, not really, and so where does this guy go? So it is character-based in terms of the starting point.

CNN: In your mind's eye, do you see yourself doing half a dozen sequels or something? Or do you see yourself handing the reins over to someone else? Or do you think it might last just one or two more movies?

COHEN: I chose not to do the "Fast and the Furious" sequel precisely because Universal had decided to skip ahead to another time and not deal with the story loose ends that I did in the first one. I didn't want to do that approach. So I'm not afraid to walk away from lucrative sequels, cause I only have X amount of time on this earth to direct movies and I don't want to spend a year and a half of my life doing a commercial confection that has no meaning to me.

So I will walk away from "XXX" someday if I can't keep reinventing it to be fresh to me. I think I have two stories going that are fresh to me, and then we could make both of those. It's just a question of which order and I think we'll develop more. And as long as it keeps being fresh to me and to Vin, so we have something new to give and we're not just doing a retread or walking through it like zombies. ...

But a "XXX" movie is a fun movie to make. It's big, it's fun, it's splashy. You've got all the boy's toys to play with. You know, you could do worse.



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